In a new development, the Holloway family used stealth tactics to serve Joran Van Der Sloot and his father with a that had the Van Der Sloots worried they were in more than just legal danger.
Holloway family attorney John Q. Kelly joined ‘Live and Direct’ to discuss the civil case and the reactions from the Van Der Sloot family.
To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.
RITA COSBY, HOST, ‘LIVE AND DIRECT: John, how surprised, from your guys on the ground, were Joran and his parents when they were slapped with these lawsuits separately?
JOHN Q. KELLY, HOLLOWAY FAMILY ATTORNEY: Total surprise on both their parts, as I understand it, Rita.
COSBY: Any reaction? Did they say anything? Did they do anything? What was sort of the feel?
KELLY: No. In fact, both services were memorialized. We have videotape of Paulus Van Der Sloot being served in the lobby of the hotel, and he's just sort of stunned silent, staring at the papers. And Joran, same thing. We have a picture of him holding the papers, just standing there, staring at them at the aisle of a Delta flight on the runway at JFK.
COSBY: And in fact, we're going to have those pictures tomorrow, John. You know, from
what you've heard, did they go over and did the guy tap him on the shoulder? How did they actually approach Joran on the plane?
KELLY: We had our investigator three rows in front of him, just standing there, waiting for him. Joran was going to be the last one off, to be escorted out by Customs, and we had our man in front of him, blocking his way, where he had nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. And he got served right in the aisle there.
COSBY: And did he say anything at the time, or what did he say and do?
KELLY: It's my understanding that when he was served the papers, he said, Thank you.
COSBY: And that was it?
COSBY: How long had this been in the works for, John? Because it's quite impressive you got parents coming from Aruba. You got him coming from Holland—to coordinate this. How long did you have it in the works, though?
KELLY: Everything just happened very quickly, starting early on Wednesday morning, the
15th. We got word that the Van Der Sloots might be heading to New York. I then talked to Dave and Beth and got authorization to draw up the complaint for filing. We then confirmed that Paulus had left Aruba, was heading for New York. So we had a surveillance team waiting to pick him up and sit on him at the lobby at the hotel. We then confirmed Joran was leaving from Amsterdam, so we had an agent going from London's Heathrow airport over to Amsterdam, get on the flight in front of him to serve him and served the complaint Thursday mid-morning, e-mailed the index number to both the plane and the surveillance team, and caught Paulus in the lobby at about 1:00 o'clock. And he couldn't communicate with Joran. And then we caught Joran when the plane landed at JFK.
COSBY: John, I don't know how much you can tell me, but where did the tip-off come from to sort of get the tip because they're coming on these different flights?
KELLY: You know better than that, Rita. It turned out to be very accurate information, though, obviously. But just like you, we don't reveal our sources.
COSBY: And did you say I may be catching a red herring, I'm not sure if it's all going to work out?
KELLY: I'm sorry?
COSBY: Did you say, Maybe this is like a leap of faith, it may not work out?
KELLY: Oh, well, you know, there are about 12 critical steps involved there, where anything could have gone wrong either in the filing of the complaint and not serving Joran, not serving the father, one being able to contact the other. You know, my ultimate, once I told the ultimate step and filed the complaint, that I'd have a complaint filed in New York state supreme court and no service made, and I'd be sitting there with egg on my face, looking like a jackass, if you will.
COSBY: Instead, you're looking like a magician now in terms of juggling all this.
KELLY: Well, it worked.
COSBY: We talked to someone close to the Van Der Sloots, and let me put a little quote—this is about the family. They said, “The family is very disappointed what happened last Thursday. They feel this was a public relations stunt orchestrated by John Q. Kelly and Beth Holloway and the lawsuit has no merits.” Was this just for publicity, John?
KELLY: No. Absolutely not. We feel very comfortable with the cause of actions. We certainly had jurisdiction over them. And they were the ones that thought they could flaunt this system, thumb their noses at us and come into our, you know, home court, into New York, and put their spin on things, and we certainly weren't going to let that happen.
COSBY: So John, what happens now? How long until they respond?
KELLY: They have, technically, 20 days to respond because they were served in person. It's up to them what, affirmatively, they're going to do now.
COSBY: And do you think they'll respond? And what happens if they don't?
KELLY: You know, if they don't, it'll be a default judgment. Just one thing, Rita. It's kind of ironic that they're talking about it's a publicity stunt, and they were the ones coming into New York to do their series of interviews and do their PR stints here. That was their sole purpose of coming here, as I understand it, to do interviews and air what they had to say. So it hardly was a publicity stunt. They were the ones seeking the publicity, and they're the ones that'll pay the price for it.
COSBY: When you talk about default, what can happen legally? Because the big question is how much jurisdiction? Can we enforce this? If they say, Look, we're not going to respond, we're not going to do anything, then what happens? What can U.S. authorities legally do if they go forward?
KELLY: Well, if they don't respond, then we can move for a default judgment. Then you go to an inquest for damages, of which they wouldn't participate in. A judgment could be entered after the default and the inquest, and we can execute on that back in Aruba against them.
COSBY: So you're saying that somebody actually could go down there, can say, Look, we're going to collect, if it actually wins in the case?
COSBY: And what are you looking at? How much could they potentially get?
KELLY: Doesn't matter. You know, we're looking for answers, we're not looking for money. We're not looking for assets. We're looking for a resolution. We're looking for Natalee. That's what we're looking for.
COSBY: Could this be a long road, though, John? You're dealing with also U.S. courts. You're dealing with Aruba.
KELLY: Sure. You know, litigation is a marathon, it's not a sprint. This was just the first small step. We were able to serve them. We were able to commence the action. And I've got no, you know, reservations or, you know, other thoughts, other than it's going to be a very tough row to hoe, and we've got a long way to go.
COSBY: I also understand you have an update on the sand dune search, which we all of a sudden didn't hear anything about. Where does this stand?
KELLY: I talked to Karin Janssen actually several times in the last couple days, and she just got back from Holland, and it's my understanding they're going back in the sand dunes with the Dutch dogs now. They're not going to use the FBI dogs. And they're going to use the ground sonar provided by the Netherlands Forensic Institute and finally do a—finally do a thorough search of the sand dunes, the pond location by the racquet club and a couple other places, too.
COSBY: And when are they doing this? And why has it taken so long, John?
KELLY: I don't know. I guess red tape, and a lot of different pieces have to be pulled together. But you know, I intend to be down there in the next couple of weeks and talk and see where all this is.
COSBY: What do you hope to achieve when you go back down there?
KELLY: What I do every month. I like to sit down with Janssen and Dompig and see what they have to report and what progress has been made. And at this point, I've been asked to and I'm sharing some information with them also, seeing if we can advance the ball a little bit.
Watch 'Rita Cosby Live & Direct' each night at 9 p.m. ET on MSNBC.