Thursday, December 27, 2007

Van der Sloot, Kalpoe Brothers, Holloway and Libel

(photo: billpstudios. View from the Marriott hotel over the beach in Aruba).

****UPDATE 12/29: After some looking around, I realize the information Joran gave DAG is already certainly publicized elsewhere. The question of whether prosecutors can libel suspects is for me still unresolved, but for a complete list of all evidence in the Van der Sloot case and a thoughtful analysis (without all the nonsense), I recommend the following site:

In other words, I wouldn't bother reading this post, but I'm not deleting it for archeological reasons...

Prosecutors closed their investigation into the 2005 disappearance of American teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba this month without filing any charges. They said the trio of former suspects, Joran van der Sloot and the brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe _ the last three people seen with her before she evaporated _ remain "persons of interest" in what is now a cold case.

All say they are innocent of any wrongdoing.

On Christmas Eve, an expansive interview with Van der Sloot was published in the Dutch newspaper "DAG." Although he said he no longer wishes to discuss the case with prosecutors or the U.S. press, DAG's reporter got access presumably because he trusted her: she has written a book about the Holloway case, a book which has Van der Sloot's approval (he wrote the forward to it).

In that interview, he said one thing about prosecutor's evidence that I don't think has quite come out before.

"There was also a new witness: a girlfriend of one of the three suspects. She said that a little more than five hours after the disappearance, she was called by one of the three suspects with the information that 'something bad' happened that he couldn't talk about over the phone. It appeared that didn't concern Van der Sloot but Satish and Deepak. Van der Sloot: 'That wasn't any new evidence against me. It concerned a tapped conversation between Satish and his girlfriend from Suriname, in which he so-called* told her that something bad happened and that Deepak supposedly said the girl was dead'."

-DAG newspaper Dec. 24, 2007.
*[Dutch: 'waarin hij haar zogenaamd vertelt'. 'Zogenaamd' is bad Dutch, it must mean 'supposedly' or 'allegedly' so I use "so-called" to capture the nuance. In addition, I think that by 'tapped,' Van der Sloot must mean that the call was registered by the phone company. There wouldn't have been a tap on Satish's phone 5 hours after the disappearance. It's also clear because if it were actually tapped there would be no question about what was said.]

CNN interviewed Arbua prosecutor Hans Mos, who said the following:

"Other evidence against the three included two new witness statements. In one, a female friend told authorities that one suspect called her about five hours after Holloway was last seen leaving an Oranjestad, Aruba, nightclub with van der Sloot and the Kalpoes.
The female friend said that she could tell during the conversation that something was wrong, Mos said. When she asked about it, the suspect -- whom Mos did not name -- told her that "he didn't want to cause her any trouble, and that what had happened couldn't be discussed over the phone," he said."

-CNN, Dec. 21, 2007.

What's interesting is that Mos deliberately didn't mention which suspect it was on the phone. Why not?

In the absence of any charges against the former suspects, would it have been libelous? As a reporter I know that certain speech (during a trial or on the floor of parliament) is absolutely "privileged" and you can repeat it without fear of libel no matter what is said.

But I don't think that a prosecutors' press conferences fall under that category. So Mos probably had to watch his step a little bit _ by his own admission, there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute anybody.

Van der Sloot told DAG he's considering suing Aruban Justice.

In any case Mos did the same thing _ not naming exactly which suspect was intended _ when discussing the other witness statement.

"A second witness statement came from a teacher who said that another one of the suspects exhibited "very peculiar behavior" the day after Holloway's disappearance, including making or receiving a lot of telephone calls, Mos said."


Again, no specificity as to which.
(elisart: aruban cactus)

(photo: elisart)

Now, Van der Sloot may not know it, but by repeating what the prosecutors told him during interrogation, perhaps he was slandering the Kalpoe brothers?

And perhaps DAG opened itself up to libel charges by printing what he said?

And perhaps I'm doing the same by reprinting it here?

I'm not too worried because in all situations, truth is a defense against libel, and as long as the prosecutors/Van der Sloot/Dag have it right about those phone calls, as incriminating as they sound, no problem.

If they got it wrong _ well, I guess nobody can call my raising the point in this context a "reckless disregard for the truth." Van der Sloot is a pretty well-placed source in this story.

The Oracle of Amsterdam says: unless there is an unprompted but credible confession, AND a body is found, the Holloway case will never be resolved.


No comments: