OTR Interviews

Transcript: Joran and Paul van der Sloot Hit With Lawsuit

This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," February 16, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Joran Van Der Sloot slapped with a lawsuit on an international flight on a runway in New York. At the same time, his father was also slapped with a lawsuit, but this time in a New York City hotel. Joran flew to the United States today for a news interview, but he got an unwelcome surprise the moment his plane touched down on U.S. soil in New York.

Holloway family attorney John Q. Kelly joins us live in West Palm Beach, Florida, with the inside story. Welcome, John.

JOHN Q. KELLY, HOLLOWAY FAMILY ATTORNEY: Hey, Greta. How're you doing?

VAN SUSTEREN: Very well. John, I must admit this sounds very James Bond-ish to me in terms of how this all unraveled. So take me back to yesterday. I mean, how did you learn that he would be coming back in the country? What was the plan? Or coming into the country, I should say.

KELLY: We knew they were both coming into the country. I guess you'd classify it as chatter that picked up considerably yesterday. And once we were able to move independently on the chatter we had picked up, we were able to confirm some facts, got lucky with some facts.

And you know, we had three different teams on three different continents moving at breakneck speed to pull this together. And we got one process server on a flight with Joran coming over here. We were able to stake out the hotel where his father was and were able to serve the father at about 1 o'clock today. And Joran was already in flight, sort of captive, with the process server on the plane, and we were able to serve him once we landed on New York soil.

VAN SUSTEREN: Where was the process server on the plane in relationship to Joran? Was he watching him? I mean, how did this work out?

KELLY: He was three rows in front of him.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: How were you able to do that?

KELLY: We had our information, and we were able to, you know, locate the process server to make sure Joran would not be able to get past him and get off the plane without being served. So once we knew that we had that locked in, we knew it was safe to serve the father because he wouldn't be able to warn Joran, and even if he did, it wouldn't help.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So the case was actually filed when, officially filed with the clerk's office?

KELLY: It was filed at about 11 a.m. this morning.

(CROSSTALK)

We had to e-mail the index number of the filed action to the process server on the plane, so he could add it to the complaint before service was completed and also provide it to the investigative team sitting on the hotel for Paulus van der Sloot, to mark that it was formally filed with the index number formally before he was served, also. Everything was videotaped. Everything was videotaped. We have still photos. We have videotape footage of the servers of both the father and the son.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Why was it so important that the case be filed and the service be done immediately, for instance, rather than filing it yesterday?

KELLY: Well, I just know from experience that different newspapers have reporters down there who are down there just to check on filings, and we didn't want the media to pick up that a case like this had been filed. It would have hit the media. The family would have found out, and all Paul van der Sloot and Joran would have to do is stay out of New York jurisdiction, we wouldn't have been able to serve them.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you filed the lawsuit about 11 a.m. You've got an index number. You've got to try to accomplish both services almost simultaneously, so one doesn't tip off the other and sort of avoid the jurisdiction...

KELLY: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you don't lose one.

KELLY: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, when the plane lands at Kennedy airport, what happened?

KELLY: It's my understanding that Joran was the last person off the plane. He was waiting to be escorted through a separate exit by Customs, but and it was just a cat-and-mouse game. He couldn't get off the plane without getting past the process server in the aisle there, and he was served right on the plane there at that time.

VAN SUSTEREN: What did the process server say to him?

KELLY: I wasn't there, but I'm sure it was words to the effect, you're served, this is a complaint, and you know, you're in.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So the process server didn't have the index number on it when he left Holland. He had to wait to get it, what, by, like, a Blackberry when he landed at JFK?

KELLY: Exactly.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So he...

KELLY: And that was added to it, and then he served it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So he madly scrambles, writes it down. Do you have a separate person on the plane videotaping the service?

KELLY: We have it memorialized, Greta. I don't want to talk about too much the mechanics right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Give me an idea of how many people were involved in this whole exercise and service?

