Chandra Levy Trial
After 9 years and Condit's fall, Levy trial begins
By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press Writer Matthew Barakat, Associated Press Writer – Sun Oct 17, 11:56 am ET
WASHINGTON – If one person is associated with the mysterious slaying of , it isn't the man who will soon be tried on charges he murdered her. It's former California congressman Gary Condit, whose political career imploded after he was romantically linked to the woman and became the No. 1 suspect.
, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, goes on trial Monday for Levy's 2001 killing. However, he's not even a blip on the national consciousness of the case, which dominated news coverage until the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks rendered it an afterthought.
While police no longer believe had anything to do with Levy's death, his presence will continue to hang over the trial. Condit's spokesman, Bert Fields, said Condit expects to be called as a witness at trial, though he has not been subpoenaed.
Fields said Condit will cooperate fully with authorities. But the ex-congressman, who is writing a book about his experience, will not comment on the trial until it ends.
Bill Miller, a spokesman for the prosecutors' office, declined comment on the case and whether Condit will be called as a witness, citing a issued earlier this month.
Defense attorneys are also subject to the gag order. But when Guandique was charged in 2009 with Levy's murder, they criticized what they saw as a botched investigation. Guandique escaped scrutiny in large part because of the frenzy around Condit. The former congressman never admitted an affair but said he was friends with Levy, though the intern had told family members the two had a romantic relationship.
"This flawed investigation, characterized by the many mistakes and missteps of the Metropolitan Police Department and every federal agency that has attempted to solve this case, will not end with the simple issuance of an arrest warrant against Mr. Guandique," said the attorneys, Santha Sonenberg and Maria Hawilo.
At a pretrial hearing Thursday, Sonenberg said police were so desperate to get a confession from Guandique to bolster their case that in 2004 and 2005, police tried to establish a phony penpal relationship with Guandique while he was in prison serving a 10-year sentence, using the pseudonym "Maria Lopez." The ruse did not work.
"It goes to the sort of antics, the sort of shenanigans, the lengths to which they've gone to prosecute Mr. Guandique," Sonenberg said.
Then-U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor has acknowledged the case lacked DNA or physical evidence linking Guandique to Levy. And Guandique never confessed to police — in fact, he passed a lie-detector test denying involvement in Levy's disappearance, though prosecutors now question the validity of that test.
But Taylor cited significant circumstantial evidence, including numerous confessions that Guandique purportedly made to other inmates. And was found in a wooded section of the city's Rock Creek Park, where Guandique was convicted of assaulting two other young women in 2001.
At a pretrial hearing last month, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines said Guandique has a "signature confession style." She said he has discussed killing Levy with many people, giving each person starkly different details.
Whether jurors believe those confessions will be key. The defense wants to present expert testimony from a university professor on the pitfalls of accounts from jailhouse snitches. However, prosecutors say jurors should be allowed to judge the credibility of witnesses for themselves. Superior Court Judge Gerald I. Fisher has indicated he will not allow the vast majority of the professor's proposed testimony.
As for Condit, exactly what role he will play in the trial is unclear. Defense attorneys could be tempted to remind jurors that police were suspicious of Condit for so long, said attorney George Jackson, a Chicago-based lawyer with the Polsinelli Shughart law firm and a former federal prosecutor.
Jackson said the defense will have to tread lightly because jurors will be put off if they sense attorneys are trying to make an innocent man into a scapegoat. And the government will surely be ready to counter suggestions that Condit was involved. But because Condit is so closely linked to the case in the public's eye, the defense has some leeway to approach the issue with subtlety.
"If it's feasible to suggest that this guy may have been involved, you put it out there" to help create reasonable doubt in a jury's mind, Jackson said. "But it's a dangerous thing to do because you don't know if there will be a backlash."
Condit factor looms at trial of Levy murder suspect
AP Photo - FILE - In this July 11, 2001, file photo, then-Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., leaves his Washington apartment. Condit's career imploded after he was romantically linked to Chandra Levy and became the main suspect of police in their high-profile investigation of her disappearance. Though he has not been subpoenaed, Condit
WASHINGTON – Former California congressman Gary Condit would draw an avid crowd at Chandra Levy's murder trial, but his testimonial weight is uncertain.
Several times since Levy's 2001 disappearance, Condit has gone under oath. Skeptical attorneys have come away frustrated as he has resisted queries he deems too personal, the very kind people most want answered.
"A lot of the time today has been wasted, and I believe that's due to (Condit's) extended unresponsive answers," attorney Paul LiCalsi declared at the end of a day-long deposition in September 2004.
Now, Condit could face his most intrusive questioning in years. This week, prosecutors identified him as one of about 50 individuals who might be summoned to testify, or whose name might pop up, in the trial of accused killer Ingmar Guandique.
No other individual associated with Condit's 30-year-long political career was named as a potential witness. So far, assistant U.S. attorneys Amanda Haines and Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez are mum about the timing and reasons for a potential Condit appearance — as well as its actual likelihood.
