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Kidnapping suspect's prison term raises questions

Some wonder why Phillip Garrido, accused of taking Jaycee Lee Dugard in 1991, served only 11 years of a 50-year federal sentence for a similar 1976 crime.

September 01, 2009|Maria L. La Ganga, Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Maura Dolan

SAN FRANCISCO, ANTIOCH, CALIF., AND ORINDA, CALIF. — As details continued to emerge about Jaycee Lee Dugard's alleged kidnapper, questions intensified Monday over how Phillip Garrido could have served only 11 years in prison after a 1976 rape and kidnapping for which he had been given a 50-year federal sentence as well as a life term in Nevada.

Garrido was convicted of kidnapping in federal court for abducting Katherine Callaway in South Lake Tahoe on a November night nearly 33 years ago and driving her -- handcuffed and hogtied -- to Reno. He then pleaded guilty to a Nevada state rape charge for assaulting her in a storage unit.

Former Assistant U.S. Atty. Leland Lutfy, who prosecuted the kidnapping case, said Monday that he was "amazed" because, at the time, he believed that defendants convicted of federal crimes were required to serve two-thirds of their sentences -- in this case, 33 years. That would have kept him safely away from Dugard, who was snatched from her quiet street in 1991.

"It makes no sense to me," he said in an interview.

Michael Malloy, who prosecuted the rape case in Washoe County, Nev., said the system "let everyone down, especially Jaycee Dugard. It doesn't seem an adequate sentence for the violent crime he committed in 1976."

Callaway, who has since married Jim Hall and goes by her married name, thought that Garrido wouldn't be paroled until at least 2006, she said during an appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live." But a little more than a decade after she was assaulted, she was approached at a Lake Tahoe casino by a man who resembled Garrido. She called prison officials and learned that he had been paroled to California.

"In many ways, the capture of Phillip Garrido has closed a chapter in my life," she wrote on the show's blog. "I don't have to hide anymore. I don't have to live every day of my life wondering if he is looking for me. I am finally free from the fear I have lived with since the day I learned he was paroled."

A spokesman for the U.S. Parole Commission did not return a call for comment about why Garrido was set free in 1988.

Loyola Law professor Laurie Levenson said that barring an extraordinary situation, "there is no way on a 50-year sentence he should have been out."

Garrido, 58, and his second wife, Nancy, 54, were charged last week with 29 counts of rape and kidnapping in Dugard's nearly two-decade disappearance. The couple allegedly abducted Dugard when she was an 11-year-old and held her in the backyard of their Antioch-area home, where she gave birth to Garrido's two girls. They called her Allissa.

Nearly 33 years ago, on Nov. 22, 1976, Garrido walked up to Callaway's car at a South Lake Tahoe market and asked for a ride, according to court documents. She had planned to cook dinner for her boyfriend and had just bought groceries. She said yes, and they headed off toward Stateline.

Before they hit the California-Nevada border, Callaway pulled to the side of the road to let Garrido out. He grabbed the keys, turned off the engine, handcuffed Callaway and then tied her up "like one of those calves in a rodeo," Lutfy said.

"He talked to her on the way from California to Nevada, took LSD and told her in graphic detail what he was going to do to her when he got her to Nevada," Lutfy said. "This was a sicko."

And he blamed Callaway for his actions, telling her, according to court documents, "that it wasn't intentional that he had taken her, but that it was her fault because she was attractive." Garrido headed to a storage unit he rented in an industrial neighborhood in Reno.

Because Garrido transported Callaway across state lines, the kidnapping became a federal case and went to trial in February 1977. A jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison. He appealed the decision to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and lost.

According to documents filed in the appeal, Garrido testified that "he had used LSD, marijuana, cocaine, downers, uppers and hashish since 1968," when he was still attending Liberty Union High School in the Northern California city of Brentwood.

Garrido's father, Manuel, now 88, said his friendly, well-adjusted son, who played electric guitar in a band and helped his parents around the house, began to slip away during adolescence.

He got mixed up with the "wrong crowd," the father said, and began using and dealing LSD. About the same time, he injured his head in a motorcycle accident.

"After surgery," the father said, "he would talk funny and do funny things."

The two men have been estranged since the rape, and Manuel said he has not seen his son for more than five years.

One of the last times they spoke, Manuel recalled, Phillip was babbling about talking to God. "I would tell him, 'We'll see, we'll see,' " the father said. "You couldn't tell him anything else. If you tried to, he would get mad."

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