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Suspect in Chandra Levy Death Pleads Not Guilty; Defense Says Trial Date to Soon

Ingmar Guandique, 27.
Ingmar Guandique, 27. (Jacquelyn Martin - AP)

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By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ingmar Guandique, the man accused of kidnapping and killing Chandra Levy, pleaded not guilty yesterday in D.C. Superior Court.

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Despite objections from Guandique's attorneys, Judge Geoffrey M. Alprin set a trial date of Jan. 27.

Santha Sonenberg, one of Guandique's attorneys, said the defense would need more time to prepare. She noted that the prosecution had spent eight years investigating Levy's death.

Guandique, 27, was indicted last week on six charges, including first-degree murder, kidnapping, robbery and sexual abuse. The indictment alleges that Guandique killed Levy, a former federal intern, about May 1, 2001. If found guilty, Guandique could be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Sonenberg expressed frustration that prosecutors have not turned over the names of all the witnesses so that she can investigate and question them.

"It's very premature to set a trial date without knowing the witnesses," Sonenberg told Alprin.

Alprin advised Sonenberg against "making a speech" and said he will not allow "a lot of delays in this case."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez said prosecutors will turn over the information next week.

Guandique's next hearing is scheduled for July 31. Alprin told Sonenberg and her co-counsel, Maria Hawilo, that if they do not have enough information by then, he would consider changing the trial date.

Guandique, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, has been serving a 10-year sentence for attacking two other women at knifepoint in Rock Creek Park about the same time that Levy disappeared. Levy's body was found in the park a year later.

After the hearing, Guandique's attorneys issued a statement that said the indictment was the "result of a one-sided process that happens behind closed doors" and that the facts of the indictment "don't add up." The attorneys said they think a jury will find the evidence linking their client to Levy's death to be "false and deficient."

Guandique was aided by a Spanish interpreter during the hearing. He kept his head down and remained silent, except to say, "Si," when asked whether he understood the charges.

Levy's disappearance generated international attention. She had been having an affair with then-Rep. Gary A. Condit (D-Calif.). From the start, Condit denied harming Levy.

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