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Plea Deal Possible in Chili Finger Case

August 27, 2005|Donna Horowitz | Special to The Times

SAN JOSE — Just as it appeared that attorneys were about to enter not guilty pleas for the couple accused of planting a severed fingertip in a Wendy's bowl of chili, the judge set the plea-bargain process in motion.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Jerome Nadler ordered attorneys for Anna Ayala, 39, and her husband, Jaime Plascencia, 43, and prosecutors to meet with Judge Edward Davila to try to resolve the case.

Meetings on Thursday and Friday in Davila's chambers produced no results, but on Friday the judge ordered both sides to resume discussions Sept. 9.

Deputy Dist. Atty. David Boyd, who is prosecuting the case, has adamantly refused to consider a plea agreement with the Las Vegas couple charged with conspiracy to file a false claim and attempted grand theft in connection with a plan to defraud Wendy's. The couple could get almost 10 years in prison.

Outside court Friday, Boyd said Davila wanted more information, although Boyd declined to give specifics.

Davila "could consider a plea on a lesser sentence," Boyd said. "We would argue against it and will continue to do so."

After Thursday's session behind closed doors, Charles Kramer, the attorney representing Plascencia, said, "Every judge has a duty to try to settle a case" before trial. But neither he nor Rick Ehler, the attorney for Ayala, would comment on the details of the discussion with Davila.

Chuck Gillingham, a deputy district attorney who joined Boyd at Thursday's session, reiterated his office's position after the meeting.

Ayala and Plascencia would "like to get an offer from someone," he said. "We're not going to plea-bargain the case."

Gillingham said his office didn't want to offer a plea deal "based on the severity of the case," adding that many people were hurt. Prosecutors have said that Wendy's reported it lost $1 million a day for 30 days because of bad publicity after Ayala said she found the finger in her chili on March 22.

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