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Chandra Levy case: Murder trial delayed until next fall

WASHINGTON — A judge today reluctantly postponed until October the trial of the man accused of killing former Modestan Chandra Levy in May 2001.

With prosecutors now planning a revised indictment of accused killer Ingmar Guandique, Superior Court Judge Gerald I. Fisher agreed to delay the trial originally scheduled to start in January. Guandique will remain in jail pending the Oct. 4 trial start.

"Obviously, we would prefer an earlier trial date," Assistant U.S. Attorney Fernando Campoamor said this morning, "but we think that's the first one that realistically can work."

An illegal immigrant from El Salvador, Guandique is accused of murdering Levy in Washington's Rock Creek Park. Raised in Modesto, where her parents still live, Levy had completed graduate school and a Bureau of Prisons internship and was preparing to return to California.

The original arraignment in May charged Guandique with first-degree murder, attempted sexual assault and kidnapping. Today, Campoamor revealed that prosecutors intend by mid-December to file a superseding indictment. He declined to specify how the new indictment will differ from the first one.

Since the initial charges were lodged, though, prosecutors have alleged publicly that Guandique and his alleged gang associates have threatened potential witnesses. The alleged threats have included communications from Guandique directly and from members of the feared Salvadoran gang Mara Salvatrucha, prosecutors said.

"(One) witness received a letter from MS-13, reminding him that if he were to testify at the trial, they knew where his family is," Campoamor said at a court hearing last month.

Threatening a federal witness is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison, while transmitting threats via mail can bring up to five years in prison. Prosecutors did not indicate today that the new indictment will include witness tampering charges, but Campoamor acknowledged that the intention to file a new indictment contributed to prosecutors' willingness to push the trial date.

Guandique's defense attorneys had previously sought without success to push back the initial Jan. 27 trial date set by a previous judge. Now, though, defense attorneys and prosecutors alike have agreed that a later trial date is required. Fisher pressed the attorneys for the possibility of a shorter delay, but

"We were trying to see if a date in September could work," Campoamor told the judge, but that effort proved futile.

Guandique is now completing a 10-year sentence for attacking two other women in Rock Creek Park. Today, attorneys agreed that if his sentence runs out before his new trial starts — a possibility that neither side was certain of — then he will remain in jail without the possibility of bail.

That first judge handling the Guandique case, Geoffrey Alprin, recently retired and handed the Guandique case over to Fisher.

A graduate of the College of William and Mary and the Catholic University of America's law school, Fisher was appointed to the D.C. Superior Court bench in 2001 by then-President Bill Clinton.

Read more: http://www.modbee.com/breakingnews/story/945005.html#ixzz0XiPm6UYn

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