Mentioning his name is certainly a tactical call by prosecutors. One theory is that it recognizes Condit's outsized role in the long-running Chandra Levy narrative.
"Condit is like the big elephant in the room," Loyola University Law School professor, and former prosecutor, Laurie Levenson said Tuesday. "If I were the prosecution, I would want to dispel any idea that he might be the killer."
At the least, Levenson added, adding Condit to the potential witness list keeps prosecutors' trial options open.
Former U.S. Attorney Kenneth Wainstein noted Tuesday that "it's the attorneys' obligation to make sure that any names that might come up in a trial" are mentioned to potential jurors.
LiCalsi offered yet another theory, suggesting prosecutors might be floating Condit's name as "a fake to get the defense to waste precious preparation time."
Still, Los Angeles attorney Bert Fields, who said he has "advised Mr. Condit from time to time over a period of years," said he expects the former San Joaquin Valley lawmaker to be called as a witness.
"(If called), he will testify and cooperate fully, as he has from the beginning," Fields said in an e-mail.
Fields is at least the eighth attorney to assist Condit or his wife in various matters since 2001; all related, one way or another, to Levy's disappearance and its aftermath.
The 24-year-old Levy disappeared May 1, 2001. Prosecutors charge Guandique with killing the former Modesto resident during an attempted sexual assault in Washington's Rock Creek Park.
Jury selection began Monday in Guandique's trial.
Levy's 2001 disappearance led to revelations about her relationship with Condit. He subsequently lost his House seat, and filed a number of defamation lawsuits against tabloid newspapers and others. Twice, he was placed under oath for depositions that did not always prove fruitful.
"He was instructed by his attorney not to answer virtually every question, based on the Fifth Amendment," Denver-based attorney Thomas B. Kelley recalled Tuesday, adding that "it's uncommon to have a (former) congressman take the Fifth, but that was the advice of his counsel."
Kelley was representing the National Enquirer, sued by Condit's wife Carolyn. The $10 million lawsuit was settled out of court in 2003.
The next year, Condit submitted to a deposition as part of a defamation suit filed against the late author Dominick Dunne. Condit declined during the deposition to offer specifics about his ties to Levy, besides saying "it wasn't a romantic relationship."
"I think romantic is a very non-descriptive term," Condit added. "Some people think some things are romantic, some people think they're not romantic. But I saw no romance in our friendship."
LiCalsi called Condit "one of the worst witnesses I've ever seen," and a judge subsequently ordered Condit to answer intimately detailed questions. Several hours before that second deposition was to take place, Condit and Dunne settled their case.
Separately, Condit was summoned to appear at least once before a federal grand jury. The details of his degree of cooperation remain officially secret.
Jury selection continues in Levy case
By Washington Post editors | October 19, 2010
Attorneys in the Chandra Levy case spent Tuesday in D.C. Superior Court reviewing the 11-page questionnaires that had been handed to prospective jurors in preparation for the trial of Ingmar Guandique, the man charged with killing Levy.
Prosecutors and Guandique’s defense attorneys handed out the lengthy, 55-question survey to the 112 District residents who make up the jury panel. Judge Gerald I. Fisher told the prospective jurors Monday that he expects the trial to last up to five weeks.
Both sides are expected to take several days to winnow the panel down to a jury of 16. There will be 12 jurors and four alternates.
On Wednesday, the attorneys will begin asking each of the prospective jurors individual questions based on the questionnaires. The questions include whether the juror has heard about the Levy case and has already formed an opinion. The questionnaire also asked prospective jurors' opinions about gangs, gang participation, Latinos and Hispanics,and tattoos.
Guandique, 29, is an illegal immigrant from El Salvador. Last year, he was charged with six counts, including first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual abuse in connection with Levy’s murder case. The former federal intern went missing in May 2001. The 24-year-old’s skeletal remains were found a year later in Rock Creek Park.
She was a 24-four-year-old intern for the federal Bureau of Prisons and graduate student at the University of Southern California when she vanished on May 1, 2001, after leaving her Dupont Circle apartment. She had been dating a married member of Congress, Gary Condit, who was 52 at the time. Levy’s skeletal remains were found by a hiker in Rock Creek Park a year later.
Police, prosecutors and the press suspected that Condit might have had something to do with Levy’s disappearance. The congressman maintained his innocence and later lost his congressional seat. He was never connected to the murder and is now living in Arizona.
An illegal immigrant from El Salvador, Guandique was attacking women at knifepoint in Rock Creek Park around the time of Levy’s disappearance. He is currently serving a 10-year-sentence for those attacks and goes on trial in the Levy murder case on Oct. 18 in D.C. Superior Court.
She was a Washington-based writer when Guandique attacked her on a trail above Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park on May 14, 2001—two weeks after Chandra disappeared. She fought him off and escaped.
