Newly revealed transcripts in Levy murder case show combative convict

McClatchy Washington BureauAugust 2, 2013 

— The man convicted of killing former intern Chandra Levy has had a rocky time in prison.

Ingmar Guandique has been combative and evasive, authorities assert in previously secret transcripts. Consequently, U.S. marshals now give the 31-year-old El Salvador native special attention while moving him to and from the hearings that might lead to a new trial.

They have reported “numerous instances of violence by (Guandique) while in prison since his sentencing that they’re very concerned about,” D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald I. Fisher noted at a hearing Feb. 14, the previously secret transcript shows. “We harken back to the trial and pretrial, where we had instances of him getting out of cuffs, so they’re very concerned about the physical security.”

Marshals now place a special box around Guandique’s handcuffs to prevent covert lock-picking.

But defense attorneys for Guandique, who’s serving a 60-year prison term after his high-profile conviction, say he’s the one who’s been the victim of rough treatment – by the U.S. marshals assigned to guard him.

“Mr. Guandique has two marks on his head that were occasioned today in the cellblock by his head being bashed into a wall by the marshals,” defense attorney Santha Sonenberg said Feb. 14, the transcript shows. “His head is hurting now. And I want the names of every marshal involved.”

His attorneys also said they thought that parts of the previously sealed proceedings revealed fundamental problems with the case against their client.

A jury convicted Guandique in November 2010 of killing Levy in Washington’s Rock Creek Park on May 1, 2001. Her skeletal remains were found in 2002. At the time of her disappearance, she was preparing to return to her home in Modesto, Calif. Her disappearance drew national notoriety because of revelations that she’d been having an affair with her hometown congressman, Democratic then-Rep. Gary Condit.

Since then, questions have risen about the credibility of the former Fresno gang member whose testimony proved crucial for the prosecution. The former member of the Fresno Bulldogs, Armando Morales, testified that Guandique had confessed to him while they were cellmates at a federal prison in Kentucky.

In hearings that began last December, several of them closed to the news media, prosecutors and defense attorneys have been wrangling over post-trial revelations that Morales previously had provided information to law enforcement. Defense attorneys say the revelations, still being investigated, undermine Morales’ claims about his motives and past behavior.

“The more we learn, the more lies we discover,” defense attorney Jonathan W. Anderson said at a hearing April 11, the transcript shows.

Anderson cited Morales’ claim, while testifying, that his decision to inform on Guandique followed a heartfelt meeting with family members in 2008. Morales testified that the meeting was the first he’d had with family members in 14 years, and that it gave him “a lot of confidence” to break a gang-banger’s code of silence.

Anderson, though, noted at the previously sealed April hearing that subsequent investigation revealed that Morales had met in 2006 at U.S. Penitentiary Atwater, about 65 miles north of Fresno, with his mother, sister and other family members. The apparent discrepancy might be important for defense attorneys, as they seek to undercut Morales’ image as a man who saw the light after reconnecting with loved ones.

Previously sealed at the request of prosecutors, the hearing transcripts that became public this week shed light on more than Morales’ past and Guandique’s hard time. They also show some communication breakdowns between branches of the Justice Department, some apparent bureaucratic stumbles and some recurring flashes of tension between prosecutors and defense attorneys.

The transcripts, spanning 337 pages, also spotlight myriad details about serious safety concerns that prompted musing about extreme security measures in order to protect Morales and his family members. Those worries became the most intense during the months that a judge’s protective order kept attorneys from officially identifying Morales as the witness being investigated, even while news accounts cited him as the only witness who mattered.

“You know, we would have loved to have a gag order on the press,” Justice Department attorney David Gorman said at one hearing, before adding that “we couldn’t do that, obviously.”

The post-trial investigation of Morales has led to the discovery that he had seven telephone conversations in May, June and July 1998 with Fresno County Sheriff’s Office deputies, as well as an in-person meeting with deputies at U.S. Penitentiary Atlanta. The post-trial investigation, though, also has gone in fits and starts.

“There are logistical challenges that are presented by bureaucratic challenges that we are butting our heads up against,” Justice Department attorney Margaret Chriss said at a hearing Jan. 4, the transcript shows.

Information, Justice Department attorney Alessio Evangelista added, “keeps coming up.” Often, he said, things appear only after repeated requests are made of various Justice Department agencies, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Prisons.

“We followed up with the FBI, we followed up with the DEA, and we followed up, and initially (were) told there was nothing,” Evangelista said at the Jan. 4 hearing. “And then later on, ‘Oh, actually, we did find something.’ ”

Email: mdoyle@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @MichaelDoyle10

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