Saudi airman seeks new trial in Vegas rape case

  • Article by: KEN RITTER
  • Associated Press
  • June 3, 2014 - 3:20 PM

LAS VEGAS — New lawyers want a new trial for a 25-year-old Saudi Arabian air force sergeant who faces a minimum of 35 years in Nevada state prison for his conviction in the rape of a 13-year-old California boy at a Las Vegas Strip hotel on New Year's Eve 2012.

Mazen Alotaibi's sentencing set for Wednesday was indefinitely postponed while Clark County District Court Judge Stefany Miley scheduled arguments June 12 from Alotaibi's attorneys. They say that his trial last October was tainted by false testimony from a witness who has since changed his account about how drunk the defendant was.

The witness, Rashed Alshehri, testified that Alotaibi drove him and a friend to the Circus Circus hotel after the three visited a strip club, where Alotaibi says he had been drinking heavily.

Alshehri, now 26, said in a sworn affidavit that he lied on the witness stand. The other friend drove the car, he said.

"It is probable that had the false testimony not been admitted, a different result would have occurred at trial," Alotaibi's attorneys, Dominic Gentile and Vincent Savarese III, said in their May 27 court filing.

Prosecutor Jacqueline Bluth said she hadn't seen the motion for a new trial and couldn't immediately comment.

Gentile and Savarese contend that Alotaibi was too drunk to drive and too intoxicated to know he was committing a crime — including kidnapping by luring the boy to the hotel room, sexual assault and lewdness with a child for fondling and kissing the boy on the way to the room.

Alshehri, the witness, is a Saudi citizen who was attending Texas Western University when he visited Las Vegas with Alotaibi, who had come to the U.S. for military training as a member of the Royal Saudi Air Force. A telephone number for Alshehri appeared Tuesday to be disconnected. His attorney in Las Vegas, Tom Pitaro, declined immediate comment.

The attorneys also say Alotaibi received bad legal advice from his trial lawyer, Don Chairez, and that the jury should have been given an option to consider lesser offenses.

Chairez said Tuesday that jurors told him after the verdict they were swayed by prosecutors' assertions that if Alotaibi could drive, he was sober enough to know he was committing a crime.

"It was a big issue at trial," Chairez said. "If you're drunk and you kiss a kid on the ear, is it with lewd intent? Or is it because you were drunk and didn't know whether what you were doing was wrong?"

Alotaibi didn't testify at trial, but acknowledged to police in a recorded interview that he had sex with the boy. He said the boy wanted marijuana or money in return.

Nevada state law says a child under 16 can't consent to sex.

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