Prosecutors in Mollie Tibbetts trial accuse defense of filing illegitimate subpoena for Tibbetts’ banking records

The state is asking that the court throw out the subpoena, submitted earlier this month, on the grounds that it intentionally hidden from the prosecution and filed illegitimately


Cristhian Bahena Rivera appears for an evidence suppression hearing at the Poweshiek County Courthouse on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019 in Montezuma. Brian Powers/The Register

Caleb McCullough, Managing Editor

State prosecutors in the trial of Cristhian Bahena Rivera, the man accused of murdering University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts in 2018, have accused the defense of an illegitimate “fishing expedition” by secretly subpoenaing Tibbetts’ bank records.

Bahena Rivera, 26, is accused of murdering Tibbetts in July of 2018 while she was on a jog in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa. He led police to her body in a nearby cornfield in August of that year. Bahena Rivera’s trial, set for May 17, has been delayed multiple times because of evidence disputes and COVID-19.

In a motion filed Tuesday, the state asked the court to dismiss the subpoena and accuses Bahena Rivera’s lawyers of intentionally hiding from the state the subpoena, filed by the Poweshiek County Clerk, for Tibbetts’ bank records from Bankers Trust in Des Moines.

According to the motion, the subpoena was filed on Jan. 15 and served by the Polk County Sheriff’s office on Jan. 19, but the defense did not enter it into the online court system until Jan. 21. The prosecution said the defense was intentionally trying to hide the subpoena from the state and court.

“On its face, the subpoena appears to be a fishing expedition into the confidential banking records of Mollie Tibbets who is not a witness or party and is the person the defendant is charged with killing,” the prosecution wrote in the motion.

The state said in the motion the subpoena was illegitimate because Tibetts is not a party in the case. The motion cited an ruling from a 2017 Iowa court case, which said a defendant in a criminal case is not able to issue subpoenas for evidence to outside parties without notifying the opposing side and without oversight from the court.

The state is requesting that the court quash the subpoena, admonish the defense from issuing similar subpoenas, and require the defense to ensure it has not issued other subpoenas that are contrary to law.

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday at 8:30 a.m. to consider the motion.