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ACLU, Mansoor contend in court

Trial for Benito Acosta, an OCC student arrested at a city meeting last year, is expected to last through midweek.

September 29, 2007|By Alicia Robinson

Nearly two years after the Costa Mesa City Council took a controversial vote to have police enforce immigration law, the issue has cooled significantly, mainly because the city never took on enforcement duties.

But one aspect of the issue has never been resolved. Police arrested 26-year-old Benito Acosta at a Jan. 3, 2006, City Council meeting after he spoke at the podium and urged supporters to stand up.

County prosecutors declined to file the charges under their jurisdiction — resisting arrest and battery of a police officer, Orange County District Attorney spokeswoman Susan Schroeder said at the time — but the city pursued alleged municipal code violations. Acosta’s trial on three misdemeanor charges began Thursday and is expected to last through midweek.

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Costa Mesa City Prosecutor Dan Peelman aims to show that Acosta, also known as Coyotl Tezcatlipoca, came to the council meeting intending to rile up the crowd and use civil disobedience to make his point.

In testimony Friday, Lt. David Andersen talked about how Acosta was “inciting” people by speaking through a bullhorn before the meeting, and Peelman questioned witnesses about whether Acosta appeared angry.

The defense wants to prove Acosta was treated too harshly by police and that he was treated differently because of his point of view.

The defense’s claims partly rest on contrasting how Mayor Allan Mansoor treated Minuteman Project leader Jim Gilchrist to how he treated Acosta.

Defense attorneys argue that Acosta merely did what Gilchrist did, asking supporters to stand up, and only Acosta was punished for it.

Here’s what is on the city’s recording of the meeting during Gilchrist’s turn at the podium, though the camera is on Gilchrist and the audience can’t be seen:

Gilchrist: “My name is Jim Gilchrist; I’m the founder of the Minuteman Project. At the end of my speech I’m going to ask all the members of the Minuteman Project and the supporters to stand up rather than applause and make a lot of noise. OK, will you guys stand up? Thank you.”

Mansoor: “Uh, actually, if we — thank you, I appreciate that. Mr. Gilchrist, are you asking that you’re going to be the only speaker so the others don’t speak?”

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