She was a recent law school graduate working for a Washington firm when Guandique attacked her on a jogging path along Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park on July 1, 2001. She, too, fought him off, and he was arrested later that night.
She was a law school student when she says a man fitting Guandigue’s description chased her near the Peirce Mill in Rock Creek Park on May 1, 2001, the day Chandra disappeared. Fitzgerald was not assaulted and did not report the incident to police for two years.
The jailhouse witnesses
Detectives have interviewed several inmates who claim that Guandique confessed to murdering Levy. While the inmates details vary -- sometimes wildly -- the central claim, that Guandique had allegedly murdered a woman in a park, remain the same. One of the inmates claims Guandique tied him up and raped him in prison and then told the inmate he did the same thing to Levy.
As the lead prosecutor, Haines is a veteran D.C. homicide prosecutor who now specializes in cold cases. She has handled several high-profile cases, including the murders of Shaquita Bell and New York Times reporter David Rosenbaum. In 2009, additional security was called to the courtroom after she received death threats during her prosecution of two drug dealers and convicted murderers.
A veteran prosecutor, Campoamor has worked on numerous cases involving violent gangs. They include Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, the gang Guandique joined while in prison. A native of Puerto Rico, Campoamor is expected to be the lead attorney during the questioning of Hispanic witnesses in the case.
The lead attorney on Guandique's defense team, Sonenberg is considered one of the top lawyers for the District's Public Defender Service. She is a veteran trial attorney who specializes in difficult homicide cases and is seen as a vigilant fighter for her clients. She speaks fluent Spanish.
A fluent Spanish speaker, Hawilo is considered by her colleagues in the Public Defender’s Office to be a thorough and meticulous defense attorney. She is relatively new to the office and began practicing law in the District about six years ago.
Judge Gerald I. Fisher
Fisher began his legal career more than 30 years ago and worked as a high-profile criminal defense lawyer and civil litigator before being named to the Superior Court bench by President Clinton in 2001. A native of Newport News, Va., he has served in the criminal and civil divisions of the courthouse and in the domestic violence unit. Full bio »
Detective Anthony Brigidini
Lead detective in the Levy case. Joined the D.C. police department in 1989. Joined the homicide unit in 1992. In 1994, worked on the case involving the shooting deaths of two FBI agents and a homicide sergeant inside D.C. police headquarters. In 2005, Brigidini joined the cold case unit and teamed with Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines and Detective Kenneth "Todd" Williams on cold cases including Shaquita Bell and Levy.
Detective Kenneth "Todd" Williams
Lead detective in the Levy case. Joined D.C. police department in 1989 and then joined the department's vice unit, where he specialized in drugs and guns. Williams joined the homicide unit in 1993. In 2005, he collaborated with the FBI on gang investigations. Teams with Haines and Brigidini on major cold cases.
Detective Emilio Martinez
Helped translate letters allegedly written by Guandique and helped translate meetings between the officers and Guandique. Martinez spent much of his career with the D.C. police in the intelligence unit working on identifying and infiltrating violent Hispanic gangs.
Jury set for Levy murder trial; one man gets heat over tweet
By Keith L. Alexander and Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 22, 2010; 10:40 PM
Twelve women and four men were chosen to decide whether police and prosecutors have charged the right man in the slaying of Chandra Levy.
On Friday, attorneys finalized the panel, clearing the way for opening statements Monday.
It took the attorneys about 45 minutes to pick the 12 jurors and four alternates from a pool of 40 prospective panelists. The ethnic makeup of the jury appears to be six African Americans, one Asian American and nine whites.
Ingmar Guandique, 29, is charged with six counts, including first-degree murder, in the slaying of the 24-year-old intern in 2001.
He sat next to his defense attorneys, Santha Sonenberg and Maria Hawilo, as they, along with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amanda Haines and Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez, chose jurors they wanted and dismissed others.
They based their choices on the questions each juror answered earlier in the week.
Levy's disappearance gripped the region and the country, especially after the federal government intern's affair with then-Rep. Gary A. Condit became public.
Friday's jury selection got off to a difficult start.
Before the prospective jurors were admitted into Courtroom 320, Sonenberg told Judge Gerald Fisher that one of those in the jury pool had sent a message via Twitter earlier in the week after being interviewed by the attorneys.
Sonenberg said the juror, who later was identified as Juror No. 269, wrote in his tweet: "Guilty. Guilty. I say no. I will not be swayed. Practicing for jury duty."
Sonenberg asked that the juror be questioned by the judge. The conversation was inaudible to those in the courtroom.
After a 10-minute conversation, Fisher allowed the juror to return to the group, but the juror was not chosen as part of the final 16.
When the jurors were selected, Fisher told them that they were not to discuss the case with anyone - and that included via Twitter and other social-networking tools.
