Mollie Tibbetts' Suspected Murderer Is an 'All-American Boy' with No Prior Record, Defense Argues

The man accused of murdering 20-year-old college sophomore Mollie Tibbetts made his first appearance at the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Iowa on Wednesday.

At the hearing, Cristhian Bahena Rivera’s attorney Allan Richards argued against allowing expanded news media coverage of the case, and shed light on Rivera’s life before Tibbetts’ death.

“The coverage that’s out there is leaning all one way and in fact, government has weighed in at the highest levels,” Richards said in court.

“In our system of justice, he’s entitled to that presumption of innocence until some evidence is presented. Portraying Cristhian as something that he isn’t, in some ways I view that as a political payback for what’s swirling around,” Richards continued.

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Cristhian Rivera
Cristhian Rivera

“One nod of the head, one glance, one slight of hand that will be partially taken out of context and presented over and over which would be highly prejudicial to the defendant, so I urge the court to exclude the media from these proceedings,” Richards added.

Richards later explained that before Tibbets’ murder, Rivera had “no prior criminal record,” telling PEOPLE: “He was just a part of the community. An all-American boy working really hard.”

Richards said, “Whether or not there was something that happened that was very outrageous that is a different matter. I have seen no evidence on that at no point and he is presumed innocent until we see it.”

RELATED: Mollie Tibbetts’ Accused Killer Describes Finding Her Body in His Trunk After Her Jog: Authorities

Mollie Tibbetts
Mollie Tibbetts

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“He was a very productive worker,” Richards explained in reference to Rivera’s job at Yarrabee Farms in Brooklyn, Iowa.

“He lived alone and worked 12 hours [a] day, seven days a week. He was handling the milk supply. He is a loving father,” Richards added.

Despite Richards’ plea for mercy, Rivera’s bond was increased from $1 million to $5 million.

In court on Wednesday, Rivera appeared in a black-and-white striped jumpsuit and required translators throughout the hearing.

Mollie Tibbetts
Mollie Tibbetts

RELATED: Everything We Know About College Student Mollie Tibbetts, Found Dead Weeks After Disappearing

Richards also tells PEOPLE Rivera’s girlfriend and young child attended the hearing.

Tibbetts’ dead body was found earlier this month, several weeks after she went missing following her usual jog in Brooklyn, Iowa, a Police source told PEOPLE Tuesday.

Rivera was charged with her first-degree murder, and according to the police affidavit obtained by PEOPLE, he led investigators to her body, which he concealed with plants.

Rivera’s next court date is a preliminary hearing set for Aug. 31.

President Donald Trump has used Tibbetts’ slaying and Rivera’s status as an undocumented Mexican immigrant to justify his calls to build “the wall,” and tighten up immigration laws.

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