Saudi airman rejects plea deal in Vegas child rape

AP News
Posted: Aug 01, 2013 9:28 PM
Saudi airman rejects plea deal in Vegas child rape

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Saudi Arabian air force sergeant rejected a plea deal in a child rape case Thursday, after which a video was played in court of him telling police he had sexual contact with a 13-year-old boy at a Las Vegas Strip hotel.

Mazen Alotaibi, 24, appeared in Nevada state court and refused to plead guilty to reduced charges of attempted sexual assault and attempted lewdness. Instead he will go to trial in October and face multiple felony charges including kidnapping, lewdness with a child under the age of 14, sexually motivated coercion and sexual assault of a minor.

Alotaibi has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is being held at Clark County Jail on $1.7 million bail. He could spend the rest of his life in state prison if convicted.

In the video, Alotaibi told police he encountered the boy in the hallway of Circus Circus early Dec. 31. He said the boy wanted marijuana and offered to exchange sex for money.

"I didn't force him," Alotaibi told police. "He wanted weed. He wanted money. You have to understand my situation. I drank too much."

The video was aired during a hearing on a bid by Alotaibi's lawyer, Don Chairez, to get Clark County District Court Judge Stefany Miley to throw out the confession as improperly obtained.

Before the hearing, with an Arabic interpreter providing translation, Miley asked if Alotaibi was sure he wanted to reject an offer from prosecutors that would spare him trial if he pleaded guilty. Under the deal, Alotaibi would have faced anywhere from probation to up to 80 years in prison.

The judge said she would rule in coming days on whether the police interview and a 70-plus page transcript can be used as evidence when the case goes to trial Oct. 7.

Chairez argued that Alotaibi was too drunk, too sleepy and too limited in English proficiency to waive his right to have a lawyer present while answering police questions.

"He was unfamiliar with the right to remain silent, with the right to an attorney," Chairez said. "These are critical concepts to be understood before waiving rights."

Alotaibi, sitting handcuffed in a police interview room, never asked for a translator and appeared at the beginning of the 70-minute videotaped interview to waive his right to have a lawyer present. He also said that he didn't understand why he was there.

After several minutes of denials, Alotaibi said he was with the boy in the bathroom of the hotel room. The room had been rented by other Saudi military members who have since returned to their country. They won't appear as witnesses at trial.

"I know you had sex with that boy," Pool told Alotaibi. "Did you force him or did he want to?"

"He wanted to," Alotaibi responded. "He just said, 'Pay me.'"

Nevada state law says children under 16 cannot give consent, no matter the circumstances.

A Circus Circus security officer, Jose Haros, testified Thursday that Alotaibi didn't appear intoxicated when he was arrested in the room about 9:30 a.m.

Casino security videos also aired during Thursday's hearing showed Alotaibi and the boy together in the hallways and on an elevator before the encounter in the room.

Prosecutors James Sweetin and Mary Kay Holthus argued that Alotaibi didn't look intoxicated or impaired.