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New Times / News

The following article was posted on December 19th, 2012, in the New Times - Volume 27, Issue 21 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 27, Issue 21

Local activist pleads guilty to assisting suicide

BY MATT FOUNTAIN

George Taylor walked into the courtroom, dressed casually in a denim jacket and followed by an entourage of about 10 friends and supporters.

It was difficult to hear the solemn 86-year-old and his attorney over the commotion in the packed San Luis Obispo County Superior Courtroom.

The felony case against Taylor has attracted a bevy of both support and curiosity from the community since he was originally arrested on suspicion of homicide on Dec. 10.

Shortly after 11 p.m., a park ranger discovered Taylor and his wife, Gewynn, parked in their vehicle in a Montaña de Oro State Park lot. The ranger soon discovered that Gewynn was deceased, according to a SLO County Sheriff’s Department release, and Taylor was arrested and booked into county jail.

But at his arraignment the next day, the District Attorney’s Office instead submitted a single felony charge of assisting suicide against Taylor. Though it hasn’t been explicitly stated in court, it’s believed the Taylors were attempting to carry out a suicide pact, according to DA’s Office Spokesman Jerret Gran.

George was released into the custody of his daughter, who was to monitor him around the clock.

The suspected cause of death for Gewynn Taylor hasn’t been released.

At his preliminary hearing on Dec. 19, George appeared calm and alert, if somber and a bit overwhelmed. He greeted Judge Ginger Garrett with a warm, “’Morning, Judge.”

Following a reading of his rights, George’s attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, told Garrett that the man was prepared to plead guilty to the single count, and was willing to submit to a GPS monitoring device, in lieu of remaining in his daughter’s care.

Garrett asked Taylor if he was “feeling good.”

“Reasonably so,” Taylor said quietly. “I feel physically OK.”

Following his plea, Garrett informed the man that he wouldn’t serve jail time, but could face up to three years of probation and a minimum fine of $400, in addition to any possible restitution found by the court.

Throughout the hearing, Deputy District Attorney Lee Cunningham didn’t put up a fight. Asked why prosecutors reduced the charges, Gran said the office weighed the details in the investigators’ reports and took the “safe route.”

“We discussed that [with the original charge] the bail would have been super-high, and I think his story so far has checked out,” Gran said. “It’s just a really sad story.”

The Taylors were well-known in the community as longtime activists concerned primarily with wastewater issues in Los Osos; they appeared regularly before the county board of supervisors.

Under terms of his plea, Taylor is required to obtain a monitoring device before he appears for sentencing on Jan. 16.