Accused killer Joran van der Sloot could face a maximum of a 30-year sentence if convicted for the murder of Stephanie Flores in Lima, Peru.
Lima Prosecutor Pablo Sanchez released an indictment charging Van der Sloot with qualified murder and simple robbery, which carry 28-year and 2-year sentences respectively.
In September, the victim's family asked a three-judge panel for a more stringent charge akin to aggravated murder, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, but the panel of judges ruled on the prosecution's side.
Van der Sloot's defense attorney Luis Jimenez Navarro tells In Session this was a big win for his client. If Van der Sloot is found guilty and sentenced to the maximum penalty, under Peru's jail reduction credits, he may only serve a third of the time.
The Flores family remains hopeful this will not be the case. An attorney for the family tells In Session under the Peruvian justice system the charges could change once the trial begins.
"We can ask the Prosecutor to modify the indictment as new facts come out during the trial, but on the first day of trial we expect Van der Sloot to plead guilty to both charges. It seems this will be in his best interest,“ the attorney said.
In June 2010, authorities released the transcript of an alleged confession in which Van der Sloot admitted to killing Flores in an altercation over his involvement in the disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalie Holloway. Holloway vanished in 2005 while on a graduation trip to the Caribbean island of Aruba. Van der Sloot was arrested twice but never charged. Holloway's disappearance remains a mystery.
In Session obtained a copy of the indictment. It details what the Prosecution believe happened on the night Flores died.
According to the indictment, on May 30, 2010 Flores arrived at the table where Van der Sloot was playing poker. They talked and played poker until 5:15am, when they left the casino and went to Van der Sloot's room at Hotel Tac. Once in the room, they played online poker ("Full Tilt Poker" and "Poker Starts") until 6:14am. After the game Van der Sloot told Flores about the Natalie Holloway case, which caused Flores to hit him on the head. Van der Sloot reacted by hitting her in the face with his elbow, strangling her with his hands and suffocating her with a shirt. After he killed her he stole 860 Peruvian New Soles (about $318 USD) and various credit cards with the intent to flee. At 7:15am he left the room and returned at 8:24 with two coffee cups. He left the hotel at 8:45am.
On December 4th, Joran van der Sloot will have spent 18 months in a Peruvian prison. On this day his defense attorney Luis Jimenez Navarro is preparing to file an habeas corpus with the court requesting that he be set free.
Jimenez will argue that under Peruvian law it is considered excessive imprisonment when a person has been jailed for more than 18 months without having their day in court. No court date has been set yet on this case.
"The delay is not his fault. We have been acting in good faith. He has been cooperating with the authorities. And they still don’t have a translator," said Jimenez.
It will be up to the court to decide if Van der Sloot is set free. A judge could rule to keep him jailed due to the complexity of the case. Once Jimenez presents his habeas corpus, a judge panel will meet in the jail's courtroom to interview Van der Sloot and make a determination.