Federal judge dismisses $23M lawsuit over Milo Yiannopoulos protest

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A federal judge dismissed most of the claims in a $23 million lawsuit against UC Berkeley, the UC system and other defendants filed by Oakland resident Kiara Robles after a 2017 Milo Yiannopoulos event on campus.

Robles, who is a conservative, came to Berkeley on Feb. 1, 2017, to see Milo Yiannopoulos speak. She alleged that she was assaulted at the event with pepper spray and “struck” by flagpoles, according to court documents. She also alleged that defendant Raha Mirabdal — who Robles claims is a member of “antifa,” a term for anti-fascist groups — shone a flashlight in her eyes “to incapacitate” her and other Yiannopoulos supporters so others could “physically assault them.”

Rachel Lederman, Mirabdal’s lawyer, said the defendants against whom Robles filed suits seemed “random.”

“The whole case is sort of guilt by association,” Lederman said. “In U.S. law, there is no guilt by association, so she’ll have to be able to come up with more specific allegations, which I’m pretty sure she’s not going to be able to do.”

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken accepted the motions of dismissal from the UC and the city of Berkeley in full and Mirabdal’s in part.

The motions for dismissal from the UC and the city of Berkeley were based on laws stating that entities cannot be tried as people. Mirabdal’s motion for dismissal noted that her actions — shining a flashlight — do not meet the legal requirements for assault and battery, the court documents state. While the assault and battery charges against Mirabdal were dropped, Robles can file another amended civil complaint against Mirabdal within 21 days.

Robles alleged that UCPD and Berkeley Police Department did not protect her on the basis of her political beliefs, and she included a claim that she was also discriminated against based on her sexuality, as she identifies as LGBTQ+.

Robles’ lawyer, Larry Klayman, alleged that Wilken is prejudiced and that she dismissed this lawsuit because she is a UC Berkeley School of Law alumna.

“The judge is biased and prejudiced,” Klayman said. “She dismissed it because it had to do with (UC) Berkeley.”

Robles filed a similar lawsuit in June 2017, which she later dropped in July 2017 after the court declined her request to recuse Wilken. Less than a month later, in August 2017, Robles filed an almost identical suit against campus, the UC and Mirabdal, among others. In June 2018, Robles amended the complaint to include UC president Janet Napolitano and former chancellor Nicholas Dirks.

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said there was “no evidence” in this case, calling attempts to claim that Berkeley is limiting free speech “fake narratives.”

“It’s becoming all but impossible to continue to insult this campus’s commitment to free speech,” Mogulof said. “We’re just not going to be bothered by the pronouncements of people that are untethered from the truth.”

Contact Madeleine Gregory and Sheqi Zhang at [email protected].