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Saudi sergeant to face trial for rape in US

US and Saudi governments looking for the truth, says Saudi consulate official

Gulf News

Las Vegas: A Saudi Arabia air force sergeant was ordered Thursday to stand trial for the sexual assault of a 13-year-old boy on New Year’s Eve in a Las Vegas Strip hotel room.

A defence attorney for 23-year-old Mazen Al Otaibi and a Saudi consulate legal attache huddled with prosecutors for two hours before Al Otaibi waived his right to a preliminary hearing of evidence against him.

The move meant the boy and a police detective who prosecutors said were ready to testify didn’t have to take the stand.

Defence attorney Don Chairez conceded the testimony probably would have met what he termed the minimal standard to show a felony had been committed, allowing the judge to move the case to state court.

“A preliminary hearing is basically a rubber stamp process,” Chairez said.

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Bill Kephart asked Al Otaibi if he understood what was happening. Standing with an Arabic translator, Al Otaibi responded “yes” in English.

Chairez and Saudi Arabia consulate legal affairs official Abdul Qader Mohammad Al Hazza said outside the courtroom that evidence was still being collected. Negotiations were under way to resolve the case, Chairez said.

“Both governments are looking for the truth,” Al Hazza said. “We just need time to bring the evidence together to show the truth.”

Chairez said he hopes tests on blood samples drawn after Al Otaibi’s arrest will show the aircraft mechanic was too drunk at the time to give up his constitutional right to have a lawyer present during questioning.

Chairez said police didn’t provide Al Otaibi with a translator during questioning, even though Al Otaibi told detectives several times during his 70-minute interview that he did not understand what was happening.

Meanwhile, prosecutors Mary Kay Holthus and James Sweetin added two new child lewdness charges to the seven charges already pending against Al Otaibi. Those counts include kidnapping, sexual assault with a minor, coercion, lewdness with a minor and burglary.

Alotaibi could face life in prison if he’s convicted of the kidnapping and sex assault charges.

Kephart increased bail from $1.22 million to $1.72 million based on the new charges, which allege that Al Otaibi kissed the boy during a sex act.

Chairez said Al Otaibi will plead not guilty to all charges at his arraignment set for February 6 in Clark County District Court.

Al Otaibi is accused of forcing the boy into a hotel room where as many as four other Saudi officers smoked cigarettes or marijuana on the morning before a New Year’s Eve fireworks celebration on the Las Vegas Strip.

Police said Al Otaibi acknowledged during questioning that he had sex with the boy, and investigators collected DNA evidence, a used condom and soiled towel from the bathroom where the boy said the attack took place.

Chairez said the boy splits time living with divorced parents in California and had been staying at the Circus-Circus hotel with his father. He told police he was accosted while on his way to a hotel doughnut shop about 7:30am.

Chairez has said the boy wanted marijuana and refused repeated attempts by the Saudi men to get him to leave their hotel room. The defence lawyer said that if sex took place, it was consensual.

Prosecutors say that even if the boy sought sex, Nevada state law says a child under age 16 cannot give consent.