LAS VEGAS // A Saudi Arabia air force sergeant stood in shackles on Wednesday in a Nevada courtroom and pleaded not guilty to abducting and raping a 13-year-old boy at a Las Vegas Strip hotel on New Year's Eve.
Through an Arabic language translator, Mazen Alotaibi, 23, acknowledged that he understood the nine felony charges that could put him in a Nevada prison for the rest of his life.
"But it's not right," he said through the interpreter.
Clark County District Court Judge Stefany Miley set a May 13 trial date on the charges: first-degree kidnapping, two counts of sexual assault with a minor under 14, four counts of lewdness with a child under 14, sexually-motivated coercion and burglary.
Coercion alleges Alotaibi forced the boy to do something he had a legal right not to do. Burglary in Nevada involves entering a building intending to commit a felony.
Alotaibi's lawyer, Don Chairez, said outside the courtroom that he's recommending to Saudi authorities that Alotaibi remain in custody at the Clark County jail, where he is being held on $1.72 million bail.
If a plea deal can be reached with prosecutors to avoid trial, the jail stay could be credited as time served, Chairez said.
Chairez told reporters he doesn't believe the boy's claims that he was forced into a room and raped early December 31 at the Circus-Circus hotel-casino.
Chairez instead cast Alotaibi as the victim in a situation where he was severely drunk, didn't understand English and hadn't slept for many hours while traveling to Las Vegas and partying when he arrived.
For the first time, Chairez also alleged the boy stole Alotaibi's wallet and $200.
"A lot of this is going to hinge on the credibility of the boy," the defence attorney said. "We're going to expose this boy as a liar."
Nevada state law says a child under age 16 cannot consent to sex. But Chairez said he'd tell a jury that if sex took place, it was consensual.
"We believe the child went there voluntarily and took advantage of my client who was extremely intoxicated. He wanted to try to get marijuana off of these guys. He wanted to try to get money," Chairez told reporters. "We do not believe any sort of force was used."
Chairez said Alotaibi and four friends arrived in Las Vegas early December 31 and spent six hours drinking at a strip club before the alleged attack in the bathroom of a sixth-floor hotel room where up to four other men smoked cigarettes or marijuana.
The boy was visiting Las Vegas with his divorced father from Sacramento, Calif., Chairez said. The boy told police he was on the way to meet a friend at a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop in the hotel when he was abducted.
Police said Alotaibi acknowledged during questioning that he had sex with the boy, and investigators collected DNA evidence including a soiled towel from the bathroom.
Chairez said he is investigating the boy's background and awaiting test results on DNA and blood evidence.
The attorney has said he expects tests will show Alotaibi was too drunk to give up his constitutional right to have a lawyer present during 70 minutes of police questioning following his arrest.
Chairez also alleges that although Alotaibi protested that he didn't understand what was happening, police didn't provide him with a translator.