OAKLEY, California (CNN) -- The black box sat inside a cabinet. Philip Garrido had given it to a friend for safekeeping, and that's where the friend kept it.
The black box has jacks for plugging in headphones. Philip Garrido claimed it could speak his thoughts.
"He feels he can speak to you and me and everyone else using this box," said Garrido's friend and former business client, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"He was a whack job, but he was a whack job who sounded like he had a really good heart," the friend added.
Garrido and his wife, Nancy, were arrested last month and charged on more than two dozen counts, including kidnapping and rape.
Authorities say the Garridos held Jaycee Dugard, 29, captive for nearly two decades in their backyard. Both have pleaded not guilty. Authorities have said Garrido, a registered sex offender, fathered Dugard's two children.
Three years ago, Garrido demonstrated the box for clients of his printing business. The clients, some of them at least, went along with his claims for the device.
"I didn't want to tell him you're a kook and you don't know what you're talking about," said Tim Allen, who owns a glass shop in Antioch.
Even so, Allen and several other former Garrido clients signed declarations saying the device worked.
"People believe in things. I didn't think it was my place to shoot him down," Allen said. [...]
Those statements I've emphasized in bold print, really reflect the culture in California, which places a lot of emphasis on "not being judgmental". I can understand that up to a point, but look where it can lead to when it's taken too far. Garrido's craziness was tolerated to the point where he was able to commit crimes and... do the things he did.
Could it be that sometimes a kook needs to be called a kook, and locked up if he's dangerous? There is too often a tendency too be overly concerned about damaging the self esteem of seriously disturbed people. What happened to Jaycee is sometimes the result.
One could argue that since Garrido was not criticized about the black box, he was thus encouraged to try to patent it and publicize it, thus attracting the attention of the police, leading to the rescue of Jaycee and her daughters. But you have to wonder, if his mental illness had not been so tolerated from the beginning, if it had been treated more as an illness than a self esteem issue, if he might have been prevented from kidnapping Jaycee in the first place?
I'm all for tolerance, but it needs to be tempered with good judgment too. Like so many things, it's a question of balance.