Tony Rackauckas Should Have Prosecuted Chuck DeVore For Conspiracy in 2007

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas

In issuing indictments of 11 UCI students on charges of conspiracy to disrupt a public meeting and disrupting a public meeting Mr. Rackauckas said; “We must decide whether we are a country of laws or a country of anarchy. We cannot tolerate a pre-planned violation of the law.”

Interesting thought Tony, but how then do you explain your failure to charge former Assemblyman Chuck DeVore for the same crime. A crime that he committed at an event sponsored by the UCI Muslim Student Union in 2007?

The Daily Pilot reported on May 26, 2007:

Newport Beach Assemblyman Chuck DeVore attended a speech in the Humanities Hall by Sheikh Sadullah Khan, a political activist from South Africa who fought against the country’s apartheid regime. The assemblyman brought a hand-held video camera with him and said before the event that he wanted to see how members of the Muslim Student Union would react to him taping Khan’s speech.

The Orange County Register reported Wednesday that:

The District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday that it will not be “swayed by special interest groups voicing their opinions.”

“We have gotten hundreds of letters either way, both supporting and against,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, the district attorney’s chief of staff. “We base filing decisions and prosecution decisions on the facts and the law. Rarely do you have a case where the entire case is on videotape and in writing.”

Thanks Susan for opening that line of thinking up. In 2007 Chuck DeVore wrote the following regarding his disruption of a UCI Muslim Student Union sponsored event:

Before the event, I met with a professor, a graduate student and two local community leaders at the campus Starbucks.  We saw an MSU student leader walk by a number of times filming us with his camera phone.  We all walked to the MSU event.  There were notices posted outside saying “No audio or video recording allowed.”  The same message was posted on the blackboard in the lecture hall.  Male MSU members filed in to the left, fully covered MSU female members to the right, an interesting display of gender apartheid at a secular event on a secular campus, especially given the evening’s topic of apartheid in South Africa.  An MSU student leader came to the podium and announced the no recording policy.  From the back of the hall I asked, On whose authority?”  He replied, “We will talk outside.”  I said, “Fine, I”ll keep recording.”  The guest speaker, Mr. Khan, opened his remarks by saying that he didn’t mind if I recorded his talk, I said, “Shukran (thank you).”

The UCI 11 are charged with the following alleged crimes:

Disturbance of a Meeting or Assembly (Penal Code § 403) 

Penal Code § 403, entitled, “Disturbance of assembly or meeting other than religious or political,”  states:  “Every person who, without authority of law, willfully disturbs or breaks up any assembly or meeting that is not unlawful in its character … is guilty of a misdemeanor.”  

Conspiracy (Penal Code § 182) and Proof by Circumstantial Evidence

Penal Code § 182 renders it unlawful for “two or more persons [to] conspire to commit any crime.” It further states, “Conspiracy is a specific intent crime requiring an intent to agree or conspire, and a further intent to commit the target crime … ” with at least one overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy be committed by one or more of the parties to the conspiracy.

Chuck DeVore

Chuck DeVore conspired to disrupt the event featuring Sheikh Sadullah Khan in May of 2007. He wrote about and confirmed his intent and that he conspired with others regarding his actions. The Daily Pilot reported that DeVore had planned to attend the event and attempt to see what the reaction would be to his videotaping. DeVore documented his conspiracy in his own writing and his overt action of interrupting of the meeting was documented by the Daily Pilot, the video that DeVore recorded and DeVore’s own writing.

As Susan Kang Schroeder might put it; “Rarely do you have a case where the entire case is on videotape and in writing.” If indeed the District Attorney base filing decisions and prosecution decisions on the facts and the law as Mrs. Schroeder claims, why was there no prosecution of Assemblyman Chuck DeVore for his actions? As Mr. Rackauckas said; “We must decide whether we are a country of laws or a country of anarchy. We cannot tolerate a pre-planned violation of the law.”

Now I understand that the statute of limitations for prosecution of DeVore’s acts of anarchy and planned and actual violation of the law have probably expired, but that fact should not be a barrier preventing Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas from treating the UCI 11 equally, to Chuck DeVore, under the law.

To do otherwise would suggest that only crimes committed by people of a particular religious faith warrant prosecution. Imagine the anarchy and First Amendment quandary that such a practice would create.

It also wouldn’t hurt for Tony Rackauckas to come out and admit that his prosecution is an overreach and drop the charges against the UCI 11.

Just saying…

  26 comments for “Tony Rackauckas Should Have Prosecuted Chuck DeVore For Conspiracy in 2007

  1. junior
    February 10, 2011 at 9:01 am

    DeVore did not disrupt a public meeting.

