New Information Disclosed in Chandra Levy Case
The morning that slain government intern Chandra Levy disappeared, a 911 call was placed from her apartment building reporting a "blood-curdling" scream. According to a lawyer for Ingmar Guandique, the man convicted in 2010 of killing the 24-year-old Levy, that recording was never turned over to defense lawyers before trial.
The issue surrounding the 911 call was one of several new pieces of information revealed today in court after months of sealed proceedings. After Levy went missing in May 2001, news outlets reported on a 911 call made by a resident in Levy's building; Guandique's lawyers couldn’t immediately be reached after the hearing to confirm whether they were referring to that call. The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment.
After nearly two hours of non-public discussions at the bench among District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher, prosecutors, and defense lawyers, Fisher for the first time identified Armando Morales, a former cellmate of Guandique, as the prosecution trial witness who had been the subject of recent sealed proceedings. Fisher said that prosecutors came to him in November about evidence that might impeach Morales, who testified at trial that Guandique told him he killed Levy.
Fisher said that Guandique's lawyers believed the impeaching evidence about Morales' testimony was "substantial" and merited a new trial. The judge said other details about Morales would remain under seal, citing ongoing security issues.
Guandique's attorney Jonathan Anderson of the Public Defender Service then brought up the 911 call, asking that the government turn over recordings of the call and the police response to the call.
It wasn't clear if there was a connection between the information about Morales' testimony and the 911 call. In redacted transcripts of a December sealed hearing made publicly available in February, one of Guandique's lawyers was quoted comparing an issue in the case to the controversy surrounding the prosecution of Ted Stevens, the late Alaska senator. In that case, a special prosecutor found that prosecutors concealed evidence. But the transcript didn't specify what Guandique's lawyers were discussing.
Lawyers from the U.S. attorney's office did not make public statements during the hearing.
Today's hearing was the latest in a series of mostly nonpublic proceedings in the case. Most filings since the fall have been made under seal. Fisher said that information not disclosed at today's hearing would remain under seal for at least another 30 days to give the government time to address "safety and other concerns." He did say that there were no allegations that the safety issues directly or indirectly involved Guandique.
Patrick Carome, a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr representing media organizations, repeatedly objected to the judge's decision to keep today's proceeding and other materials in the case under seal. Fisher denied his request to hold a hearing in which the lawyers involved could be questioned about the need for secrecy.
The next hearing is scheduled for May 21.