The retrial for the man charged in the 2001 killing of federal intern Chandra Levy has been scheduled to begin in March.
Earlier this month, a D.C. Superior Court judge agreed to allow a new trial for Ingmar Guandique, 33, who in 2010 was convicted in Levy’s death and sentenced to 60 years in prison.
During that trial, Guandique maintained that he was innocent, and beginning in 2013, his attorneys with the District’s Public Defender Service argued that one of the key witnesses who testified against him had lied, making Guandique deserving of a new trial.
Levy was a 24-year-old intern with the Federal Bureau of Prisons when she disappeared May 1, 2001, triggering a media sensation because police investigators at first suspected — but then cleared — Gary A. Condit, a married California congressman who was 30 years her senior and with whom Levy was having an affair. Levy’s remains were found a year later in Rock Creek Park.
During a hearing in the case Friday, Judge Robert E. Morin said he plans to begin picking jurors March 1. Prosecutors said they expect the trial to last three to four weeks.
Morin replaces the initial judge who oversaw the trial, Judge Gerald I. Fisher, who had granted the retrial.
A new slate of attorneys also will be overseeing the case. Longtime federal homicide prosecutor Deborah Sines has been tapped as one of the lead prosecutors. Sines, who handles cold cases for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, oversaw cases including that of Banita Jacks, the Southeast Washington mother convicted of killing her four young daughters in her home in 2009. Sines will join another longtime prosecutor, Kathryn Rakoczy, for the Levy case.
Guandique’s new public defenders are long-time homicide attorneys Katerina Semyonova and Eugene Ohm.
Tensions surfaced briefly during Friday’s hearing when Semyonova, addressing the judge, said she hoped that prosecutors would submit evidence to the defense early so there is sufficient time to review it before the trial. “That is why this case was reversed,” she said.
But a federal prosecutor stood up and countered. “This case was not reversed,” said David Gorman, deputy chief of the homicide division.
Guandique remains in the D.C. jail. His attorneys have said they hoped to petition to have him released before trial, but no such petition was made at Friday’s hearing. A follow-up hearing was scheduled for July 14.
No eyewitness, forensic evidence or medical cause of death linked Guandique to Levy’s death. Instead, prosecutors asked female joggers to testify about two previous attacks at knifepoint in Rock Creek Park, for which Guandique pleaded guilty in 2002 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Three years after Guandique’s trial, his attorneys petitioned the court saying that their client’s conviction “was based on a lie” spun by a former cellmate, Armando Morales, who testified that Guandique confessed to killing Levy. Morales withheld his own previous cooperation with law enforcement as a prison informant.
Citing the “interests of justice,” prosecutors abruptly dropped their adamant opposition to defense requests for a retrial on May 22.