- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

Rep. Gary A. Condit has avoided reporters and sought sanctuary from publicity in the House chamber since the skeletal remains of former federal intern Chandra Levy were discovered Wednesday in Rock Creek Park nearly 13 months after she disappeared.

The California Democrat, who admitted a sexual relationship with Miss Levy to investigators last summer, skipped a meeting of the House Select Committee on Intelligence yesterday morning and, as of late afternoon, had missed both floor votes taken by the House.

"I haven't seen him," said Rep. Jane Harman of California, a senior Democrat on the intelligence panel. "And I have no comment at all on it."

Mr. Condit's legislative director, Mike Dayton, said Mr. Condit was on Capitol Hill yesterday but probably would not have a comment.

"We think the family deserves some time to grieve," Mr. Dayton said. "All the cameras are chasing him around and I don't think that's the appropriate way to express sympathy to her family getting cornered on the way to a vote."

Mr. Condit, 54, lost his Democratic primary bid for an eighth term in March after revelations of his relationship with Miss Levy, who was from his Modesto-area district and whom he had described publicly only as a "close friend."

Mr. Condit's office would not confirm his whereabouts yesterday afternoon. He was seen late Wednesday on the House floor, where he told colleagues he intended to stay in the Democratic cloakroom watching television in an apparent effort to avoid reporters who had staked out various entrances to the Capitol.

Most lawmakers said they learned from television reports Wednesday evening that D.C. police had identified the remains as those of Miss Levy, 24.

"This is an unspeakable tragedy for everyone involved," said Rep. J.D. Hayworth, Arizona Republican. "The congressional family joins all Americans with prayers and thoughts and feelings of condolence for the Levy family. But obviously there are concerns for the Condit family, and especially our colleague Gary."

The mood was tense yesterday in Mr. Condit's office in the Rayburn building, as aides fielded a barrage of phone calls and fended off media gathered outside the door.

A Condit aide emerged in the early afternoon to hand out copies of a Matt Drudge report to the media. It cited a Roll Call Daily story that D.C. police had interviewed a man serving a 10-year prison sentence for attacking two women in Rock Creek Park last year.

None of the House members interviewed had seen or talked to Mr. Condit yesterday.

Rep. Joe Baca, California Democrat and friend of Mr. Condit, expressed condolences to the Levy family and said he hoped the case could be solved. He also expressed support for Mr. Condit.

"I'm sure it's very difficult on him," he said. "I can't imagine what he's going through what he feels that people think. We have a country where you're innocent until proven guilty."

Mr. Baca added, "I feel for him, because you know, we don't know what happened."

Others expressed condolences, but would not talk about their colleague.

"It's a tragic and unfortunate situation," said Rep. George Miller, California Democrat. "A young woman has died and we don't know the circumstances."

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