Published Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 | 10:10 a.m.
Updated Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 | 12:39 p.m.
Inside a Clark County courtroom Friday, bail was set at $1.22 million for the Saudi air force sergeant charged with raping a teenage boy New Year’s Eve on the Las Vegas Strip.
Outside the courtroom, the airman’s attorney disputed police reports and maintained the teen approached the Saudi and his fellow airmen and offered to perform sex acts for money.
Justice of the Peace William Kephart also scheduled a Jan. 31 preliminary hearing for Mazen Alotaibi, 23, who has been charged with two counts of sexual assault with a minor under 14 years of age, two counts of lewdness with a child under the age of 14, first-degree kidnapping, burglary and coercion, according to an amended criminal complaint filed Friday.
Alotaibi’s attorney, Don Chairez, called the defendant a “model citizen in Saudi Arabia” and asked for his bail to be set at $5,000 to $10,000 for each count — significantly lower than what Kephart imposed.
Kephart, citing the seriousness of the charges and Alotaibi’s alleged admissions to police, sided with the prosecution, which asked for a bail of at least $1 million.
“I know that Saudi Arabia has considerable assets, but I don’t know if (Alotaibi) has access to that,” Kephart said. “If he does make bail, as a condition of that bail, I’m going to require that he surrender his passport and that he remain in the United States.”
The incident, which has become an international news story, came to light after the alleged victim, a 13-year-old boy visiting Las Vegas on vacation, contacted hotel security at Circus Circus, according to an arrest report.
The boy, who was a guest at the hotel, had been walking down a hallway the morning of Dec. 31 when Alotaibi allegedly made contact and forced the boy into his room, where he sexually assaulted him, the report states.
The boy eventually escaped the room and briefly met a friend at a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop to calm down before notifying authorities, the report states.
When detectives interviewed the defendant, Alotaibi “repeatedly changed his story” but then allegedly admitted to performing two sexual acts on the boy, although he called one incident an accident, according to the arrest report.
Chairez disputed the police’s version of events, instead offering a different explanation about how the boy came into contact with Alotaibi’s group, which included several other Saudi military officers.
“This teenage kid was trying to buy marijuana off our particular client,” Chairez told the judge. “…We’re not talking about an innocent kid walking around the casino going to Krispy Kreme doughnuts.”
Chairez also said Alotaibi was intoxicated at the time and had just returned to the hotel after spending hours at a Las Vegas strip club with his friends.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Mary Kay Holthus dismissed the defense’s argument about the defendant’s alcohol consumption and asked the judge to consider the facts known so far, including the alleged victim’s young age.
“The likelihood of a conviction is tremendous,” Holthus said. “I don’t see this as just a ‘no big deal, get drunk and have fun’ (situation).”
Outside the courtroom, Chairez said he respected Kephart’s decision and would recommend Alotaibi remain in the Clark County Detention Center until his preliminary hearing. Any potential bail funds should be used instead to hire investigators and pay to fly people from Saudi Arabia to eventually testify, he said.
Chairez also reiterated his stance about how the situation unfolded — arguing the boy pursued the group, wanted to buy marijuana and then offered to perform sexual acts for money. He said the incident was not “forcible rape.”
“At most — if there was any sexual contact — it was consensual sex,” Chairez said.
Chief Deputy District Attorney James Sweetin, who is prosecuting the case with Holthus, said the pair was pleased with the judge’s bail decision for what he called a “very significant case.”
Alotaibi, who appeared Friday in shackles and wearing glasses, bounced his knees up and down while sitting on a courtroom bench before the hearing. He then stood and listened silently as a court interpreter translated the proceedings in his native Arabic.
If convicted of the sexual assault charges, prosecutors said the defendant could spend 35 years to life in prison.