Prosecutor Brent Eaton requested a special prosecutor to pursue charges against Nabil Zaim, 35, after Zaim’s attorney informed the prosecutor’s office he planned to call at least one employee from the prosecutor’s office as part of Zaim’s defense.
Judge Marie Castetter of Hancock County Superior Court 1 granted Eaton’s motion on Wednesday, June 24. Hamilton County Prosecutor D. Lee Buckingham will take over the case, Eaton said.
Castetter also set the trial date for Monday, July 27. That’s two weeks after it was originally scheduled to take place.
Zaim’s attorney, Jon Keyes, declined to comment on his plan to use one of Eaton’s employees in Zaim’s defense. Eaton said he wanted to make sure the case moved forward without any issues and therefore requested a special prosecutor.
“When I know I’m going to have an employee who is potentially going to be a witness, my answer is to request a special,” Eaton said. “The most important thing is to do things correctly.”
Eaton said the situation is unusual.
“It’s pretty rare,” Eaton said. “But, this is where we are, and it has to be done to preserve the integrity of the system.”
Eaton said delaying the trial was prudent.
“The last thing you want to do is hurry through and create an issue because then the prosecution of the crime isn’t done in a way that is consistent with the high standards we have,” Eaton said.
A continuance also allows the special prosecutor an opportunity to evaluate the merits of the case.
Zaim, who is out of jail after posting a $10,000 cash bond in March, is still under a no-contact order with the victim. However, the victim has asked the court to lift that order on several occasions. The case also shows a motion to quash — a request to render a previous decision of the court null or invalid — has also been filed.
Deputy prosecutor Aimee Herring said those issues have not yet been addressed by the local court. A hearing to vacate the no-contact order is set for Monday, July 6, in Superior Court 1.
Ziam has been accused of dragging a woman by her hair, punching her repeatedly and raping her on Friday, March 13, police said in a probable cause affidavit filed in support of the charges.
According to the affidavit, police were called to the home in the 2000 block of Cabin Hill Road after the woman said Zaim had hit her in the face. It was the second time officers had been to the home that day.
The victim told police that after they left from the earlier call, Zaim assaulted her, punching her in the eye and kicking her in the ribs several times, the affidavit said. The man threatened to kill her, she told police.
Two young children were present in the home at the time, police said.
During an interview at the Cumberland Police Department, Zaim told detectives he did not hurt the woman and that the sex he had with her was consensual. He accused the victim of making up the story, the affidavit said.
Zaim was charged by the county prosecutor’s office of a Level 3 felony count of rape; a Level 5 felony count of intimidation with a deadly weapon; a Level 6 felony count of confinement; a Level 6 felony county of domestic battery committed in the presence of a child younger than 16; and two misdemeanors.