The man accused of murdering former intern Chandra Levy will remain in prison while he awaits his retrial set for next year, a judge ruled Tuesday.
While key questions still linger about the former Fresno gang leader who’s been the most important prosecution witness, D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin concluded the defendant Ingmar Guandique should remain incarcerated.
“I am satisfied there is probable cause the defendant committed the crime of first-degree murder,” Morin said.
Citing Guandique’s criminal record, Morin further reasoned that there was “no condition or combination of conditions” of release that could satisfy the public’s need for safety pending conclusion of Guandique’s second trial.
I am satisfied there is probable cause the defendant committed the crime of first-degree murder. D.C. Superior Court.
Judge Robert E. Morin
Prosecutors noted that Guandique had previously sought to jam the locks on his leg shackles, leading some U.S. deputy marshals to fear he was plotting an escape.
“We think his dangerousness, even when detained, speaks volumes,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Sines.
A 33-year-old unauthorized immigrant from El Salvador, Guandique has finished a prior 10-year federal prison sentence for assaulting two other women in Washington’s Rock Creek Park. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has an order to hold him because of his illegal status, so he would not simply have walked free even if Morin had ordered his release.
Sines will lead the prosecution team in the retrial set to start next March. She was not part of the original team that secured Guandique’s conviction in November 2010 following a high-profile trial.
A 24-year-old former Bureau of Prisons intern, Levy was preparing to return to her family’s Modesto, Calif., home when she disappeared May 1, 2001. Her skeletal remains were found a year later in Rock Creek Park, long after her disappearance drew national attention because of revelations about her affair with then-congressman Gary Condit.
Police never named Condit as a suspect, and he testified at Guandique’s original trial that he had nothing to do with Levy’s disappearance.
After Guandique began serving his 60-year prison term, prosecutors say they began learning more about former Fresno gang leader Armando Morales, who testified that Guandique had confessed to him while they were cellmates. In particular, Morales was revealed to have previously cooperated with law enforcement officials despite indicating that he had not.
“There is powerful evidence that Armando Morales’ testimony was false,” defense attorney Jonathan W. Anderson said Tuesday. “He is utterly incredible, and his testimony can’t be credited at all.”
Armando Morales’ testimony about the alleged confession is utterly incredible.
Defense attorney Jonathan W. Anderson
Prosecutors on Tuesday said they had not yet decided whether Morales will return as a witness in Guandique’s retrial, though they insisted that no evidence has arisen calling into question the substance of his testimony about Guandique’s alleged confession.
Morin said that questions about Morales’s testimony can be “fully explored at trial, if he is called.”
Morales is currently being protected in an undisclosed facility, as he serves out a sentence on weapons charges that’s set to expire next year. His troubles, though, may not be over, even then. On Tuesday, Anderson noted that law enforcement investigators several years wanted to “interview Armando Morales because he was a suspect in a murder.”