    He possibly violated a campus rule in an act of courageous civil disobedience.

    • February 11, 2011 at 1:30 am

      junior,

      The Definition of DISRUPT:
      transitive verb
      1 a: to break apart : rupture
      b: to throw into disorder

      2: to interrupt the normal course or unity of

  2. Northcountystorm
    February 10, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    While Devore may have fantasized about disrupting a meeting of muslims, there isn’t any evidence he either planned to disrupt it and in fact he did not disrupt it. junior is right about that.

    The prosecution of the students seems overkill. The university acted appropriately in disciplining the students and the group which a) planned to disrupt the event, b) actually disrupted the event and c) lied about it to the university. Universities should be encouraged to handle these type of situations without the intervention of the D.A.’s office and this prosecution sends the wrong message: you don’t have to clean up your own house, we will do it for you.

    • February 11, 2011 at 1:37 am

      The evidence is in his own writing and in his own actions. He wrote that he planned the action of video taping to disrupt the meeting and see if the organizers would try to stop him.

      He verbally shouted out at the host of the meeting and challenged his statement that video taping was not allowed. He in fact did disrupt the meeting.

      Further in his meeting before the event, with a professor, a graduate student and two local community leaders, it is likely that he discussed his planned disruption as he was not simply attending the event to hear the speaker.

      The same elements that Rackauckas has related to the 11 students is present in the case of Mr. DeVore.

  3. junior
    February 10, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    If DeVore would have disobeyed a direct order to refrain from video taping the meeting, he could have been arrested and charged with disrupting a public meeting. That did not happen.

    As Bill Handel would say, “you have absolutely no case.”

    • February 11, 2011 at 1:42 am

      Penal Code § 403, entitled, “Disturbance of assembly or meeting other than religious or political,” states: “Every person who, without authority of law, willfully disturbs or breaks up any assembly or meeting that is not unlawful in its character … is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

      No where does this statute require that the person disturbing the meeting be asked to cease their behavior or be arrested at the time. All that is required is that they disturb the meeting.

      If the school wanted to charge the individuals with trespassing upon their refusal to leave, that might be an appropriate charge, but that is not alleged here.

  4. junior
    February 11, 2011 at 6:11 am

    I am sure that the 11 Islamist students were given an opportunity to cease and decist – they did not.

    • February 11, 2011 at 8:38 am

      Again, not a requirement under the statute.

      • junior
        February 11, 2011 at 12:41 pm

        I believe that it is a requirement under the statute to disrupt the meeting. He violated the no video rule – he did not disrupt the meeting. Devore did not step over that line.

  5. Jeff
    February 12, 2011 at 11:06 am

    He violated the no videotape rule, and he disrupted the meeting by causing the speaker everyone had come to hear to have to address DeVore’s childish behavior. There are good reasons why recording isn’t allowed unless expressly stated otherwise, and DeVore didn’t accomplish anything except to annoy everyone for a time with his ridiculous posturing. He disrupted the meeting and deserved prosecution as much as these 11 students.

    • February 12, 2011 at 2:17 pm

      Except that the UCI administration changed the no-record rule after I brought it to public attention — which was my goal. Perhaps the front page story in the Daily Pilot and the lead editorial in the Orange County Register the next day had something to do with that.

      UCI was the sole UC campus with this anti-First Amendment “no-record” rule — it stood alone. It does no longer, I am happy to report.

      I consulted with the general counsel of the California Newspapers and Publishers Association about this before I went — he told me I could be arrested for trespassing as California’s UC system, while taxpayer supported, is not subject to the same rules regarding openness as is general government. I understood this risk and took it because I thought the full exercise of the First Amendment was worth it. Something I thought the readers of the Liberal OC would agree with, although it looks as though I may be mistaken in that regard.

      As for the MSU meeting that I attended with my video camera, the speaker was not disrupted and it proceeded apace without delay — unlike the multiple disruptions of meetings at UCI perpetrated by the Muslim Student Union (MSU). The MSU repeatedly exercised what is known as the “heckler’s veto” — which isn’t free speech at all, according to court rulings — but rather a violation of others’ free speech.

      I remain unapologetic for helping to change the no-record policy at UCI, a vital campus that I represented for six years in the State Assembly. Now major media reporters and bloggers alike are free to photograph and record events at UCI without concern for being stopped, detained, or arrested.

      You’re welcome.

      All the best,

      Chuck DeVore

      • February 12, 2011 at 2:57 pm

        Chuck,

        Always nice to have you drop by. While we strongly disagree on many issues, it is nice that you’re one of the few politicians willing to debate your position no matter what the forum. For that you do have my respect.

