ACLU files appeal for Latino activist's case

COSTA MESA — A year after a federal lawsuit concluded, and nearly five years since the actual incident, the debate between a Latino activist and Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor appears to be headed back to court.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed an appeal in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday that seeks a review of a federal jury's verdict last year. The verdict dismissed Benito Acosta's lawsuit against Costa Mesa and its mayor in a claim alleging they abridged his freedom of speech at a 2006 City Council meeting.

The Jan. 3, 2006, meeting was as contentious as the city has seen in recent years. The room was essentially divided among those who supported immigration enforcement by local police and those who didn't. Acosta opposed it and at the podium, where attendees are allowed three minutes to speak, Acosta was cut off.

At the podium Acosta accused Mansoor and Councilman Eric Bever of trying to run Latinos out of the city and called them racists before urging his supporters to stand.

When Mansoor objected to the audience standing, Acosta urged them on.

Mansoor quickly called a recess to the meeting before Acosta's three minutes at the podium were up.

Acosta, who also goes by Coyotl Tezcatlipoca, was arrested and pulled out of the chambers. He suffered bruises and cuts to his face and legs during the arrest.

The activist tried to bolster his claim by pointing out earlier in the same meeting, Minuteman leader Jim Gilchrist asked his supporters to stand in support of the immigration enforcement. Mansoor appeared to ask them to remain seated as well.

A federal judge later dismissed his claims against police, who were found to be following orders to make the arrest and acting within the requirements of their jobs.

At the time, Mansoor and Bever strongly denied Acosta's allegations of racism, saying they were only try to maintain order.

In December 2009, an eight-person jury in Santa Ana's federal court found in favor of Mansoor and the city. Costa Mesa has spent more than $500,000 defending the case.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World