Murder Charge Dropped in Chandra Levy Case

     (CN) — A judge dismissed all charges Thursday against the man convicted of killing Capitol Hill intern Chandra Levy, after prosecutors abandoned the high-profile case that ended the career of a popular California congressman.
     The surprising development will soon free Ingmar Guandique, an El Salvadoran immigrant who had been awaiting a new trial since a D.C. Superior Court judge overturned his 60-year-sentence last year. Prosecutors said Guandique will now be deported.
     “This motion is based upon new information that the government received within the past week,” prosecutors wrote in a 3-page memo. “After investigating this information and reviewing all of the evidence in this case, the government now believes it is in the interests of justice for the court to dismiss the case without prejudice.”
     Levy, 24, had been an intern with the Federal Bureau of Prisons when she went missing in May 2001. Her body was found by a man walking his dog in Washington’s Rock Creek Park a year later.
     A police investigation revealed that she had been having an affair with then-Rep. Gary Condit, who was roundly criticized by his colleagues for his “evasive” interviews about their relationship.
     The ensuing scandal scuttled the California Democrat’s decade-long political career and his marriage, but he was later ruled out as a suspect in Levy’s disappearance.
     In 2009, authorities cast their suspicions upon Guandique, who had been convicted of assaulting two women around the same area during that period.
     A jury found Guandique guilty the next year of first-degree murder and other charges, but his attorneys accused prosecutors on appeal of taking liberties with closing arguments that they likened to “narrating a horror movie.”
     Guandique’s attorney Laura Hankins, from Washington’s public defenders office, noted that her client had maintained his innocence from the moment he passed the FBI’s lie detector test.
     “This dismissal vindicates Mr. Guandique,” Hankins said in an email. “Finally, the government has had to concede the flaws in its ill-gotten conviction.”
     Based largely on the testimony of a jailhouse informant, a jury found Guandique guilty the next year of first-degree murder and other charges, but his attorneys accused prosecutors of withholding evidence undermining the credibility of their star witness.
     “It is now clear that the jailhouse informant, who was central to the government’s case, was a perjurer who too easily manipulated the prosecutors,” Hankins wrote.
     In a motion for a new trial, Guantique’s lawyers said prosecutors took liberties with their closing arguments with appeals to emotion.
     “It was as if the prosecutor were narrating a horror movie, with its foreshadowing to whip up fear in the audience,” the motion said. “But this was not a movie; it was supposed to be a trial during which the jury clinically evaluated the facts.”
     Washington’s Public Defender Service spent years following Guantique’s convictions poking holes in the case and forcing the government to re-examine its records, Hankins said.
     After Guandique was granted a new trial, his public defender, Eugene Ohm, asserted the government was withholding critical information in the case.
     “The time for the review of the government and the big discovery disclosure is well past in our view,” Ohm said in November.
     In their motion to abandon the case, prosecutors said they received new information regarding the case within the last week. They did not disclose what that information was.
     However, they said, “After investigating this information and reviewing all of the evidence in the case, the government now believes it is in the interest of justice for the court to dismiss the case without prejudice.”
     In a statement Bill Miller, a spokesman for the prosecutors, said “The office has concluded that it can no longer prove the murder case against Mr. Guandique beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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