        Thanks also for admitting to conspiring to break the law, trespassing and disruption of the meeting, which I cannot imagine you did not consider your act of video taping might have caused.

        I will agree that the degree to which you disrupted the MSU meeting in 2007 was far less than that of the UCI 11. However the law itself does not specify a level of degree. The word used in the statute is “disrupt,” which did indeed occur.

        The same two elements present in the case of the UCI 11 are present in yours. But you are a Christian in Orange County and such a disruption by Christians is generally tolerated. In Orange County only Muslims face that level of concern.

        • February 12, 2011 at 4:41 pm

          Mr. Prevatt, the MSU had been disrupting meetings for some time at UCI in a pattern of escalating behavior. There is also a big difference between the single event I attended for the purpose of highlighting UCI’s inappropriate no-record rule and the MSU’s efforts to disrupt actual speeches. I didn’t disrupt a talk, they did. More on this later.

          • February 12, 2011 at 6:44 pm

            I guess it depends on what the meaning of the word “disrupt” is. If you mean that disrupt means as described in Webster’s dictionary; 1 (a): to break apart or rupture; or 1(b): to throw into disorder then you may not have disruptd the meeting.

            However, if your meaning was as described in Webster’s dictionary #2: to interrupt the normal course or unity of (the meeting), then you did.

          • February 12, 2011 at 6:50 pm

            By the way Chuck, did you go to the William Jefferson Clinton School of Word Parsing?

  6. Sean's Mommy
    February 12, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Chuck. Thanks for chiming in. I’d rather you tell us how what you did was different from the Irvine11. Who are you working for these days?

  7. junior
    February 13, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Chris,

    California courts have defined the meeting statute – from an OC Register article today:

    “that the defendant substantially impaired the conduct of the meeting ..”

    As I previously stated, DeVore did not cross that line.

  8. February 13, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    junior,

    Thank you for bringing us back to my original point in the headline of this post…

    Rackauckas should have prosecuted Chuck DeVore for conspiracy.

    • Northcountystorm
      February 13, 2011 at 3:28 pm

      Chris, conspiracy with whom? Please, no offense but this was a reach to begin with. Now that junior and Chuck have provided the legal and factual context that Chuuck’s actions were not a disruption, time to fold the “he got off because he was Christan” red herring and concentrate on the best message—that TRack’s prosecution–whatever the motive–is misplaced and unnecessary since the university punished both the involved students and the Muslim group. This is overkill by TRack but trying to drag Chuck in clouds the issue. If anything, you should be thanking Chuck. And Chuck, here’s one LOC reader who thanks you for getting rid of this terrible UCI policy.

    • junior
      February 13, 2011 at 8:58 pm

      Furnish the supposed “Memorandum” – otherwise your comment is just blather.

      • WTFF?
        February 15, 2011 at 9:46 am

        Sorry, the original comment was suppose to be a hyperlink to the memo, which is still proudly posted on many right wing blogs.

        Here is a NYT article about it.

        The group “Right Principles” was founded and funded by Robert McGuffie, who claims he is unaffiliated with FreedomWorks (or did at the time at least.) This memo was picked up and published to the tea party list serve and also found it’s way onto a number of right wing blogs. (You’ll have to google that yourself if you are not already signed up, but I’m not going to provide them with any traffic).

        A nationwide spreadsheet of all democratic party candidates town halls including dates and locations was also posted on the list serve.

        Political speech is political speech. I don’t think either group should be prosecuted for engaging in it personally, but then again, I don’t have enough power to make one group the “good guys” and the other the “bad guys”.

  9. February 13, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    You’re both right. Chris is correct to identify a double standard in what kind of disrupters T-Rack is willing to tolerate or prosecute. And thank you Chuck, for helping bring down that anti-free-speech no-recording rule.

    • junior
      February 13, 2011 at 9:08 pm

      Vern,

      California courts have defined a “disruption” in the meeting statute. From an OC Register article today:

      Disruptive conduct is defined as that in which “the defendant substantially impaired the conduct of the meeting ..”

      Had DeVore refused an order to cease and decist from video taping the meeting he would have “substancially impaired” the meeting. That did not occur – there was no disruption under the law.

      • February 15, 2011 at 7:15 pm

        Chuck DID refuse such an order, by his own account, and good for him. Kudos also to Sheikh Sadullah Khan for greenlighing Chuck’s taping; not only was it the right thing to do, there probably would also have been further disruption if he hadn’t.

        Viva la disruption!

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