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California: Parole Agents Saw and Spoke to Kidnap Victim, Yet Failed to Identify or Rescue Her

While providing a legal analysis of claims against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), a June 25, 2010 letter from the California Department of Justice noted that Jaycee Lee Dugard – the now-30-year-old woman who was kidnapped and held captive for 18 years by a paroled sex offender who fathered two children with her – said parole agents spoke to her and her eldest daughter but failed to take steps to identify them or determine their relationship to Phillip Craig Garrido, 58, the man accused of kidnapping and repeatedly raping her. [See: PLN, Dec. 2009, p.48; Sept. 2010, p.24].

The letter does not specify where or when the conversations between Dugard and the state parole agents took place. But neither does the letter, authored by Senior Assistant Attorney General Rochelle C. East, make any attempt to dispute the truth – or significance – of Dugard’s assertion, which was made in support of claims she filed against the CDCR, contending that such conversations in fact took place.

East’s letter, addressed to Deputy Attorney General Bruce Reeves, was presented to state lawmakers before they voted on July 1, 2010 to authorize a $20 million settlement to Dugard and her daughters, now age 12 and 15. The settlement was mediated by retired San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Daniel Weinstein, who said of Dugard afterward, “She’s very sincere. She’s not angry and blaming.” Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger approved the settlement payout within days after it was approved by the legislature.

A November 2009 investigation by David Shaw, Inspector General for the CDCR, had previously documented numerous missed opportunities to rescue Dugard, including a time when state parole agents spoke with one of her daughters in 2008 but accepted Garrido’s explanation that she was his niece. Whether that was the time when parole agents also spoke to Dugard herself was not clear.

East’s letter recounted that Dugard was kidnapped at age 11 by Garrido and his wife Nancy, who kept her “hidden in a makeshift shed in their backyard, where she was repeatedly raped over the course of years.” Not mentioned was the fact that but for the suspicions of an alert U.C. Berkeley police officer, who observed Garrido on campus with two girls passing out religious fliers, Dugard and her daughters would likely still be held in captivity.

While recognizing the CDCR’s immunities against Dugard’s potential claims for negligence, infliction of emotional distress, failure to discharge a mandatory duty, and negligent hiring, training, retention and supervision, as well as the fact that the CDCR had a “good” chance of prevailing on at least parts of a dispositive motion, East also forthrightly acknowledged that “a potential damages award could be extremely high.”

Indeed, Dugard asserted that she was seen by at least three different CDCR parole agents – yet they took no action and she remained Garrido’s captive. Describing the case as “unique,” East wrote, in a truly monumental understatement, that “the failure to discover Ms. Dugard before 18 years had elapsed is tragic.”

Garrido and his wife, who face charges of kidnapping, rape and false imprisonment, remain in custody pending trial. Garrido’s bail was set at $30 million while his wife’s bail was set at $20 million.

Sources: California Department of Justice letter (dated June 25, 2010), Los Angeles Times, Associated Press

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