Photos of crime victims, such as Chandra Levy, can become numbingly familiar
By Robin Givhan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 24, 2010
The trial of the man accused of killing former Washington intern Chandra Levy has begun, returning her story to the spotlight. With that reentry comes the familiar photograph of her: the mass of long, dark curls, head tilted to the side, a hint of a smile. Over the course of a decade, that picture has become so recognizable that it now leaves one numb.
As in so many cases of missing persons, a singular photograph stands in for the complexity of their personality -- their sense of humor, tangled relationships, particular intelligence. Usually the photo is chosen quickly and with little thought by loved ones who almost certainly are in a state of fraught emotion. They grab for what's handy -- anything that will give police and all those eager volunteers combing the streets and the woods a clear depiction of the victim's hair and eyes.
They're not thinking of how important that single image will become -- how, as the story unfolds, the photo will be studied and dissected. It will be judged, perhaps even derided. JonBenet Ramsey will forever be the smiling pageant child. That image was parsed ad nauseam in an attempt to measure the parenting skills, and the level of love and devotion, of John and Patsy Ramsey. The photo served as an indictment of the kiddie pageant community. It sparked conversations about overly sexualized children.
Laci Peterson was the pregnant woman in her little cocktail pantsuit. All that most anyone can remember about her is that she was expecting a baby. But who was she, really? Would we remember more about her if only her smiling face -- not her round belly -- had been seared into our memory?
The photograph that defines Levy is often cropped into a head shot, one in which her hair not only fills the frame but explodes outside its boundaries. When the photograph is shown in its entirety, it reveals her sitting casually atop a photo studio dropcloth. She's leaning on one arm and wearing a ribbed ivory tank top and a pair of jeans.
Over the years, while the case was still under investigation, the photograph telegraphed a number of different messages about Levy, depending on the prevailing story line. When the tale focused on her personal life and her affair with her hometown congressman, Gary Condit, the image took on the look of a glamour shot with the emphasis on her body language, her bare arms and a smile that suddenly seemed sly.
But when the narrative shifted and she became a young girl who was in Rock Creek Park at the wrong time, the cropped version of the picture seemed to be the better representation of the woman now stuck in the public consciousness. That subtle tilt of the head now called to mind the posture of the traditional class photograph or something straight out of a Sears portrait studio. The smile turned demure.
During the course of a police investigation that took so many turns, the public's understanding of Levy was constantly shifting. That photograph seemed alive, almost as if it were changing week to week, day to day, every time a new detail emerged. The image was rich with meaning. And it was important for us to look at it because it told us something. Or, at least, it kept us wondering.
But now the story of Levy's death at age 24 has a nearly complete narrative. The prosecution and the defense will argue over which story is true, whether the police have found the guilty man.
The defendant, Ingmar Guandique, and his attorneys are trying to manipulate and control the image that will become cemented in the public's mind. The man who was first paraded before the cameras was a prison inmate wearing an orange jumpsuit and a scowl. Now he is the gentleman who introduces himself to prospective jurors in a soft voice: "Me llamo Ingmar Guandique."
On that day he wore a sport coat and a yellow turtleneck with a collar high enough to cover a tattoo bearing the name of the gang to which it's alleged he belongs. If ever clothes were put into the service of swaying public opinion, the courtroom is the one place where most folks strive for a look that is reserved, conventional and wholly unremarkable. If the defendant wants his clothes to convey anything, it is to remind those citizens who sit in judgment that he isn't that different from them.
The picture of Levy, however, has gone silent. It has turned her into a ghost. There's no time stamp visible on the family photograph, but it doesn't need one. All one has to do is look at the jeans. They are high-waisted and light blue -- relics of a time that predates today's fashion of low-riding silhouettes and expensively manipulated indigo. Her hair has the kind of untamed volume mostly seen on those who've yet to feel the pressures of an aesthetically constrained professional environment. Levy is forever "the intern."
Her picture has sadly become part of the popular culture wallpaper. The young woman from Modesto, Calif., has been tragically reduced to an unremarkable snapshot -- the answer to a dehumanizing trivia question.
One wishes that a new photograph would emerge, one that the public has never seen, one with different hair, perhaps with a more serious expression, or one of her laughing. Another image would force the public gaze to linger. People would be forced to pause and ask: Who is that?
We may never know the answer to that question. But at least having a continued sense of curiosity is better than feeling nothing at all.
Police errors expected to figure prominently in Levy trial
By Keith L. Alexander and Scott Higham
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, October 25, 2010
Cold cases are often the most difficult for prosecutors to win. The nine-year-old case of who killed Chandra Levy provides an even more daunting challenge because of errors made by police early in the investigation, observers and lawyers on both sides say.
After a week of jury selection in the high-profile case, opening statements are scheduled to begin Monday. Prosecutors and attorneys for Ingmar Guandique, the man accused of killing Levy, will lay out their theories.
A court-imposed gag order prevents the lawyers from talking about the case. But both sides' strategies have become known over the course of pretrial hearings and court filings, and it's clear that those early law enforcement mistakes will play a prominent role as the trial unfolds in D.C. Superior Court.
