FRESNO, Calif. – The wife of Rep. Gary Condit can pursue her $10 million defamation suit against the National Enquirer for a headline that said she attacked Chandra Levy, a judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger rejected all the tabloid's arguments to dismiss Carolyn Condit's lawsuit regarding a story published last summer after Levy vanished in the nation's capital.
The Enquirer published headlines on its Web site in July and on its Aug. 7 front page that said: "Cops: Condit's Wife Attacked Chandra."
The publication reported that Condit called her husband's Washington condominium from her Ceres, Calif. home and "flew into a rage" during a "heated phone screamfest" with Levy. The story, based on an unidentified source, said the confrontation occurred just before Levy vanished.
Carolyn Condit said she never met Levy or spoke with her. Washington police have said there was no truth to the Enquirer report.
Levy's skeletal remains were found May 22 in a Washington, D.C. park and her death was ruled a homicide.
The Democratic congressman told police he had an affair with Levy, a federal intern, police sources said. But police said he was not a suspect in her disappearance.
In his 52-page decision rejecting the Enquirer's motion to dismiss, the judge said the headlines could be interpreted to mean that Condit physically attacked Levy. Wanger rejected the Enquirer's claim that the statements were not defamatory, but said a jury would have to make the decision.
Wanger also dismissed the Enquirer's claim that Condit had no right to file the lawsuit because she never demanded a retraction. Under California libel law, a newspaper must be given a chance to correct erroneous information before a suit is filed.
Condit's lawyers successfully argued that the Enquirer is not a newspaper under the state's definition, citing a 1976 lawsuit by entertainer Carol Burnett.
Condit lost the Democratic primary in March, but is serving the remainder of his term through the end of the year.