National

Another legal setback for Gary Condit in his long descent

WASHINGTON — An ice cream deal that melted quickly will now cost former California Congressman Gary Condit and his family more than $44,000, a federal judge has ruled.

The Condits breached their contracts with Baskin-Robbins for operating two ice cream stores in the Phoenix suburbs, U.S. District Court Judge Earl H. Carroll ruled. Carroll is now preparing his final judgment, the latest legal setback for the once politically prominent Condit family.

"(The Condits) did not perform their reporting and payment obligations under the terms of the two franchise agreements," Carroll concluded.

Carroll's final judgment could come within days or weeks, following his quietly issued Oct. 22 ruling that's loaded with details about what has befallen Condit since he lost his House seat in 2002 in the wake of scandal that began with the disappearance in 2001 of government intern Chandra Levy.

Condit's son Chad, his partner in the Baskin-Robbins deal, estimated the family lost $250,000 in the ill-starred ice cream franchise. Chad's other testimony was deemed "not credible" by Carroll, and for a time the family simply stopped responding to Baskin-Robbins' entreaties. The family has also run through a series of different attorneys.

"I have been made aware that my clients plan to retain separate appellate counsel and appeal the ruling once a final judgment is issued," attorney Joseph Holland, who represented Condit in the ice cream case, said Friday. He then added that "I have no further dealings in this matter."

Condit once was a rising political star who was elected to Congress in 1989. But he lost his seat amid reports that he had had an affair with Levy, the daughter of one of Condit's constituents.

Several publications speculated that he had played a role in her disappearance. That suggestion was unfounded, though Levy's murder — her remains were eventually found in Washington's Rock Creek Park — has never officially been solved, and Condit filed defamation lawsuits against several publications. Some lawsuits were settled and some dropped.

Condit, meanwhile, has struggled to make a living.

"I do believe that people are leery about being involved with me in a traditional way," Condit said in a September 2004 deposition taken for one defamation case. "When you're tainted by someone who calls you a murderer…people are apprehensive about taking you on board."

After his House defeat, the Condit family moved to Scottsdale, Ariz. They attempted various business ventures before buying the two Baskin-Robbins' franchises in nearby Glendale for $65,000 each in February 2006.

Condit, his wife Carolyn and their children Chad and Cadee were partners. Chad Condit, who once worked for California Gov. Gray Davis and ran his father's last reelection campaign, participated in a five-week Baskin-Robbins' training program.

The franchise agreement required the Condits to submit weekly sales information to Baskin-Robbins headquarters. They also owed franchise and advertising fees totaling about 10 percent of gross sales.

Soon, Carroll noted, the Condits stopped reporting sales and paying various fees. Baskin-Robbins sent at least 10 collection letters to the Condits, who sent the company a few payment checks. Several checks bounced, Carroll noted.

Baskin-Robbins terminated the franchises in March 2006. Nonetheless, the Condits continued operating them until closing in September 2006.

"Baskin-Robbins generally does not attempt to stop the sale of ice cream and supplies to terminated franchisees because Baskin-Robbins does not want the franchise to use another brand of ice cream," Carroll noted.

Between January and September 2006, Baskin-Robbins estimated the Condits' two stores sold $345,245 worth of confections. None of the required fees were paid.

During the one-day trial a year ago, Chad Condit testified that he was not "computer savvy," and had not received adequate training about the company's online payment systems. He further testified that he didn't know the company was intending to terminate the franchise.

Carroll rejected Baskin-Robbins' arguments that the Condits infringed on the company's trademark, but agreed the family breached its contracts. He ordered the Condits to pay $44,431 for past fees, plus $1,824 for late fees and collection costs. The Condits will also owe attorneys fees and interest, which Baskin-Robbins wants to set at 18 percent.

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