Lawyer: Suspect in Mollie Tibbetts case was in Iowa legally (Employer admits it did not use E-Verify)

A lot of news is breaking about this case. Let’s start with this the court document filed Wednesday which claims that Cristhian Rivera, the accused killer of Mollie Tibbetts, is in the country legally. The Des Moines Register reports:

The government is incorrectly promoting the idea that Rivera is not in Iowa legally, attorney Allen Richards of Tama said in a court document asking for a gag order in 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,” Richards wrote, referencing a statement from the president citing Tibbetts’ death as an example why “immigration laws are such a disgrace.”

Rivera has lived in Iowa for four to seven years, working at Yarrabee Farms, a Brooklyn-area farm owned by Eric Lang, the brother of Craig Lang, a prominent Republican.

Craig Lang has verified that Rivera is in Iowa legally, according to Richards’ motion.

“Craig Lang supports Cristhian’s right to be in this jurisdiction and for the government to support any other idea of status publicly flies in the face of such statement,” Richard wrote.

The full document is at the bottom of the page linked above. It’s only one page long. It appears Rivera’s attorney is pointing to a public statement made Tuesday by Yarrabee Farms that it ran Rivera through the E-Verify system and is using that to suggest he is in the country legally. The Yarrabee Farms statement said in part, “This individual has worked at our farms for four years, was vetted through the government’s E-Verify system, and was an employee in good standing.”

However, Yarrabee Farms co-owner Dane Lang has since retracted that claim at a press conference, clarifying that his company did not run Rivera’s ID through the E-verify system. “What we learned in the last 24 hours is that our employee was not who he said he was,” Lang explained. He continued, “Just within the last four hours we have come to learn that the Social Security Administration employment verification service is not the same as E-Verify. Our family member who handles the verification process believed the systems were the same.”

“They are not the same systems and we apologize for any confusion this caused with our earlier statement,” Land said.

Yarrabee Farms declined to say what name appeared on the documents given them by Rivera (which including a state driver’s license and Social Security card). The suggestion (“our employee is not who he said he was”) is that Rivera used someone else’s identity to get work. If that’s accurate, then it would seem to cut the legs out from under the claim made by Rivera’s attorney. Meanwhile, local authorities have clarified that information on Rivera’s immigration status came from Homeland Security:

Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Assistant Director Mitch Mortvedt on Wednesday deferred questions about the matter to federal officials.

“What we based everything off of as far as saying he is an illegal alien is we worked with Homeland Security Investigations and they have him as an illegal alien,” Mortvedt said. “DCI doesn’t work immigration stuff so anytime this stuff comes up we defer to them.”

So it seems this is a somewhat desperate attempt by Rivera’s attorney to change the subject, but we’ll see if any authorities retract or change any of their statements. Meanwhile, Rivera had his first appearance in court today. With a translator at his side, his attorney argued cameras should not be allowed in the court because the case had already attracted “political controversy.” The prosecutor had no objection to having a camera in the room during the trial. At the end of the appearance today, the judge ruled Rivera would be held on $5 million bond.

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