KELLY: Dozens. The key people are the Chadbourne & Parke people, Scott Balber, the partner over at Chadbourne & Parke, and another partner there, Jerry Katz. Scott's a former partner of mine, partner over there. We've tried a number of very big cases, won a number of very big cases together, and he was my right-hand man on this. Bo Dietl and his whole investigative team was, you know, at various locations. And we had some international help, too. But as I said, three teams, three continents, a lot of moving parts and a little bit of luck, a lot of skill and a lot of hard effort by a lot of people, we were able to pull this part of it off.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So now let's look at the service of Paul van der Sloot in the New York hotel. Obviously, you'd been tipped off someplace that he was going to be at that hotel.

KELLY: We tracked him down there. We're waiting — the instructions were that we weren't going to serve him until Joran was served, unless he started to leave the hotel, and then we felt it'd be necessary to serve him at that time. And at about 1 o'clock, he apparently showed up downstairs in the lobby, and the team moved in and served him and videotaped that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, do you know if he had any reaction to being served?

KELLY: You know, I'm down here in West Palm, Greta. I've just gotten some verbals. I don't know the exact reaction. I'm sure he wasn't too excited.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. What are the verbals? I mean, what did the process server see? Did he actually pick up the complaint and look at it? I mean, he's a lawyer.

KELLY: Yes, apparently, we have some footage of him actually looking over the papers there in the lobby of the hotel.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is the purpose of videotaping to preserve so that the person served can't later say, I never got this?

KELLY: Well, that's it. You want to avoid a situation of "He said, she said," you know, process server says, I placed it in his hand, or I put it up against his chest, and someone else says, No, he never got within 20 feet of me, he just, you know, threw it in my direction and ran away. So you know, this is all memorialized.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So the plaintiffs in the case are who?

KELLY: The plaintiffs are the natural parents of Natalee, Beth Twitty and Dave Holloway. It's their action. They've brought the claims. And just so we're clear on the jurisdictional issue, Greta, once the action was filed in New York state and the defendants, meaning Paulus van der Sloot, then Joran, were in New York state and we personally served them, that's how we gain jurisdiction on them. If we had served them in New Jersey, it's no good, or if they'd been in New York state, we didn't get it in their hands, the service is no good and we don't have jurisdiction. But once we filed the action, they entered the state and they were personally served, we gained jurisdiction over them for purposes of this lawsuit.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So you're down in Florida. Were you monitoring, people giving you calls, e-mails, and sort of on pins and needles to make sure that this thing — I mean, because it had to be executed pretty carefully. I mean, one slip-up and you weren't going to get another shot — I mean, I don't think they'd come back here.

KELLY: Yes. No, this was all done by phone from down here on my part for the last 24 hours or so. It's been straight through until it was, you know, completed at about — I think it was about 3 o'clock today when service was completed on the plane. But there were a lot, as I said, of moving parts, we had to do some speculating as to parts of what was unfolding, based on what we had learned, you know, yesterday, and guessed a little bit, guessed right on a couple things. And everything turned out to effect service.

VAN SUSTEREN: I suppose that Joran van der Sloot's pretty easy to identify. He's 6-foot-5, young kid on a flight from Holland. How did you prepare your process server in New York to make sure that he got the right person?

KELLY: You know, we had plenty of photos. And you know, the plane was easy. I mean, you know, as you said, he's a very recognizable young man. He's not shy about the media himself. He's got plenty of pictures that we were able to use from his own Web site, which was kind of him to help us with that. And you know, the father's been out there a lot, too. He's been giving interviews. He was on one of the networks, you know, a couple mornings last week, giving interviews, so we had plenty of footage and pictures of him, too. So it wasn't too difficult to, you know, prep people to pick them up.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did Beth Holloway Twitty, one of your clients, or Dave Holloway, your other client — did they know this was going on today?

KELLY: In general terms. I mean, it was one of these things that I just felt more comfortable the less people knew. And the less people that were brought in the loop fully, the better. You know, I just absolutely put everybody — I put it black today for them. I just told them, you know, something generally might be coming down. Don't take any phone calls. I don't know if you tried calling them.

VAN SUSTEREN: We did.

KELLY: You didn't get a call back, but — you did?

VAN SUSTEREN: We tried. We pounded...

