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Challenge of grand jury stops expected guilty plea

Challenge of grand jury stops expected guilty plea

An expected guilty plea by a convicted sex offender accused of kidnapping and raping a girl when she was 11 and holding her captive for 18 years was derailed Thursday when his lawyer alleged a grand jury was improperly selected and acted inappropriately.
Public defender Susan Gellman, who represents defendant Phillip Garrido, made the claim during a brief hearing where Garrido and his wife and co-defendant Nancy Garrido entered not guilty pleas to kidnapping, rape and other charges contained in an amended indictment.
Victim Jaycee Dugard was snatched off her family's street in June 1991 while walking to a school bus stop. Authorities said she 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 Phillip Garrido took them to a meeting with his parole officer.
Gellman did not elaborate on her claim in the courtroom Thursday but said outside that she had questions about the racial and geographic makeup of the grand jury that initially indicted the Garridos last September.
"There are issues about the process itself before the grand jury," Superior Court Judge Doug Phimister said during the hearing. "The court will now consider whether the grand jury acted appropriately."
The developments came as a surprise after attorney Stephen Tapson, who represents Nancy Garrido, said earlier this week that Phillip Garrido had made a deal with prosecutors 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.
Tapson said he only found out about Gellman's plans late Wednesday.
Neither attorney would elaborate on the specific concerns about the grand jury.
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.
"My responsibility is to see that these two are held accountable for the enormity of their actions," Pierson said. "We are determined to do that."
The next hearing was set for May 5, and the trial for Aug. 1.
Both defendants were in court for the 10-minute hearing, wearing orange jail uniforms. They didn't speak, and neither showed much emotion.
Garrido and his wife gave full confessions to authorities and expressed interest in plea bargains that would spare Dugard and her daughters _ now 13 and 16 _ from having to testify, Tapson has said.
Tapson, however, said he advised Nancy Garrido against pleading guilty unless prosecutors offer a deal that holds the possibility _ however remote _ that she would one day be freed from prison.
Phillip and Nancy Garrido 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.
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 Dugard was their older sister.
The mother and daughters rarely interacted with the outside world. Phillip Garrido ran a printing business, and Dugard assisted him in producing business cards, brochures and flyers, occasionally interacting with clients through email.