ABC News’ Joe Goldman reports:
Joran van der Sloot, accused of murder in Peru and the prime suspect in the disappearance of American teen Natalee Holloway, appears to be considering a plea deal that could get him out of prison in a few years.
Van der Sloot appeared in a packed jailhouse court in Lima, Peru, today and agreed to make a confession before asking the court for more time to consider his options. The court agreed to another hearing next Wednesday.
Van der Sloot, 24, is charged in Peru with the murder of Stephany Flores on May 30, 2010. Conviction of a first degree murder charge would mean a possible 30 year sentence. Van der Sloot’s lawyer told The Associated Press that there was a 70 percent chance van der Sloot will plead guilty.
Flores, the daughter of a wealthy and influential Peruvian businessman, was found strangled in van der Sloot’s hotel room on May 31, 2010.
Today’s hourlong courtroom session appeared to set up a situation where van der Sloot will plead guilty by reason of temporary insanity, which, under Peruvian law, carries a sentence of three to five years.
If he pleads guilty to temporary insanity and the court accepts that plea, he could be set free, according to statements his lawyers have made to ABC News.
They state that Peru has a two-for-one stipulation in its judicial system, meaning a prisoner’s time spent in jail awaiting trial is computed doubly. Van der Sloot has completed more than three years of jail time — the minimum of the three- to five-year term if found guilty.
If given the maximum sentence of five years, he would finish that term in less than two years.
The Dutch national who lived in Aruba fled Peru and was arrested three days later in Chile, which sent him back to Peru.
Today’s hearing took place at the Lurigancho prison about a mile and a half from his jail cell in Castro Castro prison. Lurigancho is considered one of the worst prisons in the world by human rights groups, with about 11,000 inmates in a space for little more than 2,000.
Castro Castro is considered a “country club” jail where prisoners pay their way in to not have to go to Lurigancho. Van der Sloot has a small room with an uncomfortable-looking bed and a nearby toilet. For a while he had special privileges that included a PlayStation, a computer, two cell phones and reportedly prostitutes and drugs. That has changed under a new prison administration.
Van der Sloot had twice previously been arrested for the disappearance of Holloway, a 19-year-old from Alabama who vanished during a celebratory trip to Aruba with her senior class in May 2005. Van der Sloot maintained that he’d left her on a beach, drunk. That’s the last anyone has seen of her.
If van der Sloot does get out of the Peruvian prison, he will likely be sought by the FBI which has accused him of fraud and extortion, demanding $25,000 from Holloway’s mother Beth Twitty. In exchange he promised to tell her where her daughter’s body was. After Twitty paid the money, van der Sloot pointed out a new house and said her body was encased in the foundation, a claim he later admitted was a lie.
Beth Twitty declined to comment on the proceedings today.