The retrial of the man convicted of killing former intern Chandra Levy now appears to face a nearly three-month delay, as prosecutors cope with extensive defense requests for documents and other evidence.
On Friday, D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin set May 23 as a backup date for the start of the trial, which is currently set to begin March 1. The backup date, which could be confirmed as the official date within a week, was set at the request of federal prosecutors.
“The government doesn’t believe we can go forward on the (original) trial date,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gorman said Friday. “I’m not sure we’ll be ready.”
The government has voluntarily undertaken extraordinary discovery in this case.
D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin
The impediment, Gorman said, has been the necessity of responding to defense discovery requests, which so far have resulted in 19,061 pages of documents being turned over. The material ranges from law enforcement notes of interviews with former California Congressman Gary Condit to photographs taken from Levy’s cellphone and prison records of former Fresno gang leader Armando Morales.
“I do observe it to be extraordinary,” Morin said of the volume of discovery material being produced, adding that prosecutors’ request for more time appears “reasonable.”
Defense attorney Eugene Ohm would not commit to accepting the trial postponement until he had consulted with his colleagues and the defendant, Ingmar Guandique. Manacled, wearing a headset and dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, Guandique sat silently through the hearing Friday afternoon while listening to the proceedings through an English-to-Spanish translator.
“The fact that we’re up against the trial date is something the government should have known about,” Ohm said, adding that “it’s their job to do it, to go through all the documents law enforcement has.”
A Washington jury convicted Guandique of murder in November 2010, concluding he had killed the 24-year-old Levy in the city’s Rock Creek Park. At the time of her 2001 death, Levy had finished a Bureau of Prisons internship and was preparing to return to her family’s Modesto, California, home.
Levy’s disappearance eventually brought to light her sexual relationship with Condit, a revelation that effectively ended his congressional career in 2002.
Sentenced to 60 years in prison, Guandique subsequently challenged the credibility of Morales and the actions of prosecutors based on post-trial revelations about Morales’ record as a law enforcement informant. Morales’ trial testimony that Guandique had confessed to him while they were cellmates was the linchpin of the prosecution’s case.
Last May, the government dropped its objections to defense requests for a new trial. Guandique remains in custody.
The new team of prosecutors have said they, too, will call on Morales to testify at the second trial, which is expected to last more than a month.