In the most recent hearing, Judge Peter Wilson of the Orange County Superior Court requested the removal of the Orange County Defense Attorney’s (OCDA) prime investigator and three deputy district attorneys from the case against university students accused of disrupting Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech last year.
The decision followed the discovery that the prosecuting team established part of its case against the UC Irvine and UC Riverside students on documents that were privileged and illegally acquired.
A portion of the prosecution’s argument against the Irvine 11 relies on the unauthorized use of nearly 20,000 pages of classified information from the defense team, including communication between defense attorney Reem Salahi and her clients. From the set of documents, the OCDA tried to press new charges against at least one student.
The incident demonstrates a failure to abide by protocol upon encountering privileged lawyer-client correspondence, according to Judge Wilson.
Citing the infringement, the defense team requested the court recuse the prosecution entirely. The nature of the documents procured, the defense contended, inevitably biased the case against the students. Given the degree of involvement of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and lead deputy attorneys, the defense added, it would be an exacting challenge for the prosecution to fairly make a case.
Judge Wilson found the violation of conduct not grave enough to discharge the OCDA team altogether, but nevertheless necessitated the removal of several key prosecutors. The motion officially dismissed chief investigator Paul Kelly, Senior Assistant District Attorneys Rebecca Olivieri and William Feccia, and Assistant District Attorney Mike Lubinski from further participation in the case.
Furthermore, the OCDA is now being held accountable to confirm, beyond all reasonable doubt, that any evidence it intends to use in trial is neither privileged nor illegally obtained.
Additionally, the prosecution and defense entered a settlement to release Hakim Nasreddine Kebir from trial on the condition that he completes 40 hours of community service. Charges against Kebir, who was pulled out of a chanting crowd and arrested, will be dropped once he finishes volunteering at the Someone Cares Soup Kitchen in Costa Mesa.
As both the prosecution and defense have voiced concerns that they will be unable to complete preparations before the set trial date, the final court hearing may be postponed. Otherwise, the scheduled trial will take place Monday, Aug. 15.