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'Irvine 11': UC Irvine law school dean calls convictions 'harsh'

September 23, 2011 | 12:34 pm

UC Irvine law school dean reacts to Irvine 11 verdict
Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Irvine's law school, said Friday that the decision to prosecute the so-called 'Irvine 11' case was "divisive" and the convictions "harsh."

But he also said, "There's no free speech right to disrupt an event. ... It's not a matter of free speech because there's no free speech right to shut someone down."

The 10 students were convicted of two misdemeanors -- of conspiring to disrupt and then disrupting a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at UC Irvine last year. Oren, who had been invited to the campus, spoke about U.S.-Israeli relations. An 11th student had earlier agreed to perform community service and was dropped from the trial.

PHOTOS: 'Irvine 11' trial

"I think it's a shame that they now have misdemeanor convictions," Chemerinsky said.

Though he said the students did violate the law, the district attorney's office  made a "terrible mistake" in prosecuting the case.

"It's unnecessary and it's harmful," Chemerinsky said. "It's unnecessarily divisive.

"Now this keeps it an open wound," he said.

Meanwhile, court has adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Dan Stormer, one of six defense attorneys for the so-called Irvine 11, said sentencing could happen when court reconvenes.


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-- Nicole Santa Cruz in Santa Ana

Photo: Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Irvine's law school, said he thought the convictions were harsh. Credit: Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times