Lawyers for Levy's accused killer fail to get Condit DNA samples

McClatchy NewspapersOctober 23, 2009 

WASHINGTON -- Attorneys for the man accused of killing Chandra Levy failed Friday in their effort to obtain DNA samples taken from former California congressman Gary Condit.

In an occasionally tense hearing, attorneys defending Salvadoran immigrant Ingmar Guandique unsuccessfully sought samples taken directly from Condit as well as from his Washington condominium. The attorneys sought the material for independent DNA testing.

"The (samples) taken from Mr. Condit's apartment could be directly relevant," defense attorney Maria Hawilo told a judge.

Condit was turned out of office by San Joaquin Valley voters in 2002, following revelations that he had been sexually involved with Levy prior to her 2001 disappearance. Investigators carefully searched his condo at the time, and quietly arranged for him to provide a cheek swab, but they never called the former Ceres mayor a suspect.

Condit, who subsequently moved to Arizona, could not be reached to comment Friday.

Prosecutors have charged Guandique with first-degree murder and attempted sexual assault. Citing jailhouse informants and other evidence, they say Guandique attacked Levy while she was jogging in Washington's Rock Creek Park.

Levy's skeletal remains were discovered in the park in May 2002.

Hawilo made her request for the Condit material as part of a much larger request that prosecutors turn over all evidence "containing biological material" collected during the Levy murder investigation. A District of Columbia law permits the defense to order independent DNA testing, but it's up to a judge to decide what the prosecution must deliver for testing.

Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Alprin denied the defense's wide-ranging request after prosecutors raised objections. Instead, Alprin directed prosecutors to hand over only the evidence found within Rock Creek Park as well as a few other items such as saliva samples from her parents, Modesto residents Robert and Susan Levy.

"We don't need to, nor should be ordered to, provide DNA samples of Mr. Condit to the defense," Assistant U.S. Attorney Fernando Campoamor told the judge.

Campoamor added that he was shocked at the extensive defense request, which he characterized as "every single item placed into evidence during the investigation." The judge, though, said he wasn't surprised that the defense and prosecution would differ over how much testing was warranted.

"I suspect there's a little bit of gamesmanship on both sides here," Alprin said.

The material that will be provided to defense attorneys for retesting, found strewn along a Rock Creek Park hillside, ranges from an Aiwa brand cassette player and stereo headphones to a pair of Nine West sunglasses and several pieces of duct tape.

Prosecutors have acknowledged that their own tests did not show any DNA residue matching Guandique, whose cheek they had swabbed while he was incarcerated in California. Prosecutors also acknowledged that a Bode Technology Group lab worker inadvertently contaminated one of the samples while testing Levy's bra.

DNA material found on Levy's black tights did not match either Condit or Guandique, Campoamor said Friday.

Hawilo wanted material from Condit's apartment turned over for checking against this "unknown profile."

"We don't agree with the government's theory about what happened, and where it happened," Hawilo said.

Hawilo did not spell out a specific alternative theory explaining how Levy died, and she tried unsuccessfully to keep some details of her wide-ranging evidence request private. Alprin declined her request to discuss the matter in his chambers instead of open court.

McClatchy Newspapers 2009

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