A prosecutor set a scene on 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 sodomised,” prosecutor Jacqueline Bluth told a panel of 12 jurors and two alternates hearing opening statements in the Nevada state court trial of Mazen Al Otaibi.
Al Otaibi, 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 defence attorney, Don Chairez, maintains that Al Otaibi 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 on 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 Al Otaibi to the hotel room where five other men lounged about 8am the morning before a big New Year’s Eve fireworks show on the Strip.
Earlier elevator security video shows the boy with Al Otaibi, who leans his face close to the boy’s neck and shoulder.
Bluth said Al Otaibi kissed or licked him.
In the room, Bluth said Al Otaibi steered the boy into the bathroom, and abused him. 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 Al Otaibi.
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 Al Otaibi 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 2am, and Chairez said Al Otaibi spent the pre-dawn hours drinking at the strip club and hotel.
Although he argued in pretrial hearings that police should have provided a translator and a lawyer before questioning Al Otaibi, Chairez didn’t raise the question on Friday for jurors.
Chairez has characterised 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 on 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 on 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 Al Otaibi.
Other would-be witnesses left the US 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.
Al Otaibi 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 Al Otaibi will testify in his defence