Prosecutor says plea for leniency in Dugard kidnapping is offensive

PLACERVILLE, Calif. - A prosecutor on Thursday denounced a suggestion by a defense lawyer that he should show leniency to a woman charged in the kidnapping, rape and 18-year imprisonment of Jaycee Dugard in Northern California.

Dugard was insulted when the lawyer for Nancy Garrido said his client deserved compassion because she acted as Dugard's mother during her ordeal and was under the control of her husband, co-defendant Phillip Garrido, El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson told reporters.

"I think that to make a comment about Nancy being like a mother and she was an unwilling participant and she should be shown some compassion ... Those were offensive comments," Pierson said about the remarks by court-appointed attorney Stephen Tapson.

Pierson spoke after a brief court hearing where criminal proceedings against the Garridos were put over for three weeks while negotiations continued on a possible plea deal that could spare Dugard and her two daughters fathered by Phillip Garrido from testifying at a trial.

Pierson, however, said he agreed with Tapson and Deputy Public Defender Susan Gellman, who represents Phillip Garrido, that resolving the case without a trial would be best.

"Given the enormity of what these two did, it's very tough to go have a trial," Pierson said. "That's not the best outcome, but it's one we are prepared for."

The Garridos are accused of kidnapping Dugard, now 30, when she was an 11-year-old girl and holding her captive in the backyard of their Antioch home until they were arrested in August 2009. Each has been charged with 18 felony counts that include false imprisonment, rape and child pornography.

Nancy Garrido has pleaded not guilty. Phillip Garrido has not yet entered a plea.

Criminal proceedings against him had been suspended for several months while he was evaluated and eventually deemed competent to stand trial.

His lawyer on Thursday asked for more time to review the charges. Superior Court Judge Douglas Phimister ordered the couple to return to court on April 7.

Speculation that the case would be resolved began circulating more than two weeks ago after Tapson told reporters that plea negotiations had opened with the couple giving full confessions to police.

Prosecutors had hoped the couple might also provide information about a number of unsolved child kidnappings and murders of prostitutes in Northern California.

Since they did not, there has been little movement in the plea discussions, Tapson said.

Pierson has proposed a sentence of 180 years to life for Nancy Garrido, and more than 563 years to life - the maximum if he is convicted of all charges - for Phillip Garrido, a convicted rapist who was on parole when Dugard was snatched from a school bus stop in 1991.

"It's frowned upon in my profession to stand up and have your client plead to 180 years to life," Tapson said.

Nancy Garrido admitted pulling the young Dugard into a car driven by her husband but denied participating in any sex crimes, her lawyer said.

In a written statement Thursday, Pierson elaborated on his reasons for insisting that Nancy Garrido bears significant responsibility for Dugard's pain and her husband's behavior. He said Nancy Garrido alone imprisoned Dugard for 42 days in 1993 when her husband was in federal custody on a parole violation.

"Not only was Nancy Garrido directly involved in the kidnapping of Jaycee back in 1991, but she actively participated in videotaping young children before and after the 1991 abduction," Pierson said. "So, having viewed all of the evidence and videos in this case I will answer Mr. Tapson's question - No, I do not think that Nancy Garrido deserves my compassion."

Nancy Garrido has not been charged in any separate videotaping incidents not involving Dugard.

Gellman said Phillip Garrido has expressed a willingness to take a harsher penalty if it means his wife would get off with a lighter sentence. As Nancy Garrido was led from the courtroom Thursday, she turned and gave her husband a warm look and smile.

The two, who have been prohibited from speaking on the phone while jailed, exchanged "I love yous," Gellman said.


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