Sentencing delayed in Bahena Rivera trial

Defense files new motion seeking evidence
Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 5:15 PM CDT
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BROOKLYN, Iowa (KWQC) - A judge has delayed sentencing and a hearing for a new trial that was scheduled Thursday after the attorneys for Cristhian Bahena Rivera claimed in a newly filed motion that prosecutors withheld relevant information in the case.

Bahena Rivera was convicted of first-degree murder in May for the 2018 stabbing death of 20-year old Mollie Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student.

Bahena Rivera’s attorneys filed the new motion Tuesday night in Poweschieck County, claiming that two witnesses have come forward with a different version of events that led to Tibbetts’s death.

Bahena Rivera testified at trial that two masked men made him drive out to Brooklyn, Iowa, put Tibbetts in the trunk of his car, and left him to dispose of her body.

His attorneys now claim that they have a search warrant corroborating information given by an inmate at the Mount Pleasant Correctional Center, who allegedly came forward after seeing Bahena Rivera’s testimony on television.

The document states that the inmate told authorities that another inmate, whom they refer to as “inmate 2,” spoke about a trap house he was staying at owned by a 50-year-old man.

At one point, “inmate 2″ went with the 50-year-old man to another trap house where he says he saw Mollie Tibbetts bound and gagged,

“Inmate 2″ then allegedly admitted to killing Tibbetts.

Bahena Rivera’s attorneys say the 50-year-old man allegedly operated a sex trafficking ring out of New Sharon, Iowa, in the summer of 2018 and met one of his alleged victims in Brooklyn.

According to the motion, that victim was tortured and sexually abused.

The attorneys said in the motion that the man also has ties to the mother of Xavior Harrelson, who was reported missing out of Montezuma on May 27.

The attorneys said in the motion that prosecutors were aware of the search warrant and did not provide that information to Bahena Rivera’s attorneys, which they claim is a violation of due process.

They have asked the judge to grant Bahena Rivera a new trial and compel prosecutors to hand over all evidence involving the alleged trap house and sex trafficking investigations. The motion to compel evidence will be heard Thursday morning.

In a resistance filed Wednesday afternoon, Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Brown stated that Bahena Rivera’s attorneys were aware of the evidence during the trial. According to the motion, prosecutors first learned of the information provided by the inmate and, “regardless of its lack of credibility,” promptly provided it to the defense the same day.

Brown said in the resistance that the prosecution and defense all met in a room to discuss the new evidence during the trial. When given the opportunity to suspend the trial to investigate the evidence further, Brown claims that Bahena Rivera’s attorneys chose not to because the evidence contradicted Bahena Rivera’s testimony.

Brown further said in the resistance that the information provided by the witnesses is “completely unsupported by other evidence learned in the investigation and offered at trial and is completely opposed to the testimony provided by the defendant.”

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