PLACERVILLE, Calif. – The California man charged with kidnapping and raping long-time captive Jaycee Dugard has "a serious mental illness" and "may not be competent to be a defendant," his defense lawyer said in court papers filed Wednesday.
Susan Gellman, a deputy public defender in El Dorado County, offered the blunt assessment of Phillip Garrido's fitness to stand trial while disputing assertions by prosecutors that she should be prohibited from trying to contact Dugard because Garrido is using her to manipulate Dugard from jail.
"The district attorney is making the very same mistake that parole authorities made concerning Mr. Garrido for many years," Gellman wrote, arguing that Garrido's actions aren't evidence of manipulation. "He is ignoring the signs of serious mental illness. It appears that Phillip Garrido has been hearing voices of angels for years."
Gellman filed the papers in response to a request by prosecutors for a protective order that would keep her as well as Garrido from attempting to communicate with Dugard, either directly or indirectly. She is asking the judge overseeing the case either to compel the district attorney to provide her with Dugard's address or to appoint a neutral party to serve as a go-between between her and Dugard.
"The court can certainly refuse to provide a witness's location," Gellman wrote. "However, in a case like this, it would make settlement far more difficult if counsel were forever foreclosed from approaching the idea of contact again."
In seeking the official buffer earlier this month, District Attorney Vern Pierson described Garrido as a "master manipulator" who had sought to intimidate Dugard into not cooperating with authorities through letters he has written to a Sacramento television station and messages Gellman conveyed to a lawyer who briefly represented Dugard.
Prosecutors could not be reached for comment Wednesday, when Gellman's filing was submitted after regular business hours. The motion for a protective order is scheduled to be heard at a hearing Friday.
Gellman said Wednesday that Garrido is too psychologically impaired to attempt to harass Dugard from afar. She cited his decision to bring Dugard and the two daughters with him to his parole agent's office and the confession he made that morning that he had kidnapped her in 1991 as evidence of his "complete lack of sophistication."
She also cited the thick sheaf of writings Garrido delivered to the FBI in San Francisco and other law enforcement agencies two days before his arrest in which he claimed to have made a discovery about voices and mind control.
"These are the acts of someone suffering from a serious mental illness," she wrote.
Garrido and his wife, Nancy, have pleaded not guilty to kidnapping Dugard and holding her captive for 18 years in the backyard of their Northern California home. Gellman so far has not formally indicated that she plans to advise him to plead not guilty by reason of insanity or to argue he is incompetent to stand trial.
She raised the possibility, however, in the new court filings. Discussing Garrido's ongoing correspondence with the Sacramento television station, she wrote, "Mr. Garrido's contacts with the media, when his attorney tells him not to have them, are not manipulations at all, but evidence that he may not be competent to be a defendant."
Gellman also expressed offense at the district attorney's suggestion that she was being manipulated by Garrido as well. She said her relationship with prosecutors has deteriorated to the point where it could hamper her ability to defend her client.
"The district attorney has "laudabl(y) claimed his right to champion the rights of the victim in this case," she said. "But he cannot do so while abandoning the truth for the sake of political grandstanding."