- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 10, 2002

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Speaking barely above a whisper, a 7-year-old girl who escaped kidnappers last month by gnawing through duct tape took the stand yesterday to identify the two men charged with her abduction.
Under heavy prodding from attorneys and after twice refusing to identify the men, Erica Pratt told a judge that Edward Johnson snatched her outside her grandmother's home and that James Burns drove the getaway car.
The judge ordered both men held without bail on charges including kidnapping, false imprisonment, reckless endangerment and extortion. He threw out robbery charges.
Erica had spent nearly 24 hours bound and blindfolded in the squalid basement of an empty building before she was able to get loose and break open a door to call for help July 23, police said.
In court yesterday, when asked whether her kidnappers were in the courtroom, she twice answered no. But each time, she kept her head turned from the table where the two suspects were seated.
"The child has been studiously keeping her eyes averted from that section of the courtroom," Judge Joseph C. Bruno said. Erica identified the two men after Mr. Bruno asked her to take a third look.
Nino Tinari, the attorney for Mr Burns, 29, said Erica's testimony had been prodded, and he questioned whether, because of her age and inability to answer many questions, she would be competent to testify at a trial. At one point while testifying yesterday, Erica had pulled a sweater over her face and cried, prompting a recess, and at other times she couldn't remember her birthday, the street she lived on or circumstances of her abduction.
The girl's grandmother, Barbara Pratt, also testified yesterday, saying she received a series of phone calls after the kidnapping from a man who threatened to kill Erica unless he was given $150,000.
Throughout the proceeding, Mr. Johnson, 23, and Mr. Burns hung their heads and did not speak. Mr. Burns trembled when Judge Bruno ordered the two held without bail.

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