A witness who helped convict a man in the 2001 murder of Chandra Levy lied during the trial when he testified he had never previously provided information to law enforcement in other criminal cases, attorneys revealed in court Tuesday.
The disclosure came in the course of a D.C. Superior Court hearing revisiting the conviction of Ingmar Guandique after prosecutors in November approached a judge with "significant impeaching" information about the government witness — jailhouse informant Armando Morales.
As portions of Tuesday's hearing continued to be held at Judge Gerald I. Fisher's bench, with static piped over speakers to prevent observers from hearing what was said, it remained unclear exactly what prompted prosecutors' revelation in the case. But defense attorneys indicated they had not been made aware before the trial that Morales had offered to provide information to law enforcement or testify in other court cases, information that could have been used to challenge his credibility.
"Prosecutors in D.C. either knew this information or should have known this information" during the trial, said public defender Jonathan Anderson, who is representing Guandique.
Yet the information was not disclosed to defense attorneys and while on the witness stand in Guandique's trial, Morales lied when he told the jury he had not previously cooperated with law enforcement, Mr. Anderson said.
"Morales lied to the jury in this case, and the Department of Justice had proof of those lies both before and during the trial," Mr. Anderson said. "He had previously made numerous attempts to offer to testify."
At least one attempt was in reference to drugs and violent crimes at a medium-security prison in Atlanta, Mr. Anderson said. Morales gave information to a gang unit there.
Defense attorneys had sought the Bureau of Prisons' file on Morales before the trial, as well as the entirety of a letter from another inmate that introduced him to federal prosecutors as an informant but never received either, Mr. Anderson said.
Morales testified during the 2010 trial that Guandique had admitted to killing Levy, a 24-year-old federal intern, while the two were cellmates.
Levy disappeared May 1, 2001, after leaving her apartment in jogging clothes. Her remains were found in 2002 in a heavily wooded area of Rock Creek Park. The case attracted particular attention when it was revealed she had a romantic relationship with Gary Condit, then a member of Congress from California.
With no physical evidence linking Guandique to the crime scene, Morales' testimony proved crucial. Prosecutors said in court papers that Guandique had made similar admissions to others about having killed Levy — although the details of the confessions sometimes varied — but Morales was the only person whose testimony linked Guandique directly to the crime.
Guandique was convicted of Levy's murder in 2010 and is serving a 60-year prison sentence. At the time the charges were brought against Guandique, he was close to finishing his sentence for assaults on two joggers who were also attacked in Rock Creek Park.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gorman said Tuesday that Morales was one of many witnesses in the case. Afterward, a spokesman for prosecutors said Morales had "never asked for or received any benefit for his testimony in this case."
"It is important to remember that the ongoing proceedings involve just one of many government witnesses who testified against Mr. Guandique, including three other women who were stalked or violently attacked by the defendant, and it is premature to cast doubt on the witness' credibility at this point," U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman William Miller said.
Much of the previous post-conviction hearings on the case have been held in secret with transcripts heavily redacted as prosecutors have cited safety concerns without offering details. In the coming weeks and months, more information from those hearings is expected to be made public as Judge Fisher gave prosecutors several deadlines by which to review and release transcripts and correspondence.
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