KELLY: Oh.

VAN SUSTEREN: We called them so many times today, and we didn't get return calls, so at least they're following your instructions, I reluctantly tell you.

KELLY: They both get ice cream cones for that, Greta. They're good. So yes, we tried to keep most people in the dark and tell as few people as little as possible until we had accomplished what we had set out to do.

VAN SUSTEREN: And once it was accomplished, did you call Beth and talk to her? And what'd you tell her and what'd she say?

KELLY: I just told her in the plainest terms what we had accomplished. She was thankful. I think both she and Dave just see it as one more avenue of possibly getting some answers to questions that we haven't been able to get out of Aruba, and possibly, ultimately finding Natalee. That's the goal.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, John, this changes a lot. I mean, in many ways, it — you know, it empowers them. You know, whether they ever, you know, get more information, it changes the dynamics for them, don't you agree?

KELLY: Empowers who? I'm sorry, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Empowers, you know, Dave and Natalee. I mean, they've been over there in the hot sun, trying to get information, working with the prosecutor, feeling they aren't getting answers. Now things have changed a little bit, at least in the short run.

KELLY: Well, sure. You know, we've been able to, for once, go on the offensive. We're masters of our own little universe for now, with what we've been able to accomplish today. And you know, we can control our little world here with what we've done and then proceed the way we want to, work it the way we want to. You know, I've had my own investigators working since I came in on the case a couple months ago, down in Aruba and things. But you know, it's good to get back on the home court, home soil, and get some work done here.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did Karin Janssen know this was going to happen?

KELLY: No. You know, Karin Janssen's been very good. I've talked to her weekly. I actually just talked to her the other day, and I forgot to bring this one up to her when we were talking.

VAN SUSTEREN: Forgot to bring it up? I mean, I don't know if she'll think you forgot it. How do you plan to tell her, or are you going to let us tell her?

KELLY: For some reason, I suspect she probably knows by now. But if not, I'll be talking to her, and we'll knock it around a little bit.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's your sort of wild thought about how she's going to react to this?

KELLY: You know, she's been fine. I think she'll see it as movement on a different front, possibly more assistance, and maybe we'll be to accomplish some things that she hasn't been able to. We'll have some additional subpoena power, maybe have some access to some information here and elsewhere. And we've got, you know, very good investigative sources, as I told you, you know, Bo and his people and very good attorneys working with me, and maybe we'll get some different and, you know, fertile results that'll help them down there, too.

So you know, it's a parallel operation, but we plan to share what we can. And you know, the ultimate goal would also be to see a prosecution and conviction in the case for what went on down there.

VAN SUSTEREN: John, don't you sort of wonder how in the world Paul van der Sloot and Joran van der Sloot's lawyers let them even try to slip into the country for an interview?

KELLY: You know, I guess it was very kind of them to do that, to help us out a little bit here. You know, it was very nice of them to pick New York and, you know, Very nice that, you know, people even down there are very attuned to the movements of the van der Sloots, you know, even when they go to the airport and things like that. So yes, I'm very surprised. But I guess, for some reason, they feel emboldened a little bit and felt they're a little bit bulletproof and they've been sort of, you know, given a free pass down there on a lot of things, and I guess they thought they could come here and do as they please, and you know, put their own spin on things with whatever interviews they were going to do and walk out of here unscathed. And fortunately, that didn't happen.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why are they in New York? I mean, who are they interviewing with? What's was the plan or what is the plan?

KELLY: I take it it's not you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: No, I take it — I'd like it to be. I mean, I'd like to talk them.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: Oh, make a call. I won't get into that. It's my understanding one of the networks and one of the marquee names that they're going to sit down and chat with. And our feeling was, if they could sit down and talk to one of the networks, they should be happy to sit down and answer a few questions from us under oath, too.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, you would have thought, though, that the anchor or the news — that they would have asked that the person they were going to interview with would have come to them, just to avoid this particular problem.

KELLY: I would think. It's a lot easier for one person to travel, and there's no risk involved in that. But as I said, for some reason, they thought they could slip in here for a weekend and slip out. And didn't quite turn out that way.

