In a recently unsealed transcript from a post-conviction hearing in the Chandra Levy case, lawyers for the man convicted of killing Levy repeatedly drew comparisons to the botched prosecution of the late Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.
The unredacted version of the transcript offered insight into defense lawyers' claims that new information justify a new trial for Ingmar Guandique, the man charged in the murder of the former Capitol Hill intern.
In the past week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington office released transcripts from sealed hearings in December, January, February and April, along with pleadings previously filed under seal, per orders from District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher. The transcripts revealed heated disputes between prosecutors and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia over what information could be made public, what defense lawyers could share with Guandique and what documents prosecutors were required to turn over.
A jury convicted Guandique in 2010. The case was reopened late last year when the government alerted Fisher to new, potentially impeaching information related to a key government witness at trial, Armando Morales. Morales, who shared a cell with Guandique, testified that Guandique confessed to him that he killed Levy. Guandique's lawyers say the new information contradicted Morales' trial testimony that he had never come forward to law enforcement in the past; prosecutors have downplayed its significance.
Morales’ credibility is a critical issue because absent physical evidence tying Guandique to the crime, witness testimony was a major part of the government's case at trial.
According to a previously redacted transcript from a December hearing, Guandique's lawyers drew parallels between the case and the Stevens prosecution. The government’s case against Stevens collapsed in early 2009 after the public corruption trial, amid allegations that prosecutors concealed favorable evidence.
According to the transcript, James Klein, head of the public defender office's appellate division, wanted prosecutors to turn over statements Morales made to the government about cooperating in other cases. Klein said it wasn't clear how much prosecutors in the Levy case knew about Morales before the trial. Klein said his team wanted to know if prosecutors were ever in touch with a California prosecutor who supposedly had information on Morales. "Had they spoken to that prosecutor he would have told them, presumably, to tell the truth, your star witness is [perjuring] himself," he said.
The new information in the transcripts and court papers highlighted other disputes between the defense and the government. During an April 11 hearing, according to a transcript, Jonathan Anderson of the public defender service accused prosecutors of withholding the first page of a letter indicating Morales "debriefed" with law enforcement; prosecutors said they turned over the full letter. Anderson also made repeated requests for notes taken by one of the prosecuting attorneys, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines, supposedly showing she spoke with Morales about his debriefing with a prison "gang unit."
"We believe that [prosecutors] were aware of a lot of it and believe that [they] should have been aware of all of it," Anderson said. At a July 29 hearing, Anderson said they still hadn't received Haines' notes.
The transcripts showed Guandique's lawyers were pushing for records from federal agencies—the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the FBI, U.S. attorney's offices and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives—that detailed any interactions with Morales.
Guandique's lawyers were also looking for evidence Morales not only spoke with law enforcement, but also that he gave unreliable or false information. During the April hearing, according to the transcript, Klein called Morales "a liar."
During a hearing on February 14, according to a transcript, Anderson said he wanted information from the government about why information Morales gave to the sheriff's department in Fresno County, Cailf., in 1998 "didn't go anywhere."
"[I]t sort of raises a red flag about: Well, was there a problem with this information or some other problem with Morales that they decided they needed to stay away from him?" Anderson said.
The hearings were hostile at times, according to the transcripts. During the February hearing, for instance, Guandique's lawyers accused the government of dragging its feet in turning over information. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gorman called the accusations "quite offensive" and told Fisher his team was working as fast as they could.
The next status hearing is scheduled for September 26.