The man accused and convicted of killing Chandra Levy will soon be set free – only to be placed back into the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where he’ll face deportation.
In 2009, police arrested Ingmar Guandique, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador, in the murder of Chandra Levy, an intern at the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington, D.C.
Guandique has, in large part, Babs Proller to thank for his case dismissal. She met and become friendly with the man whose testimony had in every way put Guandique behind bars.
Armando Morales, a convicted felon and a known gang member, was the prosecution’s star witness.
In early July, Proller started recording her conversations with Morales, her neighbor in the Maryland hotel where they were staying.
Proller claims that in the tapes, now in the hands of the U.S. prosecutors, Morales admitted to lying in his testimony stating that his onetime prison cell-mate, Guandique, confessed to killing Levy.
According to the Washington Post,“The U.S. Attorney’s Office would not comment on Proller’s account and said only that “new information” uncovered this week had led prosecutors to conclude that they could not prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Guandique was sentenced in February 2011 to 60 years in prison for Levy’s murder, but his attorneys questioned Morales's testimony for years, and last June prosecutors dropped their objections to a new trial.
On Thursday they announced they would dismiss the case against him and instead turn him over to ICE custody.
“Mr. Guandique has maintained since the beginning, when he passed an FBI-administered lie detector test, that he did not kill Ms. Levy. This dismissal vindicates Mr. Guandique. Finally, the government has had to concede the flaws in its ill-gotten conviction,” his attorneys from the D.C. Public Defender Service said in a statement.
“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,” the statement added.
Levy’s disappearance and killing became front-page news when it was disclosed that she had had an affair with then-Rep. Gary A. Condit, from California, who was married. Initially Levy’s murder investigation focused on the lawmaker, but he was eventually cleared.
At the time of his arrest, Guandique pleaded guilty to attacking two women in the area of Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., where Levy’s body was found, but he maintained he didn’t kill Levy. He passed a lie detector test, and there was no DNA evidence or eyewitnesses to the crime.
Morales’s court statement claimed that Guandique told him, “You don’t understand ... Homeboy, I killed the [expletive], but I didn’t rape her.”
Morales told the jury that Guandique admitted to seeing that Levy was wearing a fanny pack, grabbing her from behind, dragging her into the bushes, taking the pack and leaving her for dead.
“He said he never meant to kill her,” Morales testified.
“In 2009, the trial prosecutors brought charges knowing their case depended on the most unreliable evidence: a jailhouse informant. In 2010, the trial prosecutors convinced a jury to convict by deliberately hiding evidence that would have exposed the false testimony 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,” Guandique’s attorneys said in a statement.
With Guandique’s deportation to El Salvador the chances of ever solving Levy’s murder grow still slimmer.
Guandique’s attorneys say that, had they gone to trial again, they would have pushed Condit as a suspect.
In a statement released Thursday, the former congressman’s attorney said Condit was “extremely disappointed” that the case had been dropped.
“The failure of authorities to bring formal closure to this tragedy after 15 years is very disappointing but in no way alters the fact that Mr. Condit was long ago completely exonerated by authorities in connection with Ms. Levy’s death,” the statement read.