BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Natalee Holloway suspect Joran van der Sloot has finally faced a U.S. judge more than 18 years after the Alabama teen vanished after leaving a bar with him in Aruba – walking into court wearing a T-shirt and a grin.
His first appearance in federal court revealed no surprises. The court appointed a federal public defender, Kevin Butler; van der Sloot pleaded not guilty, and the judge ordered him held without bail.
Van der Sloot, who murdered 21-year-old Stephany Flores in Peru in 2010, is facing federal extortion and wire fraud charges for allegedly trying to sell Holloway’s family the fake location of her remains for $250,000.
Now 35, he is also the prime suspect in the Alabama 18-year-old’s May 2005 disappearance during a trip for graduating seniors from Mountain Brook High School.
JORAN VAN DER SLOOT CASE: NATALEE HOLLOWAY SUSPECT PLEADS NOT GUILTY TO EXTORTION, WIRE FRAUD CHARGES
Magistrate Judge Gray Borden told van der Sloot he would only accept a not-guilty plea in the extortion and wire fraud case and that if the Dutch national were to decide to plead guilty, he could do so at a later date.
“It went exactly as expected,” said Los Angeles-based trial lawyer Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor. “The only new information was that van der Sloot speaks perfect English and doesn’t need an interpreter.”
WATCH: Holloway family friend and spokesman comment after Joran van der Sloot not guilty plea
The court had initially offered him one, and van der Sloot replied by saying, “It’s really not necessary.”
JORAN VAN DER SLOOT CASE: PRIME NATALEE HOLLOWAY SUSPECT TO BE ARRAIGNED ON EXTORTION CHARGES
Also as expected, the court remanded van der Sloot to U.S. Marshals’ custody without bail. He is only part-way through his Peruvian sentence for Flores’ murder and will be sent back to prison there after his trial in the Northern District of Alabama.
If he is convicted, he will return to American soil after his expected release in 2038 to serve up to 40 years in federal prison, although he might not receive the maximum, according to Lara Yeretsian, a defense attorney whose high-profile clients have included Michael Jackson and Scott Peterson.
NATALEE HOLLOWAY SUSPECT JORAN VAN DER SLOOT ARRIVES IN US TO FACE EXTORTION, WIRE FRAUD CHARGES
But his prior convictions of murder and drug trafficking will certainly count against him, she said.
“Federal sentencing guidelines will consider your criminal background – two pretty serious charges is gonna put him up there and is going to affect the number or the range that he’s going to be facing,” she said. “But who knows what’s going on here, what’s happening behind closed doors. If there’s any type of deal that they’re discussing, where he pleads here.”
She also said she believes prosecutors have evidence in the case that is not publicly known.
“They clearly can connect him not necessarily to her disappearance but to an extortion attempt,” she said. “Does that necessarily mean that he’s the one that kidnapped her? Maybe, maybe not, but there may be more evidence that we’re not aware of.”
Even the grin on his face when he sauntered into court came as no surprise. He was photographed smiling while surrounded by an Interpol tactical team before leaving Peru earlier this week.
“He’s just so cocky, isn’t he?” Yeretsian said. “And it could be that he’s sure of himself that he hasn’t really done anything, or he just doesn’t care. He’s already serving time.”
Source: Fox News
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