Saturday, November 26, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge extends restraining order barring YouTubers from USC campus over ‘violent’ prank videos

Eric Kanevsky and Yuguo Bai interrupted three classes at USC. The university says the pranks left students and faculty traumatized.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A Los Angeles judge on Thursday extended a restraining order against two YouTubers, barring them from entering any University of Southern California campuses.

Eric Kanevsky, a muscle-bound fitness coach and maker of YouTube prank videos, collaborator Yuguo Bai made three videos in which they interrupted classes at USC. The private university sued the pair in April, claiming the pranks had caused students and faculty "to experience extreme emotional and psychological distress." The school asked the judge to bar the men from campus, which he agreed to do.

The defendants did not oppose the extension of the restraining order. In fact, on Wednesday they signed a stipulation with the university agreeing to take down all videos from the three pranks and to refrain from posting anything online "disparaging USC in any way, including postings regarding the three classroom takeover incidents they perpetrated against USC." On Thursday, USC's lawyer suggested the parties are close to a settlement.

"We’ve been working with the two defendants pretty closely," USC's attorney, Adam Maldanado, told the court, via Zoom. The defendants, only one of whom has legal representation, did not appear at the hearing. Maldanado did not respond to an Instagram message seeking comment. The university did not respond to a phone call requesting comment.

In September, Kanevsky, Bai and another unidentified collaborator interrupted a data sciences lecture on campus. They forced the professor out of the classroom and Kanevsky, as one of his recurring characters Vladimir, began to lecture the class about the virtues of marijuana, telling them "marijuana the way to heaven.” According to the lawsuit, the professor was "visibly shaken up following the incident" and required "campus security [to] accompany him to teach his lectures for several weeks following [the] takeover of his classroom out of a fear that he would be subjected to similar abuse in the future."

Weeks later, Kanevsky, Bai and two others entered another USC class dressed as characters from the Netflix show "Squid Game," in which contestants compete in a deadly game of survival. The defendants chased each other in and out of a classroom, screaming and threatening one another, leaving "several student witnesses visibly shaken," according to the complaint.

In March, Kanevsky and Bai interrupted a lecture on the Holocaust. Kanevsky, dressed in a black muscle shirt and purporting to be a member of the Russian mafia, called out that he was looking for "Hugo Boss." The name, possibly an allusion to Yuguo Bai, was also that of a clothing designer who made clothes for the Nazi Party. The professor believed "that a potentially violent incident was about to transpire." The students also panicked and "began fleeing the classroom en masse — some tripping over seats and each other, others leaving behind laptops and backpacks." Kanevsky and Bai were eventually stopped by campus security at gunpoint.

"Defendants’ conduct has caused physical and emotional damage to students and professors, caused parents to feel concerned for their children’s safety, cost USC financially as it spent many hours providing counseling to the victims, destroyed the safe environment of an educational facility, kept students from their education, and compromised USC’s image to potential students as an institution that can keep them safe," LA County Superior Court Judge James Chalfant wrote in his tentative ruling, which he adopted as permanent.

Kanevsky, whose YouTube channel has more than 100,000 subscribers, and who has also interrupted classes at UCLA and other universities, initially made light of the lawsuit and downplayed the accusations. He attempted to raise money for his and Bai's legal defense on the site GoFundMe, writing in April, "USC, a school that is already worth billions, is now trying to sue us. They are now spreading fake news and trying to make the whole thing seem like a massacre."

He said the Holocaust lecture prank was intended to be "harmless and funny" but that it "got out of control when a student falsely accused us of having a gun, which led to us getting arrested at gunpoint." He added he is Jewish and came to the U.S. as a refuge. To date, the GoFundMe has raised $306.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Loading
Loading...