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Bahena Rivera’s defense moves for new trial, produces new evidence

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POWESHIEK COUNTY (KWWL) -- A sentencing hearing for Cristhian Bahena Rivera, who was convicted of first-degree murder earlier this year, will see a new witness on Thursday, July 15th.

Judge Joel Yates ordered Monday that Arne Maki, a new witness, be transported to the sentencing hearing on Thursday. Maki is currently incarcerated at the Mount Pleasant Correctional after being convicted of assault charges.

Bahena Rivera's defense team, Chad and Jennifer Frese of Marshalltown, filed a motion for a new trial on July 8th.

SENTENCING: Cristhian Bahena Rivera to be sentenced Thursday for murder of Mollie Tibbetts

In that lastest defense filing, a new witness, that hasn't explicitly been identified as Maki or anyone else, who is an inmate under the Iowa Dept. of Corrections came forward with testimony after seeing Bahena Rivera's televised testimony in May. He testified that two masked men were responsible for killing Mollie Tibbetts in July 2018 and forced him to drive them around. Bahena Rivera admitted to placing her body in the cornfield and covering it with stalks. The unidentified inmate says he was told a similar story from another unnamed inmate while "previously in a county jail in or near Poweshiek County."

Court records show this inmate claims the other incarcerated individual admitted to being part of a duo that killed Tibbetts under the orders of an unnamed "50-year-old male involved in the sex trafficking trade." He goes on to say that the plan included incriminating a "Hispanic male" for the murder of Mollie.

This testimony, given to an associate warden following Bahena Rivera's testimony, along with another witness' statement was delivered to the Freses by Iowa Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown, who served as a prosecutor in the case.

The second report indicates another individual corroborated some of the inmate's claims. This third individual reached out to the Mahaska County Sheriff's Office just hours after the defense rested its case. Documents say this person doesn't know the first inmate. Their account was eventually given to the Poweshiek County Sheriff's Office later that same day. Police described this person as "very emotional" and likely intoxicated. Documents detail their statement that this supposed new culprit said "that Mexican shouldn't be in jail for killing Mollie Tibbett's (sic) because I raped and killed her" while holding the individual at gunpoint.

This is the new evidence that defense attorneys Chad and Jennifer Frese cite as they ask the court to set aside the jury's guilty verdict for a new trial.

"While perhaps not every bit of the account fits neatly into defendant’s account of the events, enough of the facts fit to certainly question whether the state would have been able to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt had this information been known and presented to a jury," they wrote in that filing.

The defense also claims the jury instructions given were "prejudicial" to Bahena Rivera and denied him due process. A large portion of what the defense refers to as "uniform instructions" were taken out for what was given to the jury in this case.

Bahena Rivera's sentencing hearing will be on Thursday, July 15th at 9 a.m.

Read the motion for a new trial:


READ MORE ON THE TRIAL: Bahena Rivera found guilty of First Degree Murder for killing Mollie Tibbetts

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Taylor Vessel

Multimedia Reporter

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