Iowa murder suspect’s lawyer condemns Trump’s comments, says client is in U.S. legally
A judge Wednesday ordered the accused murderer of 20-year-old Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts held on $5 million bail — as his defense lawyer claimed his client is not an illegal immigrant and lashed out at President Donald Trump, calling him “sad and sorry” for commenting on the case.
“Sad and sorry Trump has weighed in on this matter in national media which will poison the entire possible pool of jury members,” the accused killer’s lawyer said Wednesday in a court document.
Wednesday was also the first court appearance for the suspect, Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, who investigators have said is in the country illegally.
Rivera, who describes himself on social media as Mexican, came to the United States as a minor, said his defense lawyer, Allan Richards, and has a seventh- or eighth-grade education.
The lawyer is claiming in a court document filed Wednesday that the government is wrong in describing Rivera as an illegal immigrant.
The document names Craig Lang, a former head of the Iowa Board of Regents and a prominent state Republican, as the source of that claim. Rivera has worked for four years Lang’s family dairy farm, Lang said in a statement Wednesday, adding that Rivera was “vetted through the government’s E-Verify system and was an employee in good standing.”
Lang did not offer any independent proof of Rivera’s immigration status. Meanwhile, the Washington Post said Wednesday that a law enforcement source says Rivera used a stolen ID to bypass the system.
Tibbett’s body was found Tuesday, more than a month after her disappearance.
Rivera’s legal status has made the case a lightning rod in the immigration debate in the waning months of the midterm elections.
At a rally in West Virginia on Tuesday night, Trump had blamed Tibbetts’ death on lax immigration enforcement. “If he had not been in the country, she would be alive today,” Trump told cheering supporters. “Should’ve never happened … The immigration laws are such a disgrace … We have to get more Republicans. We have to get ‘em.”
This report originally appeared on NYPost.com.
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