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Revelation of confession comes as plea deal mulled

Revelation of confession comes as plea deal mulled

March 1st, 2011 by LISA LEFF, Associated Press in News

PLACERVILLE, Calif. (AP) - The defense attorney for one of two people charged with holding an 11-year-old girl captive for nearly two decades says a plea deal could be possible, a move that would allow the victim, now 30, to avoid having to testify before her alleged abductors.

Nancy Garrido, 55, has pleaded not guilty to 18 felony counts that include false imprisonment, rape and child pornography. Her husband, Phillip Garrido, has asked to postpone his arraignment until March 17.

Nancy Garrido's lawyer, Stephen Tapson, said discussions for a plea deal are ongoing, with the most recent offer from prosecutors calling for sentencing Phillip Garrido to 440 years in prison and his wife to more than 241 years.

Jaycee Dugard has not spoken publicly about her years imprisoned in the backyard of the Garridos' home in Antioch. She is writing a book about the ordeal, with publication expected this year.

Tapson said he believed the sentence proposed for his client is exorbitant.

"She should be able to walk free at some point in time," Tapson said, adding that he thought a sentence of 20 to 30 years would be appropriate.

Tapson said he was present when the couple was re-interviewed during the past month. In "full confessions," the couple admitted to kidnapping Dugard, he said, but his client denied sexually abusing the girl.

She regarded herself as a mother to Dugard and her two daughters, who were fathered by Phillip Garrido, Tapson said. Nancy Garrido delivered Dugard's daughters when the girl was 14 and again at 17, he added.

The couple also answered dozens of questions from investigators about the years they spent with Dugard and her children, Tapson said. His client acknowledged being the one who dragged Dugard from a school bus stop into the couple's car in 1991, he added.

Neither Phillip Garrido's lawyer nor prosecutors would confirm or deny the confession.

The possibility of a plea deal appeared last month, when a judge declared Phillip Garrido competent to stand trial. Criminal proceedings against him had been halted in September after his attorney expressed doubts about his mental state.

Both sides later agreed Garrido's competency was no longer a barrier to trial.

Tapson said Dugard was present during one of Nancy Garrido's recent interviews, apparently the first time the women had been face-to-face since the couple was arrested in 2009.

He declined to say if they spoke or to describe the mood of their encounter.