Man accused of killing Mollie Tibbetts wants to delay upcoming hearing and trial

Defense needs more time to prepare

Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, responds to a question from magistrate judge Diane Crooklyn-Johnson as he makes his initial
Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, responds to a question from magistrate judge Diane Crooklyn-Johnson as he makes his initial appearance on a charge of first-degree murder during at the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Montezuma, Iowa, on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018. Rivera is accused of killing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

MONTEZUMA – A lawyer for Cristhian Bahena Rivera, accused of killing Mollie Tibbetts last July, is asking a judge to delay a hearing next week and possibly the trial because more time is needed to prepare.

Jennifer Freese, in a motion filed Monday, said additional time is needed to consult an expert witness and review new evidence. There was search warrant obtained May 9 to review Rivera’s internet accounts and “any location information” he may have searched between July 18 and 23, 2018. The results of that warrant haven’t been received by the defense at this time, she said.

Freese said “due to the complex nature” of the case a continuance is requested. Rivera will waive his one year speedy trial right, she added.

Poweshiek County Attorney Bart Klaver, in a response, said he had no problem with the delay as long as Rivera waives his one year speedy trial right as soon as possible. He also requested that the court follow up ask Rivera, in person, to confirm the written waiver.   

Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, was arrested Aug. 21, about a month after Tibbetts, 20, went missing while jogging near her home in Brooklyn, Iowa.

Rivera has been charged with first-degree murder and his trial was set to begin Sept. 3 in Woodbury County District Court. The trial was moved out of Poweshiek because of extensive pretrial publicity.

Rivera was arrested after he led police to a cornfield south of Guernsey where Tibbett’s body was hidden. An autopsy showed Tibbetts died of multiple stab wounds.

In March, Rivera’s lawyers asked that statements Rivera made to police during an interview be tossed out because his rights were violated and he, Spanish being his first language, didn’t understand the questioning and investigators made misleading statements.

Prosecutors, in a response, said investigators did not initially “mirandize” Rivera because he was not in custody. It wasn’t until federal agents questioned Rivera’s immigration status that he was read his rights and detained.

Rivera was interviewed in an unlocked room, given breaks and food, and a Spanish speaking federal agent helped conduct the interview, prosecutors noted.  

The defense also wants to keep out evidence of a DNA analysis that shows Tibbetts’ blood was found in the trunk of Rivera’s Chevrolet Malibu because investigators told Rivera he didn’t need a lawyer, even after his employer at Yarrabee farms said he was going to contact the farm’s lawyer.

Prosecutors, in their motion, said Rivera gave both verbal and written consent to search the vehicle.    

A judge hasn’t ruled on the continuance for the hearing or trial.

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