Former Saudi airman files appeal of 35-year rape sentence

AP News
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Posted: Oct 28, 2015 4:49 PM
Former Saudi airman files appeal of 35-year rape sentence

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A former Saudi Arabian air force sergeant serving a minimum of 35 years in Nevada prison is appealing his convictions on kidnapping, rape and other charges involving a 13-year-old boy at a Las Vegas Strip hotel.

Mazen Alotaibi's defense attorneys say in Nevada Supreme Court documents posted Monday that Alotaibi didn't get a fair trial due to errors by the judge and poor representation by a trial lawyer who gambled the jury would believe the sex was consensual.

"We hate to second-guess a colleague," attorney Vincent Savarese said Wednesday of the appeal he filled with attorney Dominic Gentile. "But, as Mazen Alotaibi's appellate counsel, we have a job to do."

Alotaibi's trial lawyer, Don Chairez, said he did the best he could at trial, and hopes Alotaibi wins his appeal.

"There were things we could have done differently," Chairez said. "If that's grounds to have the case overturned, I hope it benefits Mazen."

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson didn't immediately respond Wednesday to messages about the appeal.

Savarese said Judge Stefany Miley should have told jurors they could consider a lesser felony charge of statutory sexual seduction that carries a one-to-five year sentence.

"There was a way for the jury to find him guilty without letting him out the door if they found consent and went with statutory sexual seduction," Savarese said.

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

Alotaibi was found guilty in October 2013 of kidnapping for luring the boy to the hotel room, sexual assault for acts with the boy in a bathroom, and lewdness with a child for fondling and kissing the boy on the way to the room. The jury also found Alotaibi guilty of misdemeanor coercion.

The appeal also faults Miley for rejecting arguments that Alotaibi deserved a new trial after a witness recanted after trial.

Rashed Alshehri told the judge in September 2014 he lied during testimony about how intoxicated Alotaibi was before encountering the boy at the Circus Circus hotel on New Year's Eve 2012.

The judge ruled the change in Alshehri's account wouldn't have affected the verdict.

"Testimony regarding the defendant's presumed level of intoxication is ... at best another handful of sand on an already expansive beach of evidence," the judge wrote.

Alotaibi was sentenced last January. He's now 26. With credit for time served, he'll be 57 before he's first eligible for parole.