Those errors have left prosecutors with virtually no forensic or physical evidence against Guandique, an undocumented immigrant and gang member from El Salvador.
Police failed to secure security camera footage from Levy's apartment building in the days after the 24-year-old former federal intern disappeared May 1, 2001.
Detectives initially focused on one suspect, Levy's married lover and congressman, Gary A. Condit (D-Calif.), for two months and failed to broaden their investigation.
Police also failed to notice that Guandique was attacking female joggers in Rock Creek Park about the time Levy disappeared. And although police searched for Levy's body in the park in the weeks after she disappeared, her remains weren't discovered until a year later, after valuable evidence was gone.
As a result, there's no DNA, no eyewitnesses, no murder weapon.
The lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines, said those mistakes continue to plague the case. During a recent pretrial hearing, she told Judge Gerald I. Fisher that she expects Guandique's defense lawyers to call the initial police investigation "shoddy."
"Clearly, the defense is going to prove that over and over," Haines said.
Guandique, 29, was charged last year with six counts, including first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual abuse, in connection with Levy's slaying.
Despite any early errors, prosecutors think they have a winning case, largely because of Guandique's former cellmates. Prosecutors said Guandique, who was serving a 10-year sentence in a California prison for assaulting two female joggers in Rock Creek Park in 2001, told cellmates that he raped and killed Levy.
Authorities said they found a magazine picture of Levy in his cell.
David Schertler, a defense lawyer and former head of the homicide unit of the District's U.S. attorney's office, said prosecutors have to convince the jury that this investigation is different from the original - with different detectives and investigators who uncovered new leads and put together a solid criminal case.
But prosecutors have to overcome more than the police errors. In 2002, before he was sentenced for attacking the two women in Rock Creek Park, Guandique took a polygraph test. He said "no" when asked whether he knew anything about Levy's disappearance. The examiner who administered the test said Guandique was not being deceptive.
Although the results of the lie-detector test will not be admitted at trial, what happened next could be. During a hearing after the polygraph, the lead prosecutor on Guandique's assault case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristina Ament, told Judge Noel Anketell Kramer that there was "no suggestion" that Guandique was involved in the Levy case.
Kramer, now on the D.C. Court of Appeals, agreed. "I never for a moment thought . . . he had anything to do with Chandra Levy."
Still, prosecutors have powerful witnesses: the two women he was convicted of attacking in the park.
Both are listed as potential trial witnesses and might testify about how Guandique, on separate occasions, knocked them to the ground as they were jogging in the park and and how they tried to escape.
Prosecutors fought to have Guandique's past acts admitted at trial, saying they prove a pattern. Such acts are often prosecutors' best evidence. But Guandique's attorneys said there was no connection between the two women whom Guandique admitted assaulting in the park and Levy's slaying. But Fisher is allowing the testimony.
"It strikes me as a stretch and a very dangerous stretch to make," said Hamilton Fox, a Washington area defense lawyer.
Observers said they expect new details to emerge during the month-long trial. In earlier hearings, defense attorneys Santha Sonenberg and Maria Hawilo have suggested several scenarios that run counter to the prosecution's theory of what happened.
For example, the defense lawyers aren't convinced that Levy was killed in the park and suggest that her body might have been dumped there. They also don't think she was alone May 1, 2001, when she left her Dupont Circle apartment and disappeared.
Prosecutors have said that Condit, now 62, may take the witness stand and provide his first public statements about the extent of his relationship with Levy. He has hired a California lawyer.
Throughout the trial, observers expect a battle between prosecutors and the defense. At a recent bench conference, Fisher scolded both sides for waiting until days before the trial to file 30- and 40-page motions requesting records and subpoenas for additional witnesses.
Fisher called the lawyers' actions a "waste of time" and said the filings were submitted to "maintain each side's tactical advantage."
"This full-time effort to show that you can be tougher than the other side and file more than the other side is going to end."
Testimony begins in Levy case
By Washington Post editors | October 25, 2010
Update, 1:10 p.m.:
Opening statements are complete and testimony has begun.
One of the women attacked by Ingmar Guandique in Rock Creek Park in 2001 took the witness stand Monday afternoon to recount her harrowing encounter with the man on trial and charged with murder in the death of Chandra Levy.
Halle Shilling, who now lives in Southern California, struggled at first to remain composed on the stand as Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines began questioning her.
With the courtroom silent, Shilling walked the jury through the beginning of her jog from near Pierce Mill, explaining how she noticed a man watching her as she set off on a secluded trail.
"He was creepy," she said. "He was watching me. His head tracked me as I ran by."
But then she forgot about him. When what she thought was another runner turned up behind her, she became self-conscious about her pace and finally decided to let him pass.
But when she slowed down, she was set upon.
"I felt an incredible thud as he jumped onto my back," she said. "I tried to turn around. I screamed 'No.' I screamed 'No,' over and over again."
