WASHINGTON -- Former Rep. Gary Condit of Ceres remains caught in Chandra Levy's world even though he's not the man on trial in her slaying.
On Friday, over the objection of prosecutors, a judge agreed to let defense attorneys for Ingmar Guandique, who is accused in her death, obtain certain evidence collected nearly nine years ago from Condit's Washington, D.C., condominium.
Superior Court Judge Gerald I. Fisher ordered the items turned over for DNA or other forensics testing, along with additional items collected from Levy's apartment and other locations. All told, roughly three dozen items are expected to be delivered to defense attorneys.
"We want it so we can conduct our own investigation, as we are entitled to do," defense attorney Maria Hawilo said.
Neither Hawilo nor her defense partner, Santha Sonenberg, have revealed publicly exactly what they are looking for, nor whether they have alternative suspects to offer in place of Guandique.
The pre-trial maneuvering under way, though, could help the defense attorneys point the finger elsewhere. Assistant U.S. Attorney Fernando Campoamor on Friday, citing one theoretical example, said prosecutors would need notice "if the defense is going to say that someone associated with Mr. Condit did it."
Defense attorneys sometimes identify by name a specific suspect other than their client, although they are not required to.
Prosecutors have charged Guandique with first-degree murder and related crimes in Levy's May 1, 2001, death. They say the illegal Guatemalan immigrant ambushed Levy while she was jogging in Washington's Rock Creek Park and killed her after an attempted sexual assault.
Levy had completed her University of Southern California graduate studies and a federal Bureau of Prisons internship. She reportedly was preparing to return to California, where her parents still live in Modesto. Her disappearance captured national attention after multiple news sources reported that Condit, then representing the 18th Congressional District, had admitted to police that he'd been involved in a sexual relationship with Levy.
Condit never a suspect
Police never called Condit a suspect, and the former Ceres mayor and state assemblyman has pursued defamation lawsuits with varying degrees of success against those who have suggested otherwise.
Still, investigators in 2001 obtained a DNA sample from Condit and conducted a thorough search of his condominium. Hawilo said defense attorneys didn't need to receive several of the items from Condit's condo that already had been tested for DNA, including a baseball cap.
Prosecutors called the defense request a fishing expedition, noting that they already had turned over 15,000 pages of documents as well as other items for defense forensics testing. Nonetheless, Fisher deemed the defense request reasonable.
"I think you have to turn these items over," Fisher told Campoamor, cautioning that "they may or may not learn something."
Guandique's defense attorneys were less successful in other maneuvers Friday, including an attempt to block potential testimony from jailhouse informants. At the least, they sought to convene a hearing into the credibility of convicts upon whose testimony the prosecution will rely.
"There is no scientific evidence," Sonenberg said. "The only thing linking (Guandique) to the case is the say-so of these cooperators."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines replied that "these are no different from other kinds of witnesses," and indicated they had received only minimal assistance, if any, from the government in return for their testimony. Fisher denied the defense request to exclude the jailhouse informants or subject them to additional testing.
Guandique sat silently throughout the hearing, shackled and listening to the proceedings through a translating headset.
The judge set a May 14 hearing for further pre-trial deliberations.
Bee Washington Bureau reporter Michael Doyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-383-0006.