Courts & Crime

Preparations for retrial in Chandra Levy case heating up

In this April 22, 2009 file photo, Ingmar Guandique is escorted from the Violent Crimes Unit in Washington. He is now awaiting retrial for the murder of Chandra Levy.
In this April 22, 2009 file photo, Ingmar Guandique is escorted from the Violent Crimes Unit in Washington. He is now awaiting retrial for the murder of Chandra Levy. AP

Defense attorneys on Friday made clear that they could be pointing the finger at former Congressman Gary Condit as they attempt to free the man convicted of killing former intern Chandra Levy.

With a wide-ranging demand for law enforcement documents concerning Condit, and some pointed words during an hour-long court hearing, the defense attorneys underscored their contention that the wrong man was convicted in Levy’s 2001 death.

“We believe there’s more evidence in this case implicating Mr. Condit than has been turned over,” defense attorney Eugene Ohm said during a court hearing.

A longtime San Joaquin Valley elected official, Condit was never charged in Levy’s death and was never named as a suspect. He has denied, under oath and in public interviews, having anything to do with the former Modesto, Calif., resident’s disappearance.

Condit’s attorney, Bret Peace, declined to comment Friday afternoon.

But as the attorneys for Salvadoran immigrant Ingmar Guandique, who was convicted in November 2010, lay the groundwork for what’s called a “third party perpetrator” defense during Guandique’s retrial, they are seeking potential evidence involving Condit as well as four other men.

Levy was 24 at the time of her disappearance on May 1, 2001. She had finished a Bureau of Prisons internship and graduate studies and was preparing to return to her family’s Modesto home.

After her disappearance drew national attention for many months, Levy’s skeletal remains were discovered a year later in Washington’s Rock Creek Park

In a Nov. 9 letter to federal prosecutors, the defense attorneys asked for documents ranging from notes from law enforcement interviews with Condit to his cellphone records, credit card transactions and travel records during portions of 2001.

Itemized in 47 distinct requests, the defense letter sheds some light on the paper trail previously tracked by investigators. One request, for instance, is for more information about “the two-page document entitled ‘Privileged and Confidential’ detailing Gary Condit’s whereabouts around the time of Chandra Levy’s disappearance.”

Another defense request asks for documents concerning any “gifts, objects and/or favors given to Ms. Levy by Gary Condit” or members of his staff. Another seeks any documents concerning “photos from the search of Gary Condit’s apartment.”

Condit had a sexual relationship with the much younger Levy, prosecutors stated during Guandique’s first trial. Publicly, Condit has declined to discuss the nature of their relationship.

Federal prosecutors sought to assure D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin on Friday that they are diligently wading through the 100 boxes containing trial materials in search of relevant documents sought by the defense

“We gave them over 300 pages of all her emails, unredacted,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Sines said Friday, adding that “we are trying to do everything we can do.”

Sines further acknowledged that earlier prosecutors had made a mistake in not turning over all materials to the defense.

Defense attorneys, in raising the third-party perpetrator defense, must show the evidence they present is relevant. They do not have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that certain other individuals committed the crime. In Guandique’s first trial, though the third-party defense was not raised, prosecutors pre-emptively called Condit to testify so that he could deny any involvement in Levy’s death.

The next key development in the pretrial preparation is for prosecutors to decide whether they will again call on the testimony of prison informant Armando Morales, a former Fresno gang leader.

Morales testified at the first trial that Guandique had confessed to him while they were cellmates. Morales’s credibility has since been called into question, leading to the order for a new trial.

Attorney Andrea Antonelli, appointed by the court to represent Morales, indicated Friday that she has met with him, but a decision on testifying again may still be several weeks away.

“We are trying to meet with him soon,” Sines said Friday. “Really soon.”

Michael Doyle: 202-383-0006, @MichaelDoyle10

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