By Michael Doyle
WASHINGTON – The man accused of killing former intern Chandra Levy pleaded not guilty Tuesday to new charges relating to alleged threats against a potential witness.
In a brief D.C. Superior Court arraignment, attorneys for Ingmar Guandique entered the not-guilty pleas to three additional charges leveled earlier this month by a grand jury.
The new indictment states Guandique and an associate threatened an apparent jailhouse informant, one of several that prosecutors are relying upon in their case against the self-described MS-13 gang member. The new charges include conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and threatening to injure a person.
All of the alleged threats occurred this year, after Guandique was already facing charges that he killed Levy on May 1, 2001. Prosecutors are identifying the potential witness only as “J.G.”
“Persons, whose identities are unknown…wrote or caused to be written a letter threatening to kill J.G. and J.G.’s family if J.G. continued to cooperate with law enforcement,” the new indictment states.
Prosecutors contend the threats took several forms. On May 21, they say, Guandique communicated the threat directly to J.G. This episode is said to have occurred “within the District of Columbia,” which could mean inside the D.C. Jail itself. Separately, prosecutors say that sometime between May 1 and Sept. 9 a threatening letter was mailed to J.G.
Prosecutors say they still don’t know precisely who wrote the threatening letter, but indicate it was done at Guandique’s behest.
Manacled and dressed in an orange jumpsuit, Guandique stood silently as an outline of the new charges were read to him by a translator. Neither of his court-appointed attorneys, Maria Hawilo and Santha Sonenberg, nor federal prosecutors Fernando Campoamor and Amanda Haines spoke more than a few words in public.
Guandique had previously pleaded not guilty in April to the underlying charges of murder, kidnapping and attempted sexual assault. The trial originally scheduled to start in January has been postponed until next October.
Citing several jailhouse informants, in whom Guandique allegedly confided, prosecutors say the extensively tattooed but relatively slightly built Salvadoran immigrant attacked Levy while she was jogging in Washington’s Rock Creek Park.
At the time, Levy had finished a federal Bureau of Prisons internship and her graduate studies through the University of Southern California. She was reportedly preparing to return home to California, where she was raised and where her parents still live in Modesto.
Guandique and attorneys will be returning to the courtroom in late January, as the defense and prosecution continue their pre-trial maneuvering for information and advantage.
Defense attorneys, for instance, are fighting a bid by prosecutors to introduce evidence of prior “bad acts” by Guandique. This testimony would supposedly shed light on Guandique’s predilections, and thereby help implicate him in the attack on Levy.
“The government seeks to elicit from (a) witness that Mr. Guandique supposedly stated that he usually carried a knife with him, and that he enjoys raping, torturing and killing women,” one defense legal filing states.
On Guandique’s behalf, Hawilo and Sonenberg contend that none of this information has direct bearing on the Levy case and would only serve to “irreparably prejudice the jury.”