A Van Nuys man accused of offering to sell his daughter to an Encino couple for $90,000 pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a charge of slavery.
Temporary custody of the 2-year-old child was granted to the couple who had been offered the child for sale.
The father, Alan Daniel, 30, entered his plea in Van Nuys Municipal Court. Judge Patricia G. Schwartz scheduled a preliminary hearing for Dec. 10, when Daniel will face one felony count each of attempting to sell a human being, a violation of the law against slavery, and threatening a witness.
Had Been Caring for Child
Daniel, an unemployed house painter, is accused of offering to sell his daughter, Fallon, to Ronald and Susan Miulli on an installment plan with $15,000 down, Deputy Dist. Atty. Ed Consiglio said. The Miullis, who own a printing business in Sherman Oaks, had been caring for the child for seven months with Daniel's consent and were trying to adopt her, Los Angeles police said.
Ronald Miulli notified authorities of the alleged offer, which he said was made Thursday. Consiglio said investigators monitored a telephone call in which Daniel laid out terms of the sale.
Daniel was arrested at his home, where he lives with his parents. Bail was raised from $5,000 to $35,000 when Daniel made threatening phone calls to the Miullis from jail, Consiglio said.
Daniel's daughter and 4-year-old son were taken into protective custody. On Tuesday, Juvenile Court Commissioner Jewell Jones granted temporary custody of the girl to the Miullis, according to the couple's attorney, Lawrence Brown.
Emerging from the courtroom, Susan Miulli flashed a thumbs-up sign and, with tears in her eyes, said: "We did it. We got her back, thank God." The Miullis had renamed the child Megan.
The couple has been trying to have a child since 1979, when they were married, but, Susan Miulli said, she has had four miscarriages, the last two weeks ago. The couple said they adopted a baby, Angela, in 1983 but that on Christmas Eve last year the child was killed in a fall from a window.
"We're not going to lose this baby. . . . This is one of the happiest moments of our lives," Susan Miulli said. "Our baby will be back for Thanksgiving."
The custody decision, however, angered Athena Agustus, the child's 28-year-old mother. Although full custody of her daughter and son had been granted to Daniel earlier this month, Agustus said she will fight to get Fallon back.
Agustus said she has been living in Iowa at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility and returned to Los Angeles on Monday after friends told her that her former husband had been arrested.
"I am the mother, and I am really, really disappointed," Agustus said. "This whole thing just stinks.
"I sympathize," she said, gesturing toward the Miullis in the courthouse hallway, "but it is my baby."
Brown said that next week he will try to have the Miullis assigned as foster parents and in coming months will "explore the adoption road."
Daniel faces a maximum term of four years on each felony charge if convicted.