Courts & Crime

Chandra Levy case stretches out in bid for new trial

The evidence-gathering to resolve a bid for a new trial in the Chandra Levy murder case will now stretch out until at least February 2015, attorneys agreed Friday.

Potentially, several dozen witnesses will be summoned from California and elsewhere to testify in what’s now scheduled to be two rounds of hearings. Three days in November are set aside for the first witnesses, and three more days in late February were added Friday in order to finish up the task.

The focus throughout will be former Fresno gang leader Armando Morales, whose testimony during a November 2010 trial proved essential in the conviction of Ingmar Guandique. Guandique is now serving a 60-year sentence.

“The issue before me is essentially whether Mr. Morales was being truthful about his past cooperation, or lack of cooperation, with law enforcement,” D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher said during a hearing that lasted approximately 80 minutes Friday.

During the 2010 trial, Morales described himself as uncomfortable with law enforcement and as a newcomer to the role of informant. He testified, compellingly, that Guandique had confessed to him that he had killed Levy, shortly before the former intern was to return to Modesto, Calif.

Following the trial, it became known that Morales had previously provided information to law enforcement officials in Fresno and elsewhere.

To resolve the discrepancy, defense attorneys revealed Friday that they could call as witnesses up to 22 federal government employees. These include Fresno-based Assistant U.S. Attorney Dawrence “Duce” Rice, who prosecuted Morales back in the mid-1990s, as well as several FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms investigators formerly based in California.

“These are folks that we’ve tried to speak to,” defense attorney Jonathan Anderson said. “To a large extent, we’re dealing with witnesses that have refused to speak to us.”

In addition, a number of non-federal witnesses will be called, potentially including prison inmates.

Prosecutors have sometimes characterized the defense effort as a fishing expedition, and Fisher made clear Friday that he wants the hearings as streamlined as possible. At the same time, prosecutors acknowledged Friday that there have been “some problems” in compiling all the information requested by the defense, including e-mails.

“We’re not trying to hold anything back,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gorman said. “Whatever is in our possession we are turning over, to the best of our ability. This is a monumental process.”