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Judge finds probable cause to charge Levy murder suspect

WASHINGTON — A judge found Thursday that there was probable cause to charge Ingmar Guandique with the 2001 murder of Chandra Levy, even as Guandique's attorneys denounced the evidence as flimsy.

Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, a manacled Guandique stood before Magistrate Judge J. Dennis Doyle while an interpreter translated the proceedings into Spanish. Prosecutors and defense attorneys wrangled perfunctorily during the 10-minute hearing before Doyle ordered Guandique jailed on the first-degree murder charges.

"I do find probable cause to believe the defendant committed the offense," Doyle declared.

Flanked by his two attorneys, one of whom kept a hand on his shoulder, the illegal Salvadoran immigrant spoke softly only to confirm his name.

Although the judge set a nominal $100 bond, the 27-year-old Guandique already is serving a 10-year sentence on separate charges of attacking two women in Washington's Rock Creek Park. He'll be held in the District of Columbia jail, and will return May 27 to Washington's H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse for a preliminary hearing.

Meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday in the courthouse's basement "arraignment court," Doyle pinned his probable-cause decision to a seven-page affidavit that Washington Metropolitan Police Detective Todd Williams filed March 3. The affidavit, filed in order to obtain an arrest warrant, cites 12 unnamed witnesses in concluding that Guandique killed Levy on May 1, 2001.

"Three (witnesses) are jailhouse snitches, convicted felons," Assistant Federal Public Defender Santha Sonenberg, one of Guandique's attorneys, told the judge in a brief challenge to the probable-cause finding.

Sonenberg and her partner, Maria Hawilo, further characterized the investigation as flawed. It had stalled out several years ago before a new batch of detectives revived it last year.

"There is not a single witness to even see Mr. Guandique and (Levy) together," Sonenberg and Hawilo noted in a statement issued after the hearing, further citing the "made-up claims of unbelievable, self-serving jailhouse quote unquote informants."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Kirschner told the judge that there was physical evidence in the case as well as the testimony of witnesses.

A former federal Bureau of Prisons intern who was raised in Modesto, Calif., where her parents still live, Levy was jogging in Rock Creek Park when Guandique attacked her, according to investigators. Although the crime occurred eight years ago, the public and news media interest remains strong, in large part because of subsequent revelations about a sexual relationship between Levy and then-U.S. Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif.

A dozen reporters watched the hearing Thursday. Two of the note-takers, Sari Horwitz and Scott Higham, are on leave from The Washington Post to complete a book for Scribner about the murder.

Sonenberg and Hawilo filed a discovery request Thursday to obtain more information about the evidence that investigators have compiled. That will shed more light, including on the witness testimony that police invoked.

The witness testimony in the police affidavit is inconsistent. Two of the witnesses quote Guandique as saying that he attacked Levy along with two other men he'd met in the park; no other men have been charged in the attack. One witness says that Guandique said he strangled Levy; another says that Guandique said he stabbed her.

A federal grand jury is likely to meet to consider indicting Guandique. Prosecutors now have nine months after charging Guandique to obtain an indictment.

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