Asked by Haines how loud she screamed, Shilling said, "I screamed as loud as I knew how to scream."
When she was finally able to turn around, she saw a face she immediately recognized.
"It was the man who had been sitting on the curb," she said. "I saw the face, I saw the hair."
It dawned on her how in danger she was, she said. She was in a remote part of the park, shrouded behind full trees, and the sounds of the creek and passing traffic drowned out her cries.
"At that point, I realized that I was in a very remote part of the park," she said. "I knew that no one could hear, no one could hear me."
So she fought.
She was 30 at the time. Se is 5-foot-10 and about 160 pounds. She was taller and heavier than her assailant. But he was stronger, she said.
"I was fighting him off of me," she said. As they struggled, Guandique tried to quiet her, she said. "He was saying 'shhh' over and over again."
And then, she said, she saw a knife -- silver with a black handle, four or five inches long. "When I saw the knife I fought harder, because I was, I was scared."
In an instant, they fell to the ground. After a moment of panic, lessons from a long-ago self defense class came rushing back, she said. Her feet, clad in soft running shoes, were not ideal weapons. So she opted for another tactic. "I shoved my hand into his mouth and I clenched my hand and scratched and squeezed as hard as I could."
Guandique bit her hard, she said. "It broke the skin, but it didn't matter. I didn't feel anything."
Then it stopped, she said. "He froze," she said. And then he ran.
It had all lasted a minute or two, she said.
She ran in the other direction and soon encountered two other joggers, who took her to the police.
After a brief cross-examination by the defense, which raised the issue the amount of time since the attack, prosecutor Haines asked if she had any difficulty recalling the events of almost a decade ago.
"No," she said, starting to cry, "I don't."
Guandique was convicted of the attack on Shilling.
Opening statements in the trial of the man accused of killing Chandra Levy nearly a decade ago in Rock Creek Park began Monday morning in D.C. Superior Court.
With the jury of 12 women and four men listening, in a courtroom packed to capacity, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines wasted no time in linking defendant Ingmar Guandique to other Rock Creek Park attacks and those attacks to to the May 1, 2001, disappearance of Levy who prosecutors say ventured into the park never to be heard from again.
"Who is the face in the shadows? Who is following her," Haines said. "This man, Ingmar Guandique."
Maria Hawilo, one of Guandique's defense attorneys, attacked the government's case in the defense's opening statement, saying it is built on assumptions about his past and the word of informants in search of deals.
Hawilo said Guandique is not guilty.
"Nothing that happens during this trial will prove that he is," Hawilo said in a statement that was pointed and brief.
Evidence of the other attacks is expected to be central to the government's case and Haines said the jury would hear from the other victims.
Halle Shilling, who was attacked in the park two weeks after Levy disappeared, is to testify today, Haines said, and will recall her harrowing attack.
"She screamed as loud as she could, 'help me, somebody please help me, " Haines told the jury.
Hawilo said Levy's death was tragic, but that Guandique had nothing to do with it.
"He did not rob her. He did not rape her. He did not kill her. "
"What you have just heard is the government's theory, but it's just that - a theory."
As expected, Hawilo gave a brief catalog of the police errors that plagued the investigation into Levy's death, among them the failure to enlist cadaver dogs in the search for Levy's body.
"Ladies and gentlemen, after all the missteps, after all the mistakes, they want to say they have the right man," Hawilo said.
"They can't fix the failures, they can't undo their mistakes
More than once in her opening statement, she referred to the lack of physical evidence linking Guandique and more than once she assailed the credibility of the jailhouse informants who are expected to testify for the government.
Hawilo acknowledged Guandique's other crimes, but said the jury not assume that that makes him guilty in Levy's death.
-- Henri Cauvin
(This post has been updated.)
More testimony in Chandra Levy case
October 25, 2010
A Northwest Washington woman took the stand this afternoon in the trial of Ingmar Guandique to testify about an encounter she says she had with a man resembling Guandique in the spring of 2001 in Rock Creek Park, around the time that Chandra Levy disappeared.
Amber Fitzgerald, 38, who has lived in Northwest Washington since 1998, was living in Adams Morgan in 2001 and was a regular visitor to Rock Creek Park, where she would walk and jog.
Fitzgerald was the second woman to testify Monday about being attacked in Rock Creek Park.
Looking shaken and often dabbing her eyes with a white tissue, Fitzgerald testified about setting out one afternoon for the park in the spring of 2001. About a half hour later, she was startled when a man emerged out of the woods.
Something wasn't right, she said, and as the man, who was about 20 feet ahead of her, took one trail, she opted to take another.
"I decided I wanted to avoid him," she said.
Moments later, she sensed someone behind her, she said, and when she turned, the man was just 10 feet behind her. "To me it looked like he was trying to sneak up on me."
The man stopped and Fitzgerald decided she was in trouble and had to get out of there. "This is not right," she said she thought to herself.
