TODAY   |  June 12, 2010

Peru gets first crack at van der Sloot

The U.S. wants to prosecute a Dutch man for extortion and prosecutors in Aruba haven’t closed the books on Natalee Holloway’s disappearance five years ago. But for now, Joran van der Sloot is staying put in Peru. NBC legal analyst Susan Filan examines the first-degree murder charge brought against him there in connection with the death of a woman he met in a casino.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

LESTER HOLT, co-host: Joran van der Sloot was charged with murder Friday in the slaying of a 21-year-old student in Lima , Peru . The charge is aggravated murder . And NBC 's Michelle Kosinski is in Lima with details. Michelle , good morning.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI reporting: Good morning, Lester . It has seemed like authorities have been leaning toward this most serious murder charge against Joran van der Sloot , using such strong language in their description of the crime and within the charge itself, accusing him of first degree murder and robbery. To shouts of murderer, Joran van der Sloot was painstakingly transported from jail to court in central Lima , battling through packs of international press, some jumping on motor bikes and residents furious at what may now be the most hated 22-year-old in Peru .

Unidentified Woman: They should kill this sleaze bag. This guy never should have been in Peru .

KOSINSKI: But van der Sloot faced a tougher crowd in court, charging him with aggravated premeditated murder , saying he acted with ferocity, extreme cruelty. Here he is that night in more surveillance video, playing poker with 21-year-old Stephany Flores , soon, police say, to become his victim. She cashes out and authorities say van der Sloot targeted her for her money. They say the two went back to his hotel room to play poker online . And here's van der Sloot again looking around the hallway, carrying two cups away. Minutes later, coming back with someone to unlock his door again. Why didn't Stephany open it? Police believe she may have already been dead inside. In his confession, van der Sloot alleged claims that when he returned with the coffee, he found Stephany reading his e-mails, revealing him as the suspect in Natalee Holloway 's disappearance. He says she hit him and he reacted with too much force. Police say he attacked her, presumably to rob her.

Mr. CESAR GUARDIA VASQUEZ (Peruvian National Police): With his elbow, he struck a blow to the bridge of her nose, wrapped his hands around her neck and started choking her and shaking her.

KOSINSKI: Investigators say van der Sloot then slammed Stephany to the floor, broke her neck. But when she was still breathing, suffocated her with his shirt. They say he cleaned up, took her cash and credit cards, and took off. Now, nowhere to run, van der Sloot is held in Castro-Castro , one of Peru 's notorious prisons; overcrowded, maximum security, described by locals as hell. So do police really believe this story about Stephany Flores finding something on his computer and him becoming upset? Not necessarily. They've already pointed to robbery as a potential motive for the murder . And they said there were certain details that he simply couldn't remember, that there were gaps in that part of the story. Right now, he's being held in a cell by himself and could face a sentence of 35 years in prison, Lester .

HOLT: Michelle Kosinski , thank you. And joining us with more, NBC News legal analyst Susan Filan . Susan , good morning. It's good to see you.

Ms. SUSAN FILAN (NBC News Legal Analyst): Good morning, Lester .

HOLT: As we heard Michelle say, they're not necessarily buying his confession, but did he gain himself anything by coming forward and at least admitting to the murder ?

Ms. FILAN: No, I don't think he did. I think he's placed himself in jeopardy. I think that there are now corroborating details, for example, the surveillance tape, and other forensic evidence that Peruvian authorities are pointing to as they've now charged him with this brutal murder , and I think the confession certainly hurts him.

HOLT: The sentence can be anywhere from 15 to 35 years if he's convicted. That sounds like that would be lighter than if he were convicted on the same crime in the United States .

Ms. FILAN: It does. Certainly, a murder and a robbery would be felony murder in the United States , which would be, in some states, capital murder , for which he would be eligible for the death penalty, certainly far more serious than simply 15 to 35 years as in Peru .

HOLT: And once again, he's throwing out the temptation that he could point authorities to the body of Natalee Holloway . He's done that many times in the years since she disappeared. Now he's mentioning it in Peru . Do the Peruvian authorities have any motivation to bargain with him over that?

Ms. FILAN: You know, he doesn't have the leverage. He's not in the driver's seat. I mean, he's got such delusions of grandiosity, he may still think that he's got some chips here to bargain with, but he doesn't. Peru may want to help Aruba , and they could if they want to, but I don't think that Joran 's going to get anything in exchange for it, and I think...

HOLT: They've got a pretty close to water-tight case based -- at least based on those videos of this murder in Peru . So they don't need anything else.

Ms. FILAN: They don't need anything. I think they may want to help Aruba , and they certainly may want to help the United States , and certainly the world wants to know what happened to Natalee Holloway . But they don't have to do it in exchange for anything for Joran van der Sloot .

HOLT: And what does Aruba get out of this? Is there any -- I mean, at this point, is there any reason that he would tell them for certain what happened to her?

Ms. FILAN: You know, they may -- they may want, again, try to get some good will internationally for again, the United States and for Aruba , but not to help Joran van der Sloot at this point.

HOLT: And I 've got to think, and we've heard reports that prosecutors in other places where he's been, and investigators, have got to start looking and you start wondering about a person like this, if this is a serial killer.

Ms. FILAN: Well, I think the -- I think that thought has crossed everybody's mind. Who else has been harmed by this man? I think everybody now is looking back to see where he's been and what kind of devastation he's left in his wake.

HOLT: As a prosecutor, you have to dream about the kind of evidence they seem to have amassed already in Peru .

Ms. FILAN: And you have to wonder why hasn't Aruba amassed the same.