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Legal Ethics

Lawyers in Jaycee Dugard Abduction Tort Case Say DOJ Tampered with Key Witness, Seek Severe Sanction

Posted Aug 7, 2012 10:40 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Lawyers representing a young woman who was kidnapped in 1991 at age 11 and held nearly two decades by a paroled California rapist are accusing a U.S. Department of Justice attorney of tampering with a key witness in Jaycee Dugard's civil suit seeking damages from the federal government.

In a filing in federal court in San Francisco, her counsel says the DOJ lawyer called a parole expert for the plaintiff who had spent over 50 hours working to put together a declaration on Dugard's behalf. Then the DOJ lawyer called attorney Amber Melius, who represents Dugard, and said the parole expert felt that she had be "lied to" and would no longer cooperate, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

When Melius and a colleague then called the witness, she said she wasn't "comfortable" working with them further and hung up, says Melius in a sworn statement.

The filing calls this claimed course of events a flagrant violation of legal ethics standards and court rules and asks the judge to sanction the DOJ. Plaintiff's counsel are seeking a court finding that the feds should have revoked Phillip Garrido's parole and sent him back to prison before he and his wife kidnapped Dugard, leaving only the issue of the amount of damages that should be awarded for a jury to decide.

The newspaper was unable to reach the DOJ for comment late in the day on Monday. Attorney Dale Kinsella, who represents Dugard, says the DOJ has said its lawyers didn't know the expert witness was working for the plaintiff when they contacted her.

The state of California, which also had responsibilities concerning Garrido, has agreed to a $20 million settlement.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Jaycee Dugard Sues Feds, Says ‘Colossal Blunders’ Let Parolee Kidnap and Hold Her Captive 18 Years"

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