Just when everyone thought Joran Van der Sloot had been put away for the next three decades, recent court statements in Peru have confirmed that the Dutch convicted murderer’s case is undergoing review for possible invalidation. If he gets his way, the sentence due to end in June of 2038 could be dramatically cut short.
Two weeks ago, the Third Penal Court of Lima accepted the paperwork submitted by Van der Sloot’s defense attorney, Maximo Altez, in which he requests that the sentence be annulled. The court clerk stated that he meets the requirements the law establishes for its respective review, and this recourse has been handed over to Peru’s Supreme Court for evaluation.
“If we are allowed to proceed, we will request a revision of the sentence, where Joran will say he was ill-advised by his previous attorney who had promised him 15 years in exchange for a guilty plea,” Altez said during a phone interview in Lima.
And as Van der Sloot tries to squirm his way out of a 28-year sentence, there’s another hot piece of gossip: the possibility of his upcoming nuptials while behind bars. The news broke late last week as local tabloids asserted that he plans to marry and unidentified woman. It’s not the first time Van der Sloot has been branded as a lady’s man—just last year, while he was awaiting trial, a story broke in the local media that a pregnant young woman was carrying his child. She denied it on Peruvian television.
These stories were published through the week, with the information attributed to Altez, who denied he was the source. “I deny all of that,” the lawyer said. “As far as I know, he’s not going to get married. They cited me as the source, but I’m just in charge of his legal issues, and I don’t participate in his private life.”
Currently imprisoned at Piedras Gordas since January, Van der Sloot was condemned after pleading guilty to aggravated homicide and petty theft, which the court stated were crimes committed “with ferocity, great cruelty, and treachery.” Altez, who has recently taken over the case, objects to these charges and insists his client has psychological problems that are to blame for his actions. “He should have been charged with manslaughter, not aggravated homicide,” the lawyer said.
The main suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, a teenager from Alabama who had been on summer break in Aruba with her schoolmates in 2005, Van der Sloot was convicted of murdering Stephanie Flores, a 21-year-old Peruvian woman he met while gambling in Lima. After slaughtering her in a hotel room, he fled to Chile by land and led an international manhunt, before he was arrested. His defense claims the expulsion process from Chile was tainted, as there should have been a formal extradition process before he was transported back to Peru’s capital, Lima.
“He should have been charged with manslaughter, not aggravated homicide,” his lawyer says.
“So, we’re also waiting for the results of the preventative measure presented before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and if that comes through, we can bring the whole case down and start from scratch,” said Altez.
Last week, Altez shared with Newsweek two letters hand-written by the convicted killer in late June, which shed more light on Van der Sloot’s tactics in this new set of cards he’s playing.
Both letters are directed to “To Whom It May Concern,” and in the first letter, dated June 20, 2012, he claims to have nothing to do with the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, and cites the matter as a life-changing experience “for the worse.” He then describes the crimes committed in Lima and justifies himself: “Exactly five years later, when on vacation in Peru, I committed a horrendous act. I took the life of a Peruvian girl who I met at the casino. Drunk and drugged out of my mind I took her back to my hotel room where I snapped,” he wrote.
He then says he regrets his actions and asks the Flores family for forgiveness—while maintaining he’s been abused by the police and has received bad legal advice. While begging that his case be reviewed due to a “history of psychological problems,” he says he pled guilty because he was scared into thinking that if he did not, he would be given a life sentence. Insistent on the idea of getting his prison term drastically reduced, he explains that he wants to “reincorporate himself into society and live a better healthier life.”
In the second letter, written two days later, he claims his rights have been neglected “from the first instance I was expelled from Chilli [sic]”—and argues that he had accepted a 15-year plea bargain with the judge and prosecution in exchange for a guilty plea, and blames his former attorney, Jose Luis Jimenez. Joran writes in this letter: “He lied to me; that’s the reason I pled guilty to all the charges.” Jimenez rejected the claim in an interview.
Regurgitating what his new defense is stressing, Van der Sloot attempts to draw on Peruvian legal lingo, and describes his crime as “homicide due to violent emotional distress”—which is similar to an insanity plea.
Altez insists Van der Sloot should have been given three to five years for the manslaughter charges, instead of the 28 years for aggravated homicide. “Joran has had a history of mental illness since he was 5 years old; there’s a record that proves he’s a sick person,” Altez claims.
Now also wanted in Alabama, the Dutchman is due to face U.S. charges of wire fraud and extortion for allegedly ripping off the Holloway family in exchange for information leading to the teenager’s body. The extradition would take place as soon as he finishes his sentence in Peru, or once approved by the Presidential Cabinet of Ministries. “We’re going to use every recourse possible to avoid it,”
The convict ends the letter by saying: “I want to go to the U.S. to stand trial, but after I finish my jail sentence in Peru.” This letter ends abruptly and he scribbles his name at the bottom.
In an interview in Lima with Newsweek, Jimenez, Van der Sloot’s former attorney, showed two letters Van der Sloot wrote in January, in the days following his conviction, in which Van der Sloot states that he is satisfied with the sentence. “How could I have cheated him if he expressed his satisfaction in two letters?” says Jimenez, pointing to where Van der Sloot wrote: “What me and Jimenez did was the best,” and “I am pleased with Mr. Jimenez’s work.”
“Both were written right after his sentencing, so if I had offered a plea bargain, how could he declare to be satisfied with my work in writing? I was his attorney until May; why didn’t he take me off the case immediately after the trial in January?”
Jimenez says he had attempted to put forth claims that his client suffered from post-traumatic-stress disorder when he attacked Flores, but the court concluded: “The defendant does not present psychosis, nor any other psychiatric conditions that would limit him in any way; he is conscious and responsible for his actions.”
Altez had been Van der Sloot’s attorney initially, but was taken off the case after having a disagreement with the Dutchman in 2011. According to Altez, they recently patched up their differences and currently, Joran’s mother, Anita Van der Sloot-Hugen, is paying the lawyer’s fees.