So she ran. "I was trying not to fall, but I was trying to run as fast as I could."
But she didn't report it to police, thinking the encounter wouldn't merit any follow up.
A year later, in 2002, she was in Prague, studying, when someone showed her newspaper with a photo of a man who was a suspect in the Levy case. "I was in shock because it looked like the same person who had followed me in the park."
But she wasn't sure it was him and she was, she would later testify, reluctant to get involved.
Then the following year, in 2003, she saw a television program about the case, and she realized she had to say something.
"At that point," she said, dabbing her eyes with a tissue, "I decided I had to go to the police. It was weighing on my conscience.
Even today, the woman cannot say on what date the encounter occurred. Using her calendar, she's been able to narrow it to several possible dates in April and May 2001.
On cross examination, one of Guandique's attorneys, Maria Hawilo, sought to raise doubts about the woman's recollection of events.
Hawilo noted that even the possible dates offered by the woman had only emerged in recent years as the police worked with her to piece together a time line.
And Hawilo drew Fitzgerald out on the point that that she was by her own account not 100 percent sure the man she saw in the newspaper was the same man she had encountered in the park.
-- Henri Cauvin
Second attacked jogger expected to testify in Levy death trial
By Keith L. Alexander | October 26, 2010
In the second day of testimony in the Chandra Levy murder trial Tuesday, prosecutors are expected to call the second female jogger that Ingmar Guandique admitted to attacking in Rock Creek Park around the same time Levy disappeared.
Christy Wiegand could take take the witness stand in D.C. Superior Court Tuesday to testify how Guandique attacked her on July 1, 2001.
In 2002, Guandique was sentenced to 10 years in prison for attacking Wiegand and Halle Shilling on two separate occasions during the spring and summer of 2001. Schilling tearfully testified Monday.
Prosecutors say Guandique attacked Levy, 24, on May 1, 2001, when she disappeared. They also said the attacks on Wiegand and Shilling were part of a pattern of attacks on women in the park. Levy's remains were found a year later in the park.
Levy's disappearance gripped the region and the country, especially after the Bureau of Prisons intern's affair with then-Rep. Gary A. Condit (D-Calif.) became public. Condit is also listed as a possible witness in the trial.
-- Keith L. Alexander
Day 2 in Chandra Levy case
By Washington Post editors | October 26, 2010
Testimony is under way on the second day of the Chandra Levy trial.
Tuesday morning, another of the women who was attacked by Ingmar Guandique in 2001 in Rock Creek Park took the witness stand in D.C.
Superior Court to recount her struggle to escape Guandique's clutches after he set upon her on a deserted jogging trail a couple of months after Levy's disappearance.
Christy Wiegand, 35, a lawyer who now lives in Pittsburgh, was living on Connecticut Avenue nearly a decade ago when she and her then-fiance set out on an early evening run in the park.
Guandique, who was convicted of attacking Wiegand and another woman in 2001 is now charged with killing Levy that same year. Prosecutors are using evidence of those two attacks in the murder case against Guandique.
After hearing from the first victim on Monday, on the opening day of testimony, Wiegand was the government's first witness Tuesday. She spoke in a clear, firm voice as she answered questions from Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines, the lead prosecutor.
Wiegand said she was about 20 minutes into her run when she noticed Guandique near a picnic grove. About 20 minutes later, she turned around to see the same man jogging behind her.
She turned off her music.
"I guess I felt uneasy," she said.
She continued jogging, ascending a steep hill that left her winded.
"As I was reaching the top of the hill, I heard a couple of rapid footsteps," she said. She turned, and in an instant, Guandique had bear-hugged her and pulled a knife on her.
"He held the knife up to my right cheek and his left hand covered my mouth so I couldn't scream," she said.
Still, she tried.
"I was screaming as much as I could, against his hand... I was trying to scream 'No' and 'Help' so that someone might hear me and help me."
In the struggle, they began sliding down a steep embankment, she said. It was then that she thought perhaps she could trick her attacker: "What if I just stopped struggling for a second?"
So she did, and for a moment, Guandique let up and telling her, "Shhhh, shhhh, be quiet."
Instead, she renewed her fight, this time seizing the element of surprise.
"I was going to struggle until I died," said Wiegand, who said she was an active, athletic woman, who, as she did then, stands just almost 6 feet tall and weighs 170 pounds.
Another 20 or 30 seconds passed, she said, and then Guandique pulled the knife away and fled
Wiegand flagged down a passing motorist, who took her to the Park Police. Officers put out a lookout for her assailant and a short time later, Guandique was picked up and identified by Wiegand as the man who attacked her.
-- Henri Cauvin
Condit's name emerges at Levy trial
By Washington Post editors | October 26, 2010
A D.C. police sergeant who oversaw the first weeks of the Chandra Levy investigation in 2001 testified Tuesday that he thought that the probe was becoming too focused on Gary Condit, the married California congressman who had been dating Levy and became the prime suspect in the 24-year-old intern's disappearance.
