The family of Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was kidnaped by a paroled rapist and subsequently gave birth to his two daughters, will receive a $20-million settlement from California under an agreement approved by lawmakers Thursday.
Dugard, now 30, was abducted from her South Lake Tahoe neighborhood on the way to school in 1991 and was missing until last August. That's when she was discovered living in a ramshackle Bay Area compound owned by Phillip Garrido — the man charged with her kidnap and rape — in a bizarre case that attracted international attention.
Two months after Dugard and her daughters were found, a prison watchdog group reported that state parole officers had failed to properly supervise Garrido for a decade and had missed obvious clues that could have led them to the three victims much earlier.
In claims filed against the state in January, the family said that "various lapses by the Corrections Department" contributed to "Dugard's continued captivity, ongoing sexual assault and mental and/or physical abuse."
Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) called the settlement "prudent." As a former head of the state parole board for serious offenders, Nielsen said he voted for the settlement because "it will end the legal vulnerability of the state and hopefully bring comfort to the families that they won't have to have protracted litigation."
Nielsen acknowledged that the state could have faced legal liabilities "vastly beyond $20 million" if the case had gone to court. He lamented Dugard's 18-year abduction and blamed the state's correctional system for lapses that extended the young woman's ordeal.
"It was a failure of the administration of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and their woeful disregard of statute and regulation," he said.
The settlement was approved on a 70 to 2 vote in the state Assembly and a 30 to 1 vote in the state Senate. Spokesman Aaron McLear said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will sign the legislation.
The payment was recommended by the state Department of Justice and approved by the governor's budget office. An analysis of the settlement bill noted that, although the state corrections department denied the allegations and typically had legal immunity from such claims, the Dugard case "had a unique and tragic character," including "missed opportunities to identify Ms. Dugard" during her captivity.
The January claims on behalf of Dugard, her mother, Terry Probyn, and Dugard's daughters, ages 12 and 15, were a required first step before filing a lawsuit. Usually the state denies such claims and injured parties then file suit.
"The state, in an unusual and very constructive and thoughtful way, decided to try to settle it before the lawsuit was filed," said retired San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Daniel Weinstein, who mediated the Dugard settlement. The reason: "To avoid greater invasion of privacy and greater publicity for the state."
Weinstein also praised Dugard, whom he described as "a truly remarkable young lady." Weinstein spent a day with Dugard during the mediation process, and he said "she's very sincere. She's not angry and blaming."
The settlement will be used to provide therapy for Dugard and her daughters and go toward their education, Weinstein said. Dugard's schooling stopped when she was abducted at age 11; her daughters have never been to school. It also will provide an income for them for the rest of their lives.
In addition, "part of her money is going toward a foundation she'll use to help others," Weinstein said. "She's very interested in helping other people in predicaments like hers.... She wants her experience to be instructive to other parole systems."
Garrido was convicted of kidnapping and raping a woman in Nevada in 1976. Although he received a 50-year federal sentence and five years to life in Nevada, he was imprisoned for only 11 years. On release, he was monitored by federal officials until 1999, when California authorities took over his parole supervision.
According to the two-month investigation of the Garrido case, the convicted rapist had at least six different parole agents over a decade and was barely supervised for several years after the state began monitoring him.
Weinstein noted, however, that Dugard was abducted and raped when Garrido was under federal supervision. When asked whether a federal lawsuit is in the works, Dale Kinsella, Dugard's attorney, declined to comment.
La Ganga reported from San Francisco. Goldmacher reported from Sacramento.