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Shock as Jaycee kidnap accused pleads not guilty

A woman who was abducted in California as a girl in 1991 and held captive for 18 years must wait longer to see justice done after an expected plea deal was derailed.

The delay came as the defence raised concerns that a grand jury might have been improperly selected and acted inappropriately.

Phillip Garrido, a convicted sex offender charged with kidnapping Jaycee Dugard and fathering her two children by rape, entered a surprise plea of not guilty to an amended indictment that his lawyer intends to challenge.

"If there are defects in the grand jury, it's my job to argue those things and that's what I am going to do," Deputy Public Defence Susan Gellman said.

The developments were unanticipated because prosecutors and defence lawyers previously said they hoped to reach a settlement and spare Ms Dugard, now 30, and her two daughters, aged 13 and 16, from having to testify.

Attorney Stephen Tapson, who represents Garrido's wife and co-defendant Nancy Garrido (55), went even further, stating publicly that the couple gave full confessions to authorities and that Phillip Garrido (60), had agreed to plead guilty and spend the rest of his life in prison.

Gellman blasted Tapson for telling reporters that her client planned to plead guilty.

"He shouldn't have been speaking for Phillip. He should speak for his client," Gellman said, adding her client had not been offered any plea deal.

Nancy Garrido also pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, rape and other charges contained in the amended indictment.

Tapson advised her against pleading guilty unless prosecutors offer a deal that holds the possibility -- however remote -- that she would one day be freed from prison.

Gellman did not elaborate on her objections to the grand jury process in the courtroom but told reporters outside that she had questions about the racial and geographic makeup of the panel that initially indicted the Garridos in September.

Ms Dugard was snatched off her family's South Lake Tahoe street in June 1991 while walking to a school bus stop.

hnews@herald.ie


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