Last year, another man, Ingmar Guadique, was charged in connection with Levy's death and is now on trial in D.C. Superior Court, accused of murder, kidnapping and other offenses.
The early investigation into Levy's disappearance was plagued by missteps and the testimony early Tuesday afternoon -- the first by a D.C. police official in the trial -- offered a window into some of the media frenzy that played out in the capital nearly a decade ago.
Taking the stand this afternoon, Detective Sgt. Ronald Wyatt, a 24-year veteran of the D.C. police, said that in a meeting with the department's top commanders, he told them he and his detectives needed room to conduct the investigation without constant interference from the department brass.
"What you can do is leave me and my people alone and let us investigate the case," Wyatt said he told his bosses in the meeting, which took place about a month into the case.
The commanders took a different approach, Wyatt said.
"I was immediately removed from the case," he said.
Prosecutors already have acknowledged police missteps and Wyatt's answers to prosecutors may have helped solidify for the jury that authorities are not hiding from those mistakes.
Earlier in his testimony, Wyatt recounted his first visit to Levy's apartment and provided his account of some of the early miscues in the case.
Wyatt said it was he who powered down Levy's laptop computer, after briefly checking her Internet history, only to have the machine come up dead the next day when investigators returned with a search warrant and wanted to examine the machine more closely.
"The operating system was obliterated. . . ," he said. The laptop powered up, but nothing was there.
It would be many weeks before investigators were able to access Levy's files, including ones that pointed to an excursion to Rock Creek Park, where Levy's body was later found.
Wyatt said that by the time his detectives asked for copies of the video surveillance tapes from Levy's apartment building, the tapes had already been recycled.
On cross-examination by one of Guandique's attorneys, Santha Sonenberg of the D.C. Public Defender Service, Wyatt also spoke of his meeting with Condit.
"He was a bit arrogant and not forthright," Wyatt said of the now-former congressman.
Wyatt said that Condit told investigators that his relationship with Levy was superficial and denied that it was intimate, assertions that would later emerge as untrue.
Levy's father takes the stand
By Washington Post editors | October 26, 2010
Chandra Levy's father took the stand this afternoon in D.C. Superior Court in the trial of the man charged with killing his daughter nearly a decade ago.
Robert Levy, 64, spoke softly and betrayed more than a bit of melancholy as Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines asked him about his late daughter and her final days.
Dressed in a blue blazer, green shirt and gray slacks, Levy spoke as his wife and Chandra's mother, Susan Levy, watched from the courtroom gallery on the second day of testimony in the trial before Judge Gerald I. Fisher.
Do you remember the last time you saw her, Haines asked.
"April 14, 2001," he said.
What was the occasion?
"It was her birthday."
The last time he talked to her, he said, was about a week later, on April 21.
Chandra Levy, who had been in Washington for an internship at the Bureau of Prisons, was supposed to be returning to California for graduation from her master's degree program at the University of Southern California.
Her parents wanted to know what her travel plans were. But they never could reach her again. They tried a dozen times or more, Levy said.
Eventually, the voice mail box on her phone stopped accepting messages, he said.
"Finally, we called the police, because we were worried about her," Levy testified.
Looking over her cell phone bill, they found an unfamiliar number that their daughter had called repeatedly. It was the office of Rep. Gary Condit and when they called him, he called them back the following Monday.
A few minutes later, Haines picked up a poster and brought it over to Levy.
Who is that, Haines asked Robert Levy.
She was 20 or 21 at the time of the photo, Levy said. She was clutching a bunch of flowers.
Haines turned and showed the photo to the jury.
Ingmar Guandique, 29, is on trial in Levy's slaying.
-- Henri Cauvin
Levy trial testimony on home, accounts
By Washington Post Editors | October 26, 2010
After hearing the stoic testimony of Chandra Levy's father early Tuesday afternoon, the jury in the trial of the man accused of killing the 24-year-old federal intern in 2001 heard some of the more prosaic elements of the government's case against Ingmar Guandique.
No physical evidence ties Guandique to Levy's slaying, and prosecutors are trying to close the door on alternative theories of how, when and where she might have been killed.
So it was that Diane Mathis, an employee of the bank where Levy had her checking account, USAAA Federal Savings Bank, was called to testify that Levy's account showed no other activity, aside from automatic debits, after April 30, the day before she disappeared.
After Mathis's testimony, D.C. police officer Charles Egan, a specialist in evidence collection, described in detail his May 10, 2001, examination of Levy's apartment. Lead prosecutor Amanda Haines presented a diagram Egan had drawn of the apartment and photographs he had taken of its interior.
Egan testified that investigators found jewelry and credit cards, as well as Levy's Sony laptop and Samsung phone -- indications, perhaps, that Levy had not gone very far or planned to do very much while she away. Egan said they did not find a house key.
The trial, before Judge Gerald I. Fisher, is scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
|Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)|