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Acosta city case nearly flatlined

October 04, 2007|By Alicia Robinson

The city of Costa Mesa’s attempt to prosecute student protester Benito Acosta looks officially dead, after an appellate court on Thursday rejected the city’s appeal. Shortly before Orange County Superior Court Judge Kelly MacEachern dismissed the city’s case Monday, City Prosecutor Dan Peelman filed a motion to prevent that from happening.

The court’s appellate department denied Peelman’s motion because he failed to provide an adequate record, and because it considered the motion moot since the case had been dismissed, according to court information.

The city filed two misdemeanor charges against Acosta, who goes by the name Coyotl Tezcatlipoca, alleging he disrupted a Jan. 3, 2006, City Council meeting when he spoke against a plan to have city police enforce immigration laws.

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Peelman could not be reached for comment, but the motion he filed in appellate court said MacEachern was biased against him, giving him only 10 minutes to prepare a response to 100 pages of motions, accusing him of prosecutorial misconduct, and not allowing him to use a standard procedure to try to disqualify her as judge in the case.

MacEachern said in court Monday she dismissed the case because Peelman, a private attorney, failed to get sworn in as a public prosecutor before filing charges against Acosta. She said the swearing in is required by state law, but Peelman has said it applies to county but not city officials.

ACLU attorney Belinda Escobosa Helzer, who represented Acosta, said she didn’t expect Peelman’s appeal to go anywhere.

“I think it was an attempt by him to stop what he probably knew was inevitable,” she said.

Under the law, Acosta can’t be tried again on the same charges. A civil case against the city that the ACLU filed on Acosta’s behalf is pending.

“Mr. Acosta did everything he was supposed to,” Helzer said. “He showed up in court, he was ready to present his defense, and all this mishap in the criminal court was no fault of Mr. Acosta.”


ALICIA ROBINSON may be reached at (714) 966-4626 or at alicia.robinson@latimes.com.

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