Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Benito Acosta, Costa Mesa council trial starts today
The criminal trial of Acosta, accused of disrupting a City Council meeting in 2006, starts with testimony from Mayor Allan Mansoor
By NIYAZ PIRANI
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
COSTA MESA – The criminal trial of 26-year-old Benito Acosta, an outspoken community activist also known as Coyotl Tezcatlipoca, began today at Harbor Justice Center.
Acosta is being charged with violating propriety of conduct while addressing the City Council and disorderliness at a council meeting for an incident that took place at a Costa Mesa City Council meeting on Jan. 3, 2006 when people came to express their opinions regarding the city's recently passed policy to train city police officers to enforce federal immigration laws.
The prosecution alleges that Acosta became disruptive after asking members of the public who agreed with his anti-policy statements to stand up in the audience. Acosta ensued in a verbal spat with the City Council before police used force to take Acosta from the building.
A jury of 11 women and one man listened to Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor recount the events on the first day of a trial which is expected to last a week.
"He was a couple of minutes into his time when he started changing his comment from (being) directed to the council to directed to the public…" Mansoor testified, stating that he was concerned the situation could have escalated into a protest or riot. "He started telling the audience to stand up, he continued to tell the audience 'Do it, Do it.'"
Acosta, donning a brown suit, sat quietly during Mansoor's testimony, which will continue Thursday.
The defense alleges that Acosta was treated unfairly by the mayor and the police. B. Kwaku Duren, Acosta's lawyer, said Minuteman leader Jim Gilchrist was allowed to have his supporters stand while Acosta was not and plans on showing video supporting this.
A video of both Gilchrist and Acosta's time at the podium addressing the council can be found at the city's Web site, www.ci.costa-mesa.ca.us. The council goes to recess as Acosta urges members of the public to stand and the video resumes without incident.
Acosta's defense plans on showing footage of what happened after the recess when the meeting was put on hold for nearly 45 minutes.
If convicted, Acosta faces a maximum fine of $1,000 and six months in jail for each count.
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