By Brad Heath, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - The public could learn as soon as next week why a Washington court has been holding secret hearings in the murder case of former congressional intern Chandra Levy.
D.C. Superior Judge Gerald I. Fisher said Thursday that he expected to release partial transcripts of earlier secret hearings and legal filings at the end of next week. He made the announcement after a third sealed court hearing about new evidence that has added fresh intrigue to a murder mystery that captivated the nation's capital in the weeks before September 11.
Levy's 2001 death drew international scrutiny after it was revealed that she had been having an affair with former U.S. Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif. A Washington jury convicted an illegal immigrant named Ingmar Guandique for her death in 2010.
So far, Fisher has said publicly only that U.S. Justice Department lawyers approached him late last year with evidence that could have been used to challenge the testimony of a prosecution witness. Neither prosecutors nor lawyers for Guandique have said what that new information is, or which witness' testimony it might implicate.
Whatever the problems are, they were serious enough that prosecutors and lawyers for Guandique have agreed to put his appeal on hold while they're sorted out.
A Justice Department lawyer, David Gorman, said at the end of the hearing only that some of the records about to be unsealed contain allegations by defense lawyers "that the government does not agree with."
Gannett Co., the parent company of USA TODAY, and other news organizations asked Judge Fisher last week to unseal the proceedings. He denied the organizations' request. In the past, he had said the hearings were sealed because of safety concerns, though he has not elaborated publicly on whose safety might be in danger or why.
Reporters remained in the courtroom throughout Thursday's hearing, but the conversation between Fisher and lawyers on both sides, who huddled near the front of the courtroom, was muffled by a white noise machine.
Guandique returned to court for the hearing, dressed in a bight orange jumpsuit, with his hands cuffed in front of him. He spoke briefly with Judge Fisher, but the conversation was inaudible to the public.
The government's star witness was Guandique's former cellmate, Armando Morales, who told a jury in 2010 that Guandique admitted to him that he had killed Levy. He testified that Guandique confided in him "You don't understand. ... Homeboy, I killed the (expletive), but I didn't rape her."
Guandique was sentenced to 60 years in prison in 2011, based in large part on Morales' testimony.
Fisher scheduled another hearing in the case for April 11.