By Allan Lengel and Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, July 31, 2001
The FBI has concluded that a Pentecostal minister's account of an affair between his daughter and Rep. Gary A. Condit is untrue, closing an investigation that included three days of interviews by agents of the 54-year-old father from Modesto, Calif.
Otis "OC" Thomas has met with the FBI since he informed them two weeks ago that he had fabricated his initial story, which he had outlined to a federal agent in May. Thomas, a gardener for the family of Chandra Levy, was approached by the FBI after relatives of the missing former intern told them of his account.
"After what we believe to be a thorough investigation of allegations previously made by OC Thomas regarding Congressman Gary Condit, we believe these allegations to be unfounded," Chris Murray, spokesman for the FBI in Washington, said yesterday.
Thomas's story was published by The Washington Post on July 12. The newspaper reported that the minister had told the FBI of an affair seven years ago between his daughter, then 18, and Condit, alleging among other things that the Democrat from California had warned her never to speak of the relationship.
Thomas, who had not responded to requests for interviews after the the story was published, acknowledged in a Post interview in Modesto on Sunday that he had made up the story. The fabrication began in April, when Levy's mother, Susan, told him that her daughter was having an affair with an older man.
"I just figured I would try to comfort her a bit," Thomas said. "I just dug a hole I could not get out of. I can't really explain something like that."
Thomas said that every time he shared his story -- with the Levys, the FBI and The Post -- he was "hoping it would go away." Instead, the media descended on his apartment complex after his story was published, straining relations with his relatives. "They were hurt," he said of his family, adding that he and his wife have spent many days crying.
Thomas said he met the Levys -- that session took place at FBI offices in Modesto -- and told them that he had fabricated the story and apologized. He said federal authorities had mentioned obstruction of justice charges but also said this was unlikely if his current version holds true. The FBI declined to comment.
The Levys said they still believe his initial account. "I had every reason to believe him, and I still think he was telling the truth about his daughter," Susan Levy said this week. "I still don't know why OC would lie about something like that."
She said Thomas had tears in his eyes when he described the supposed affair with the married congressman. After the two spoke that day in April, Susan Levy said, she called her daughter in Washington, told her what the minister had said and advised her to break up with Condit. Chandra Levy subsequently reported that she had confronted Condit about Thomas's story and that he had "explained it all" to her, Susan Levy said.
Thomas said he did not think about his story until Levy disappeared and her family encouraged him to come forward. When the FBI approached Thomas, the minister described an affair that he said had taken place in the mid-1990s, after his daughter met Condit at a political rally on a college campus. Agents tried to meet with the daughter, who is now 26, but Thomas told them she was in hiding.
Marina Ein, a spokeswoman for Condit, said Thomas's story is one of "many other unsubstantiated allegations which have been published as fact.
"The recantation of this story represents in many ways too little, too late. It does, however, underscore the need for The Washington Post and the national media to observe basic and time-tested standards of fairness -- standards which have been sorely missing in the coverage."
The former intern, who was last seen April 30, had told her family that she was having a relationship with Condit. After denying the affair through his aides, Condit acknowledged it to police, according to two sources familiar with that meeting.
Meanwhile, D.C. police recruits yesterday searched Anacostia Park, in Southeast, and Roosevelt Island, in the Potomac River. A pair of pants and a broken knife were found, but neither was related to the Levy case.
Investigators are waiting for FBI profilers to create a more detailed look at Levy. One law enforcement source said no new information was gleaned Thursday from Condit's fourth interview, adding that the congressman repeated many of the things already known to investigators.