Muslim Students Guilty of Disrupting Speech by Israeli Ambassador
Ten University of California-Irvine Muslim students were found guilty of disturbing a public meeting and conspiracy in connection with a speech by Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, on campus in February, 2010.
"We're delighted the jury saw this the same way we saw it," said Assistant District Attorney Dan Wagner.
The prosecution said the defendants used a "heckler's veto" to thwart the free speech rights of the speaker and others in the audience, while the defense countered what the protesters did was a lawful expression of their free speech.
Defense attorney Dan Stormer said he was honored to represent the students, but disappointed in the verdict.
The jurors left the courtroom without comment immediately after the verdict was announced.
Court will reconvene at 1:30 this afternoon for a possible sentencing.
After months of pretrial motion, the trial lasted eight days, including about two days spent on closing arguments by one prosecutor and six defense attorneys earlier this week.
Wagner told jurors the protesters actions amounted to censorship when they planned to disrupt Oren and tried to cover it up.
The right to free speech is not absolute, he said, and it does not include canceling out the speech of others.
One of the defense attorneys referred to the students as "heroes" who acted in the "tradition of the finest American political activists." I would question that characterization of boorish louts who shout down opposing speech -- especially the "hero" moniker. It is mindless advocacy to prevent others from expressing their views and shows very little confidence in the efficacy of one's own beliefs.
Sentencing will be tomorrow.
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