Jury begins hearing Saudi airman’s Vegas rape case
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A prosecutor set a scene Friday of a frightened 13-year-old boy escaping after being raped in a guest room bathroom and running to an elevator at a Las Vegas Strip hotel, looking over his shoulder as if he feared he was being followed.
“He was able to struggle away after being sodomized,” prosecutor Jacqueline Bluth told a panel of 12 jurors and two alternates hearing opening statements in the Nevada state court trial of Mazen Alotaibi.
Alotaibi, 24, a Saudi Arabian air force sergeant, sat silently dressed in a suit and tie at the defendant’s table. He clenched his jaw but showed no outward emotion as he listened to an Arabic translation of the proceedings.
He has pleaded not guilty to nine felonies including kidnapping, sexual assault with a minor and lewdness with a child that could get him life in state prison if he’s convicted.
His defense attorney, Don Chairez, maintains that Alotaibi was too drunk and unfamiliar with his surroundings to know what was happening the morning of the alleged New Year’s Eve attack.
Bluth focused Friday on elevator camera images of the boy on the sixth floor of the Circus Circus hotel.
“You will see him run to that elevator,” the deputy Clark County district attorney said, “and you will see him look out, and just see him pushing the button: Door close! Door close! Door close!”
Prosecutors and Chairez agree the boy wanted marijuana and willingly accompanied Alotaibi to the hotel room where five other men lounged about 8 a.m. the morning before a big New Year’s Eve fireworks show on the Strip.
Earlier elevator security video shows the boy with Alotaibi, who leans his face close to the boy’s neck and shoulder.
Bluth said Alotaibi kissed or licked him.
In the room, Bluth said Alotaibi steered the boy into the bathroom, locked the door, and groped and forced him into oral and anal sex. Bluth said a nurse at a hospital detailed injuries consistent with such an attack, and noted bruises on the boy’s buttocks.
The prosecutor said DNA swabbed from the boy’s neck, ear, chest and other body parts was “consistent” with two people, including Alotaibi.
But Chairez told jurors the boy’s story doesn’t hold up, and the DNA evidence was inconclusive.
“Any of the particular private parts that were mentioned, there’s no DNA from Mazen,” Chairez said. “The story you just heard can’t be believed if you believe DNA evidence.”
Chairez said Alotaibi was on a two-week leave from his military assignment at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas, and drove to Las Vegas with two friends from California. They arrived about 2 a.m., and Chairez said Alotaibi spent the pre-dawn hours drinking seven double shots of cognac at the strip club and hotel.
Although he argued in pretrial hearings that police should have provided a translator and a lawyer before questioning Alotaibi, Chairez didn’t raise the question Friday for jurors.
Chairez has characterized the boy as a child prostitute and said that if sex occurred, it was consensual.
But Nevada state law says children under 16 cannot consent to sex.
The boy is expected to testify Monday, and Chairez said jurors will need to decide if he can be believed.
Chairez has said the boy split time between divorced parents in California, and Bluth said Friday he was visiting Las Vegas for the New Year’s holiday with his grandmother when the alleged attack occurred. Official accounts earlier said the boy was in town with his father.
Chairez and Bluth said one of the men in the sixth-floor room will testify that the boy followed the group as they returned from the strip club, but was ushered away before returning with Alotaibi.
Other would-be witnesses left the U.S. earlier this year and Chairez lost a bid to have them testify by Internet hookup from Saudi Arabia. Clark County District Court Judge Stefany Miley ruled that because the men are now abroad, they were ineligible to testify because they were out of reach of court rules and penalties for perjury.
Alotaibi rejected a plea deal in August to avoid trial and plead guilty to attempted sexual assault and attempted lewdness charges that could have gotten him probation or a prison sentence ranging from eight to 80 years.
Prosecutors plan to call more than a dozen witnesses. Chairez said he has at least two experts lined up to testify. Trial is expected to take at least five days.
Chairez has said he hasn’t determined whether Alotaibi will testify in his defense.
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