Courts & Crime

Condits have a new reason they ducked service in a lawsuit

WASHINGTON — Former California congressman Gary Condit and his family members avoided being served legal papers in 2006 because they feared U.S. deputy marshals were actually reporters on the prowl, Condit's son Chad has now explained.

In a handwritten statement filed in federal court, Chad Condit says his family had good reason to shun strangers coming around their Phoenix-area home.

"(We) have been hounded and hunted by the national media for the past seven years," Chad Condit advised U.S. District Judge Earl H. Carroll, adding that "federal marshals plain clothed look like reporters."

The marshals, though, were on official courtroom business. They were attempting to deliver legal documents on behalf of Baskin-Robbins, the ice cream company then suing the Condit family for breach of contract. The company is currently trying to secure attorneys fees following its successful lawsuit.

Reporters have inspired fear and loathing from Condit family members since 2001, when Gary Condit became a tabloid target following the disappearance of former intern Chandra Levy. Levy's disappearance led to revelations that she was having an affair with Condit, a married member of Congress some three decades her senior.

"It was not comfortable because they were everywhere," Condit said of the reporting mob in a September 2004 deposition, adding that, "When you're called a murderer, it's a pretty brutal thing."

Some of the overheated tabloid coverage prompted defamation lawsuits from the Condit family, all of them now resolved. Police never called Condit a suspect.

Salvadoran immigrant Ingmar Guandique is now preparing for a January trial on charges that he murdered and sexually assaulted Levy in Washington's Rock Creek Park.

The Condits entered the ice cream business in 2005 after Gary Condit had lost his Northern San Joaquin Valley congressional seat in a 2002 primary challenge by Dennis Cardoza.

Baskin-Robbins won the breach-of-contract lawsuit last year, along with a judgment of more than $45,000. The money covers unpaid franchise, advertising and late fees for the two stores run by the Condits in 2005 and 2006.

After an unsuccessful appeal, the Condits are now challenging the bid by Baskin-Robbins attorney Charles Wirken for more than $60,000 in attorneys fees. The Condits are representing themselves and responded to Baskin-Robbins' demands with a five-page response on lined paper.

"The contract is not a government bailout for Mr. Wirken," Chad Condit declared in the document filed Nov. 6.

While Wirken argued that the Condits owe money for the cost of getting them served with legal documents — a task undertaken by deputy marshals after earlier efforts failed — Chad Condit insisted the family members "had no idea" service was being attempted.

Wirken disputed the plea of ignorance.

"Although the Condits' homes appeared to be occupied, and on one occasion noise could be heard inside one of the homes, no one inside would ever open the door or otherwise respond," Wirken stated in a declaration, adding that "over a period of one month 10 more attempts were made at different times of day."

Wirken subsequently turned to the deputy marshals, who succeeded after several tries.

Chad Condit complained that Baskin-Robbins ignored efforts to settle the legal dispute, and he argued that Wirken didn't deserve as much as he was asking for because Judge Carroll had rejected some of Baskin-Robbins' claims. Wirken, in turn, contends the costs escalated in part because of frivolous Condit family legal maneuvering.

Carroll has set a Dec. 7 hearing to consider the arguments for and against the attorneys fees.

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