Van der Sloot trial under way
(CNN) — In a last-minute defense strategy change, Joran van der Sloot is expected to plead guilty to all the charges against him in connection with the killing of a Peruvian woman, his lawyer told CNN Friday.
The original plan going into the trial, which began Friday in Lima, Peru, was to admit to killing 21-year-old Stephany Flores, but to fight more stringent charges that could land him more time in prison, attorney Luis Jimenez said.
Jimenez said the intention of the new strategy is to give a “sincere confession,” which under Peruvian law can qualify him for a more lenient sentence.
If van der Sloot goes forward with this approach, he could be sentenced as early as next week.
The trial got under way Friday with the prosecutor going over for the court the witnesses and evidence collected against van der Sloot.
The Dutch national was considered the prime suspect in the case of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway, who vanished in 2005 while on a graduation trip to the Caribbean island of Aruba. She was last seen leaving a nightclub with van der Sloot and two other men. Van der Sloot was arrested twice but never charged in connection with Holloway’s disappearance, which is still unsolved.
He now stands accused of killing Flores in his Lima hotel room in May 2010. Police say he took money and bank cards from her wallet and fled to Chile, where he was arrested a few days later.
Van der Sloot was charged last September with “qualified murder” and simple robbery, which together could carry a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. Flores’ family later tried — unsuccessfully — to convince three judges from the superior court of Lima to impose an even more serious slate of charges that could have included a life sentence.
The victim’s family, including her father Ricardo Flores, had pushed for stiffer charges and claimed that van der Sloot hasn’t looked “remorseful” in court appearances.
“He had an indifferent and prideful attitude. He looks as if he has everything under control. He looks better than when he appeared on TV after he was arrested,” Ricardo Flores told CNN last year.
Three judges are presiding over van der Sloot’s trial, and there is no jury.
Besides the Flores murder trial, van der Sloot also faces extradition charges to the United States. In June 2010, a federal grand jury in Alabama indicted him on charges of wire fraud and extortion after allegations surfaced that he tried to extort $250,000 from Holloway’s mother. He was given a total of $25,000, and authorities believe he used that money to travel to Peru and participate in a poker tournament, where he met Flores.