Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Expert: Van der Sloot Free in 5 Years? 'So What?'

Joran van der Sloot's new legal strategy has people around the globe angry over the possibility that the Dutch native could be freed in less than five years in the death of a Peruvian woman. But what is being viewed as an insult to justice won't necessarily ensure his early release, an international defense expert says.

"We want Peru to accept a plea," said Michael Griffith, senior partner at the International Legal Defense Counsel. "So what if he gets a lesser sentence? That would be the best thing for everyone involved."

Griffith said that van der Sloot's willingness to make a plea might get him out of a Peruvian prison sooner than expected -- prosecutors says there is sufficient evidence to keep him jailed until 2040 -- but that there is one thing the Dutchman is not considering, and that's Natalee Holloway.

Van der Sloot is a longtime suspect in the disappearance of the Alabama teen, who was on spring break in Aruba. He is accused in the 2010 slaying of Stephany Flores. Investigators believe the Peruvian business student was killed May 30 -- exactly five years after Holloway disappeared.

On Monday, van der Sloot's attorney, Maximo Altez, said his client is willing to plead guilty to killing Flores, but will plead "violent emotion." If van der Sloot's plea is accepted, he would face three to five years in prison.

"Once he is released, he is going to be extradited on the outstanding warrant in Alabama for his alleged extortion in the Natalee Holloway case," said Griffith, whose most renowned case, involving an American incarcerated in a Turkish prison, was the basis for the film and book "Midnight Express."

Holloway's body has never been found, and van der Sloot has not been charged in her disappearance. He was, however, indicted in the U.S. on charges that he extorted $25,000 from the young woman's parents. Prosecutors said that in exchange for the money, he promised to reveal how Holloway died and the location of her body.

Van der Sloot would probably face a five- to 10-year sentence for the alleged extortion, but it is Holloway's alleged murder that could keep him behind bars for life, Griffith said.

"The key to that is that the U.S. has jurisdiction over anybody, anywhere in the world, who kills or injures a U.S. citizen," Griffith said. "It kind of originated with the Leon Klinghoffer case."

In 1985, Klinghoffer, 69, and his wife were celebrating their 36th wedding anniversary on the cruise ship Achille Lauro. Palestinian terrorists hijacked the liner, and Klinghoffer was murdered and thrown overboard. The hijackers were later given safe passage on a flight to Tunisia, but the U.S. Air Force intercepted the plane and forced it to land in Italy, where the suspects were taken into custody.

That principle, which has been used in limited cases, is being used more often today and could be applied to the Holloway case. Van der Sloot's alleged statements, along with his previous confessions in the case, are enough for U.S. authorities to make a circumstantial murder case against him, Griffith said.

However, Griffith does not believe the U.S. will be given the opportunity to extradite van der Sloot anytime soon.

"This is such a big case in Peru that I don't see them accepting a violent emotion insanity defense," he said. "It would get the populace in an uproar. Besides, how can they say he really lost it and couldn't control himself? Was he temporarily insane for only five minutes during which he allegedly attacked her?

"What he did afterward is pretty telling," Griffith added. "He is seen on video getting coffee, and he staged this whole scenario where he accidentally locked himself out. But more importantly, he goes down stairs and tells the desk clerk that his girlfriend is sleeping in his room and not to disturb her. Afterward he heads to Chile. Is this temporary insanity? No, this is a carefully thought out plan. That is what a prosecutor will argue."

Source http://www.aolnews.com/2011/03/08/joran-expert-van-der-sloot-free-in-5-years-so-what/

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