An Orange County judge threw out criminal charges against Coyotl Tezcatlipoca (pronounced koyo tez-cat-li-poca), a local college student at the center of a much-publicized free-speech case in Costa Mesa. The judge found that the prosecuting attorney had not been appointed or sworn as required by the California Constitution.

Tezcatlipoca, who is also known as Benito Acosta, was testifying at a Costa Mesa city council meeting in January 2006 when he was cut off by Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor, then surrounded by police officers, dragged out of the meeting room, and arrested. The ACLU/SC filed a civil lawsuit in March 2006 against the city of Costa Mesa for violating Tezcatlipoca's free-speech rights. The disqualified prosecutor works for the same law firm that represents the city in the civil lawsuit.

"Prosecutors must be held to the highest standard, but from start to finish this prosecution failed to meet even the most basic tests," said ACLU/SC staff attorney Belinda Escobosa Helzer. "These criminal charges were part of a politically motivated campaign against our client for exercising his free-speech rights to criticize the city council."

Photo: Coyotl Tezcatlipoca speaking at the January 2006 Costa Mesa City Council meeting where his free-speech rights were violated