VAN SUSTEREN: How long have you been tracking this possible trip to the United States?

KELLY: Well, the trip to the United States just very recently surfaced. We've tracking, monitoring, investigating and waiting for breaks, waiting for movement, monitoring chatter, monitoring the blogs, monitoring Web sites daily for months now. And as I said, there was just a peak very recently, and we picked that up, moved on it, able to confirm some things, were able to guess on a couple things, and that's where we ended up today.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it is so unusual, John. I've never seen anything like it. I mean, it was like a well-oiled machine, so well orchestrated, so James Bond. I understand the process server's a former Scotland Yard who sat on the plane in front of him. I mean, watching this thing go down from the inside these last final minutes must — or final hours today — must have been horrible for you, yet exciting.

KELLY: I'll tell you, sitting down here, it was kind of like watching grass grow. Time wouldn't pass fast enough. I was just every second trying to check on everybody, you know, trying to micromanage a lot of little details that you know, one little slip-up from — you know — a lot of things could have gone wrong that went right today, Greta. We'll put it that way. And you know, the well-oiled machine could have been, you know, a broken-down heap if things had turned out differently. And you know, I could have had egg on my face, too. But you know, as I said, we had a great team of people, both lawyers and investigators everybody else working on it. What we set out to accomplish today was accomplished, and I'm thankful to everybody for that. Just a small first step, but we did what we had to do today, at least.

VAN SUSTEREN: Was Beth calling you all day, or Dave calling you all day, hounding you for details?

KELLY: No. They were terrific. Terrific clients. You know, told them what they had to know, asked them to have a little bit of faith and hang tight and just stay dark for the day, and they did that and they were terrific. And they've honored that. And you know, we've had very good relationship, so I have a terrific relationship with both Beth and Dave, and they're terrific clients and terrific people and, you know, they deserve a little, you know, retribution at this point, that — you know, it's the first step. I think they feel pretty good about it right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So in the complaint, basically, what does the complaint say?

KELLY: It's basically four causes of action brought on behalf of Beth and Dave. You have a sexual assault. You have a battery, which is an unlawful touching. You have a false imprisonment. Those are the three claims against Joran. And then you have — basically, for lack of a better term — you know, negligent supervision against Paulus van der Sloot.

VAN SUSTEREN: And how long has the complaint actually been ready, finished, in the drawer, ready to go, waiting for this moment?

KELLY: Oh, Greta, you know I'm not going to tell you that. It was filed today at 11 o'clock.

VAN SUSTEREN: I know, but have you been sitting on it, waiting for this chance? I mean, has it been like that?

KELLY: No, no. No, it has not been because you have to file the action in the state that they're going to be coming to, and we certainly didn't have information for any length of time that they were going to be coming to New York. So as I said, you know, the lawyer part of it was even done, you know, right through the night, you know, in the last 24 hours, to get this done and get this filed and make sure it was filed and was properly served all within this very small window of opportunity, without people being tipped off as soon as the media would have found out that they were here, all they had to do was get spooked and go over to Newark to a hotel or something, and you know, we never would have been able to serve them.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you're writing the complaint through the night. It isn't as though that you wrote it a month ago and you were just waiting to see if you lucky, is that once you got word, you began the drafting, and it was, you know, a foot to the floor on this one.

KELLY: Yes. I mean, I've always had my thoughts of where to go with this, if the opportunity arose. But no, the actual pen to paper was just done very recently. And you know, as I said, Scott Belber and, you know, Jerry Katz did a lot of heavy lifting on that, too, and did a terrific job to accomplish that part of it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Any way to describe what your clients have been through in since May 30?

KELLY: It's just, you know, they lost their daughter. And you know, a lot of people lose family members, but these are people who lost their daughter and know that people have the answers as to what happened to their daughter, and they can't get those answers. That's what the really painful part is.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right...

KELLY: And hopefully, this will maybe provide a way to find some.

VAN SUSTEREN: John, thank you very much. And of course, as you know, we'll be following this lawsuit.

KELLY: Thanks, Greta. Bye-bye.

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