A Singular Focus
- July 9, 2001: Rep. Gary Condit gives police a DNA sample.
- July 10: Police search Condit's apartment. Three hours before the search, Condit disposes of a box that had contained a watch from a former aide.
- July 11: Acting on a tip, police recover the watch box from a trash can near a McDonald's in Alexandria.
About three hours before police started to search his apartment, the congressman and one of his top aides, Michael Dayton, drove to Alexandria in Dayton's black Volkswagen Jetta.
About 8 p.m., the Jetta pulled up to the curb at Route 1 and Vernon Street, near a McDonald's. Daniel Olson, a law firm temp who lived in the neighborhood, was driving home when he saw a man he recognized as Condit step out of the passenger side of the car. He watched Condit stroll over to a trash can, push something deep inside and return to the Jetta, which pulled away.
Olson was intrigued. He would later tell police that he walked over to the trash can and looked in. He saw a little black square, the size of a computer disk, and pulled it out. It was a black cardboard box for a Tag Heuer watch. The box was torn and flattened. Inside, Olson found a manual and a warranty, but no watch. He brought the box to his apartment and showed it to his roommates.
The next day, Olson tossed it back into the same trash can and went to work, where a colleague who once worked for the Baltimore Police Department urged him to call the D.C. police. Detective Lawrence Kennedy drove to Alexandria and retrieved the box, the manual and the warranty. Police determined that the box had contained a watch that Joleen Argentini McKay, a former member of Condit's congressional staff, gave to him.
Today, Condit says the watch box incident was the result of a misunderstanding. He said police and tabloid reporters were going through his garbage, and he merely wanted to preserve his privacy. "They're saying a woman gave me a watch and I threw the watch box away," he said recently. "Even if that's true, so? What's that? What does that mean? It was nothing."
At the time, detectives were puzzled. They tried to eliminate Condit as a suspect, but he was making it difficult. Why did he keep a watch box for nearly seven years? And why did he throw it out hours before their search of his apartment? They believed that the congressman, at the very least, was obstructing the investigation.
"He did foolish things over the course of time," Barrett recalled. "We had to address him. There was so much energy that was wasted on this issue. He goes and gets real goofy on us. We couldn't eliminate him."