Sitting in a Santa Ana courtroom March 11, I did not think the couple around my age sitting next to me wanted to be there. They fidgeted, had long faces and acted quite unlike the parents and supporters who seemed much more defiant on behalf of the so-called "Irvine 11." I recall at one point even sharing nervous laughter with the man next to me. Similar body language was given off by attorney Robert Hickey as he stood next to his lone client, 21-year-old Hakim Nasreddine Kebir. Based on the way the stone faced UC Irvine biology student got a twinkle in his eye as he looked at the couple next to me, and the way they looked back at him lovingly . . . well, it didn't take a biology degree to figure out they were related.
So, when word came July 21 that one of the 11 Muslim students facing trial had reached a deal with prosecutors, who would allow him to perform 40 hours of community service in exchange for dropping him from the highly charged case, I knew immediately it had to be Kebir. Longtime readers will be shocked to discover I was right for once.
By the way, I wrote about that development here:
Today, Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson dismissed the charges against Kebir, who already completed his 40 hours of service at the Someone Cares Soup Kitchen in Costa Mesa, the Orange County Register reports.
Considering what happened to Kebir's former co-defendants, he seems to have made the wiser choice. They were convicted last month of misdemeanor disturbing a public meeting and conspiracy to do so for repeatedly interrupting a Feb. 8, 2010, talk at UCI by Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren. My colleague Michelle Woo wrote about that development here:
Each member of the now-Irvine 10--which is actually composed of students from UCI and UC Riverside--was sentenced to three years of probation and $270 fines. They can get the probation knocked down to a year if they perform 56 hours of community service by Jan. 31.
Of course, this also means Kebir will not be part of any appeal that could ultimately reverse the punishment handed down to the other 10. Their attorneys have already vowed to appeal.
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Kebir's role in the Oren incident was different anyway. He was not among the students who rose and shouted down the speaker before being escorted out of the auditorium and arrested. He chanted while walking out of the room.
Meanwhile, Hickey told the Register that a privileged attorney-client document between him and Kebir was among the evidence prosecutors should not have had. Judge Wilson ordered that it be turned over to the defense before the trial began.
Kebir, who reportedly graduated in June and plans to start medical school in the Caribbean in January, mentions in the same report that settling his case was the right thing to do given "the amount of burden it was putting on my parents and would have put on them."
Judging by the vibes given off by the couple sitting next to me that March morning, I suspect they would agree.