Feds Had No Duty To Protect Jaycee Dugard From Would-Be Kidnapper, Says Court

Jaycee Duggard won settlement in 2010

Kidnapping victim Jaycee Dugard’s attempts to hold the federal government responsible for the two decades she spent locked in a shed as a sex slave have failed.

Dugard sued the U.S. government for failing to throw her abductor, Phillip Garrido, into prison for numerous parole violations in the years before he and his wife kidnapped Jaycee, United Press International reported.

If he had been imprisoned, as Jaycee Dugard and her attorney’s argument went, she would never have been held captive in the Garrido’s backyard and repeatedly raped over 18 years.

Although the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled against her 2 to 1, they didn’t address whether Garrido’s parole officers failed to do their jobs.

According to SF Gate, Jaycee’s kidnapper spent a decade in prison for a rape in Nevada and was released in 1988. He was on parole for this conviction and one for abduction over a period of two and a half years before Dugard was snatched.

Jaycee’s lawyer said that the convict had failed drug tests multiple times and admitted to using drugs. But his parole officers never reported this fact to the U.S. Parole Commission, which would have revoked his parole and sent him back to prison.

Therefore, instead of being behind bars in June 1991, he and his wife, Nancy, prowled the streets in South Lake Tahoe. Jaycee was in fifth grade on her way to a bus stop and headed to school when the couple coaxed Dugard into their van, the New York Daily News reported. They then drove Dugard to their home in Antioch and locked inside a shed.

There, Jaycee he would remain for the next two decades, their captive and Garrido’s sex slave. Over the years, he raped her repeatedly and impregnated her twice. At just 14, Dugard gave birth to a daughter, and then a second three years after that.

Dugard was rescued in 2009 at 29-years-old after Garrido took her and her two daughters to a meeting with his parole officers. He was sentenced to 431 years in prison for kidnapping and rape; his wife got 36 years to life.

In the years since, Jaycee filed, and won, another suit against the state of California in 2010. Over the 18 years of her captivity, police officers missed numerous opportunities to rescue Dugard. She and her kids were awarded a $20 million settlement.

But the law wasn’t on Jaycee’s side this time. The court ruled that the government wasn’t obligated to protect Dugard from her future abductor because they couldn’t have predicted he would target her as a victim; Jaycee wasn’t considered a “specially identifiable victim” before the crime.

According to federal law, individuals can sue the government if they can sue a private institution under the same circumstances. In California, a private institution that runs a rehab program, for example, can’t be sued if one of its inmates or parolees harms someone. The protection offered to a private firm by the state of California applied to the federal government.

On these grounds, Dugard’s case was thrown out.

However, one judge offered a dissenting opinion — Chief District Court Judge William Smith. He argued that the majority didn’t analyze Jaycee Dugard’s case thoroughly, and he believed that the government could have been held liable for her kidnapping and captivity.

When Jaycee was finally rescued in 2009, people weren’t 100 percent sure that she was the missing Dugard girl. Jaycee remembered who she was, however, and so did her mother and stepfather, Carl Probyn. Shortly after her rescue, he told the New York Daily News about mother and daughter’s first conversation.

“Jaycee remembers everything. They talked back and forth and she had the right answers to all my wife’s questions. I would say it’s a 99 percent chance it’s her. I’m feeling great! It’s like winning the lotto.”

[Photo by Cliff Owen/AP]