WASHINGTON (AP) - A judge has been holding secret hearings in the case of the man convicted in the 2001 killing of Chandra Levy, the latest twist in a high-profile murder that went unsolved for years and captivated the public because of the intern's romantic relationship with a California congressman.
The meetings, held sporadically behind closed doors at the courthouse over the last several weeks, raise questions about what comes next in a criminal case that appeared resolved by the 2010 conviction of Ingmar Guandique. The illegal immigrant from El Salvador is now serving a 60-year prison sentence in Levy's death, but the hearings could signal a problem with the prosecution of the case.
Authorities acknowledged they had no DNA evidence or witnesses linking Guandique to the crime, building their prosecution instead around a jailhouse informant who said Guandique had confessed behind bars that he was responsible for Levy's death. They also said the attack on Levy fit a pattern of assaults by Guandique on other female joggers in the same location where she went missing and during the same timeframe.
Guandique, who was already imprisoned for those attacks when he was accused in Levy's death in 2009, professed innocence at his sentencing hearing. His lawyers said police and prosecutors made him a scapegoat for a botched investigation.
Neither prosecutors nor defense lawyers have revealed the purpose of the meetings, which court records show have been placed under seal by a judge. Several media organizations including the Associated Press petitioned this week to open the post-conviction proceedings. The next hearing is set for Feb. 7 in D.C. Superior Court.
Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office, which is handling the case, declined to comment Friday while the case is pending. A public defender for Guandique did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
In a statement, the public defender's office said it was pleased the media had joined the efforts to open the sessions and it was separately asking the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to reverse a judge's order barring the public from the courtroom.
Levy, a 24-year-old intern for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, disappeared in May 2001 after leaving her apartment in jogging clothes. Her remains were located a year later in a heavily wooded area of Washington's Rock Creek Park.
The case captivated the public after it was revealed the intern was romantically involved with then-U.S. Rep. Gary Condit, whose political career ultimately imploded because of the extramarital affair. Condit was grilled by investigators but eventually ruled out as a potential suspect. He testified at Guandique's trial that he had no role in Levy's disappearance or death, but evaded questions about their relationship, saying he was entitled to privacy.
No arrests were made until 2009, when the authorities seized on Guandique, who at the time was in federal prison in California for attacking other women inside Rock Creek Park.
Levy's father, Robert Levy, told KGO-TV in San Francisco that prosecutors haven't told him anything about the new court proceedings.
He called Guandique a "convicted rapist and an illegal alien," but added, "if he's innocent of murder, he shouldn't be in jail for it."