- Associated Press - Monday, November 1, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former California Rep. Gary Condit testified Monday in the Chandra Levy murder trial that he never publicly acknowledged his affair with the intern because he believes everyone is entitled to privacy.

Mr. Condit took the stand in the trial of Ingmar Guandique, 29, a native of El Salvador, who is charged with murder and attempted sexual assault of Levy, a government intern, nearly a decade ago.

Levy’s disappearance — her body was not discovered until more than a year after she went missing — caused a national sensation when she was romantically linked to Mr. Condit. Authorities once considered the Democratic congressman a prime suspect but no longer believe he had anything to do with her death.

Prosecutors acknowledged in their opening statement that police failed in their initial investigation of Levy’s disappearance by focusing on Mr. Condit to the exclusion of anyone else.

Prosecutor Amanda Haines asked Mr. Condit directly if he killed Levy. He responded, “No.” He also responded “no” to the question of whether he had anything to do with her disappearance.

Mr. Condit was asked why he never publicly acknowledged an affair with Levy. His voice broke slightly, and he said it was “purely based on principle.”

“I think we’re all entitled to some level of privacy. … Seems like in this country we’ve lost a sense of decency. I didn’t commit any crime; I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong.”

Mr. Condit also became emotional when he described Sept. 11, 2001. He said that before the planes hit, his Washington apartment was surrounded by 100 reporters and that when he looked out of the window after the planes hit, they were all gone.

Mr. Condit testified that he last saw Levy a week before she disappeared and they discussed his helping her make some contacts with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies that she hoped to work for. Mr. Condit told her he would help.

“We never had a fight. We never had any cross words,” he said.

Levy, 24, had just completed an internship with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons when she disappeared.

When Guandique was charged last year with killing Levy, the illegal immigrant from El Salvador was serving a 10-year sentence for separate assaults in Rock Creek Park, where Levy’s remains were found scattered on rugged terrain off one of the park’s many trails.

The defense says that police botched the investigation and have made Guandique a scapegoat for their failures.

Then-U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor has acknowledged the case lacked DNA or physical evidence linking Guandique to Levy. And Guandique never confessed to police; in fact, he passed a lie-detector test denying involvement in Levy’s disappearance, though prosecutors now question the validity of that test.

But Mr. Taylor cited significant circumstantial evidence, including numerous confessions that Guandique purportedly made to other inmates. And Levy’s body was found in a wooded section of the park where two other young women were assaulted in 2001. Guandique was convicted in those assaults.


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