Judge dismisses case against Chandra Levy suspect – USA TODAY
WASHINGTON â A judge dismissed the indictmentÂ Thursday againstÂ the man charged with killingÂ intern Chandra Levy, after prosecutors asked to drop theÂ case that drewÂ national interestÂ and embroiled a lawmaker in scandal.
Ingmar Guandique, who lived in Washington, was found guilty in 2010 of killing Levy, who disappeared in 2001. Guandique, who has protested his innocence from the start,Â was granted a new trial last year based on questions about the credibility of a jailhouse informant.Â Prosecutors now say he will be deported.
Superior Court Judge Robert Morin ordered the case dismissed, based on the request from U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips.
“Mr. Guandique has maintained since the beginning, when he passed an FBI administered lie detector test, that he did not kill Ms. Levy.Â This dismissal vindicates Mr. Guandique,” Lauren Hankins, general counsel for the public defenderÂ service that represented him, said in a statement. “Finally, the government has had to concede the flaws in its ill-gotten conviction.”
The disappearance of Levy, 24, of Modesto, Calif., while she worked asÂ an intern at the federal Bureau of Prisons,Â made headlines after she was linked romantically to then-Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif. Condit was later ruled out as a suspect.
A man walking his dog found Levyâs remains in Rock Creek Park in 2002. Police said she used to runÂ through the park.
Prosecutors argued in an earlier trial that Levy’s death fit a pattern of attacksÂ Guandique committed on female runners. When he was charged, he already was in prison for attacks that occurred around the same time.
The illegal immigrant fromÂ El SalvadorÂ was convicted of first-degree murder in 2010 and sentenced toÂ 60 years in prison, despite protesting hisÂ innocence. Guandique’s lawyers pursued a retrial for the past two years, citingÂ new evidence that a former cellmate and key witness, Fresno gang memberÂ Armando Morales, lied during the initial trial.
A new trial was scheduled for Oct. 16. But Phillips filed a motion Thursday asking Morin to dismiss the indictmentÂ based on new information received by the government within the last week. Those new details weren’t providedÂ in theÂ filing.
âAfter investigating this information and reviewing all of the evidence in the case, the government now believes it is in the interests of justice for the court to dismiss the case without prejudice,â Phillips said in the filing.
Prosecutors determined they could no longer prove the murder case against Guandique beyond a reasonable doubt, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement.Â One of Guandique’s public defenders didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Guandique’s request for a new trial focused on Morales, whoÂ testified at trial that Guandique confided in him that he was responsible for Levy’s death. Because there was no physical evidence linking Guandique to Levy’s death, Morales provided some of the trial’s most powerful testimony.
However, Guandique’s attorneys suggested in a court filing thatÂ Morales lied several times at trial, including testifying he had not asked for anything in exchange whenÂ he had asked to be put in a witness protection program, the lawyers said.
“In 2010 the trial prosecutors convinced a jury to convict by deliberately hiding evidence that would have exposed the false testimony of their star witness,” said Hankins of the public defenderÂ service.Â “It is now clear that the jailhouse informant, who was central to the governmentâs case, was a perjurer who too easily manipulated the prosecutors.”
Defense lawyers only learned of the informant’s identity “just before trial” and it took years of investigation to uncover the extentÂ of flaws in the caseÂ âÂ and to force the government to reexamine its own case, she said.
“Justice would have been better and more timely served had the government provided open file discovery to the defense before the trial and if the government had fully investigated its own witnesses,” Hankins said.
Guandique has been incarcerated while awaiting retrial. Prosecutors said after the judge’s dismissalÂ Guandique would be released to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.