A Secret Meeting
- June 14, 2001: Robert and Susan Levy hold a news conference asking Rep. Gary Condit to tell all he knows about their daughter.
- June 21: Susan meets secretly with Condit at the Jefferson Hotel.
- June 23: Police interview Condit for the second time.
Robert and Susan Levy were furious at Rep. Gary Condit. They believed he was hiding what he knew about the disappearance of their daughter, Chandra. On June 14, 2001, the couple took the dramatic step of holding a national news conference to plead with Condit to disclose whatever he might know.
To turn up the pressure on Condit and the police, the Levys had hired one of the best and brightest lawyers in Washington, a smooth and seasoned litigator named William Martin, known around town simply as Billy. A week after the news conference, the couple were back in Washington in Martin's Watergate office along the Potomac River.
At 51, Martin was equally comfortable on the streets and in the halls of official power, a go-to guy in Washington's legal world. A former homicide prosecutor with the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, Martin had helped build the crack-cocaine case against former D.C. mayor Marion Barry. As a defense lawyer, Martin had clients ranging from the mother of Monica Lewinsky to Philadelphia 76ers basketball star Allen Iverson.
Martin brought in two former veteran D.C. detectives. Dwayne Stanton, a heavy-set man with a shaved head and an infectious charm, had investigated homicides for 15 years. J.T. "Joe" McCann, a thin, street-smart New Yorker with a roguish smile, had spent 30 years working homicides, drug investigations and public-integrity cases.
The Levys weren't the only ones who retained a high-profile lawyer. Condit hired Abbe Lowell, 49, a tough-talking criminal defense attorney known for representing powerful people who took well-publicized tumbles. During the Lewinsky scandal, Lowell served as chief Democratic investigative counsel for the House of Representatives, leading efforts to keep President Bill Clinton from being impeached.
Martin tried to put pressure on the police to step up the Chandra investigation, using news conferences. He set up an 800 number to take tips and pledged to conduct his own investigation, a public swipe at the police.
D.C. Chief of Detectives Jack Barrett said the police were considering three possibilities: Chandra ran away; she committed suicide; or she fell victim to foul play. "No theory holds any more weight than any of the others," he told reporters nearly two months after Chandra's disappearance. The police put out a poster of Chandra with four hairstyles.
Martin and the Levys thought the suicide and runaway theories were ridiculous. They believed that the police were bungling the case by not moving fast enough.
To defuse the situation, the lawyers agreed to a secret meeting between Susan Levy and Condit. It would be an off-the-record, face-to-face sit-down, far from the cameras. Martin and Lowell went back and forth before settling on a list of a few questions Levy would be permitted to ask: When did you first meet Chandra? How often did you see her? When was the last time you saw her? Do you have any information about where she is now?
On the evening of June 21, 2001, Susan Levy and Martin stepped into the wood-paneled lobby of the Jefferson Hotel, a Beaux-Arts building four blocks from the White House. They walked to a private banquet room. Robert Levy was not with them; he was too distraught to face the man he believed may have had something to do with his daughter's disappearance.
When she finally met Gary Condit in person, Susan Levy was surprised to find that he did not look like Harrison Ford, her daughter's favorite movie star. He was shorter than she thought he would be and, to her, didn't resemble the actor. Her mind reeled with questions: Where is my daughter? What are you hiding?
Condit extended his hand. Levy refused it. She sat down with Martin across the table from Condit and Lowell and began to ask her questions, her hands quivering. She could barely focus on Condit's answers and would not remember them later. When she asked if he knew where Chandra was, he said, "Mrs. Levy, I don't know. Really, I don't."
She believed he knew more than he was saying. And then, before she knew it, the meeting was over. When they stood, the congressman approached her.
"Can I give you a hug, Mrs. Levy?" he asked.
"Absolutely not," she said.