| 6.7°C Dublin

Jaycee trial bombshell as Garrido denies guilt

Phillip Garrido is accused of raping and kidnapping Jaycee Dugard (below)

ONE of America's most eagerly awaited trials was thrown into turmoil yesterday when the man accused of kidnapping and raping Jaycee Dugard for 18 years pleaded not guilty.

Phillip Garrido, a convicted sex offender, is accused of kidnapping Ms Dugard when she was just 11 years old. His lawyers had intimated that he would plead guilty. However, when the trial opened yesterday his legal team alleged that a grand jury had been improperly selected and had acted inappropriately.

Public defender Susan Gellman, who represents Garrido, made the claim during a brief hearing where the accused and his wife and co-defendant, Nancy Garrido, entered not guilty pleas to kidnapping, rape and other charges.

Ms Dugard was snatched off her family's street in June 1991 while walking to a school bus stop. Jaycee and her two children, who were fathered by Garrido, were kept in a hidden backyard compound of tents and sheds, never attending school or receiving medical attention. They finally resurfaced in August 2009 when authorities said Garrido took them to a meeting with his parole officer.

Outside the court Ms Gellman said she had questions about the racial and geographic makeup of the grand jury that initially indicted the Garridos last September.

El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson said he wasn't concerned about the challenge to the grand jury and expects its actions to be upheld.

Both defendants were in court for the 10-minute hearing, wearing orange jail uniforms.

Previously, Garrido and his wife gave full confessions to authorities and expressed interest in plea bargains that would spare Ms Dugard and her daughters -- now 13 and 16 -- from having to testify.


Nancy Garrido's attorney, Stephen Tapson, said he advised her against pleading guilty unless prosecutors offered a deal that holds the possibility -- however remote -- she would one day be freed from prison.

The Garridos were initially charged with 18 counts of kidnapping, rape, false imprisonment, child pornography and committing lewd acts on a child.

If convicted on all those counts, the maximum sentence for Nancy Garrido would be 181 years, while Phillip Garrido could get 431 years, according to El Dorado County Deputy District Attorney James Clinchard.

The amended indictment added allegations of kidnapping of a person under 14, kidnapping for sexual purposes and other claims.

Ms Dugard gave birth to her daughters when she was 14 and 17, and Nancy Garrido delivered the children, according to court documents. The girls knew Phillip Garrido was their father but grew up thinking Ms Dugard was their older sister.

The mother and daughters rarely interacted with the outside world. Garrido ran a printing business, and Ms Dugard assisted him in producing business cards and brochures, occasionally interacting with clients through email.The trial has been set for August 1.

Irish Independent