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Inmate: Guandique said he killed Levy

Update, 2:55 p.m.: The trial of the man charged with killing Chandra Levy adjourned early Thursday afternoon and is not scheduled to resume until Wednesday morning.

Update, 1:45 p.m.:

Ingmar Guandiques old cellmate, who says Guandique admitted to him that he killed Chandra Levy, testified this afternoon that he had not been promised any sort of deal in exchange for his testimony.

Guandique, who is charged with killing Chandra Levy, is on trial in D.C. Superior Court.

Armando Morales, who was Guandique's cellmate for several weeks in a Kentucky federal prison in 2006, said he was testifying against Guandique because he had turned around his life in prison and wanted to do the right thing.

Under cross-examination by one of Guandique's attorneys, Santha Sonenberg of the D.C. Public Defender Service, Morales acknowledged that he would welcome any consideration he received for testifying for the government.

"If they was to let me go home, I would be happy, of course," he said.

A gang member from Fresno, Calif., Morales, 49, is serving a 21-year sentence for federal drug and gun offenses and is due to be released in 2016.

Morales testified that he had two conversations with Guandique about Chandra Levy when they were housed at the federal prison in Big Sandy, Ky. In the first conversation, Guandique said that inmates at prisons where he had previously been held, in Indiana and Illinois, believed he was a rapist and had been involved with the death of Chandra Levy, Morales testified. Morales testified that he didn't know at the time who Levy was.

A few weeks later, as he was being prepared for transfer to another, prison, Guandique spoke to Morales about his fear that he would be targeted by other inmates because he had been tagged, wrongly, as a rapist, Morales testified.

"I told him 'if you ain't did nothing wrong, you don't got to worry,' " Morales recalled.

"You don't understand. . .," Guandique is said to have replied, Morales said. "Homeboy, I killed the [expletive], but I didn't rape her."

With no eyewitnesses or physical evidence linking Guandique to Levy, prosecutors have built a circumstantial case built around evidence of other crimes and the testimony of prison informants.

Appearing on the eighth day of testimony in the trial, Morales was the first of the informants to testify, spending about two hours on the stand.

Morales said he learned that Guandique was a suspect in the Levy slaying from a CNN program he saw after they had gone their separate ways and that fellow inmates helped connect him with prosecutors and investigators in the Levy case.

In her cross examination, Sonenberg suggested that Morales had built a fictional account around information gleaned from that news report and that the other inmate was shopping the story in hopes of helping Morales.

"He was sort of like your agent," Sonenberg said of the other inmate.

"He's my mentor. He was helping me," Morales retorted.

Sonenberg asked Morales why he had refused to speak to an investigator working for the defense team when the investigator came to him in prison.

"I didn't who she was," Morales said.

When Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines asked about the visit by the investigators, Morales said, with a knowing look, that the woman had come to the prison dressed in "shorts" and a "tight shirt."

Haines, in continuing her re-examination of Morales, asked him if he had ever been promised anything by anyone in exchange for his testimony.

"No," he replied.

And had he ever asked for anything in exchange for his testimony, Haines asked him.

"No," Morales said.

-- Henri Cauvin

Original Post:

A former cellmate of Ingmar Guandique, the man charged with killing Chandra Levy, testified this morning against his old friend, telling a D.C. Superior Court jury that in a prison conversation in 2006, Guandique admitted killing Levy.

Armando Morales, 49, said Guandique told him he did not even realize the woman had died until police detectives came to interview him in prison.

The conversation was not the first the two men had had about Levy, Morales said, but it was the first in which Guandique admitted that he was a killer, Morales testified.

Guandique was worried about a looming transfer to another prison, where he expected fellow gang members to confront him about rumors that he had raped a woman, a prison stigma that would make him a target for sexual assault.

"Homeboy, I killed the [expletive], but I didn't rape her," Morales quoted Guandique as having said in Spanish in the conversation at a federal prison in Big Sandy, Kentucky.

Guandique and Morales were members of allied gangs, and Guandique told Morales that in prisons in Indiana and Illinois, "homies," or fellow gang members, had targeted him over the talk that he was a rapist.

As he awaited word of where he would be sent next, Guandique was afraid of what awaited him, Morales said. "He knew the homies were going to be there."

The testimony by Morales, who took the stand in an orange jumpsuit, his wrists and his ankles shackled, was the first by a string of informants who are a critical piece of the government's case against Guandique.

Prosecutors do not have any eyewitnesses or physical evidence directly linking Guandique to the killing of Levy, who disappeared in 2001, and whose remains were found about a year later.

Guandique was a suspect early on, but it was not until last year that he was charged with killing Levy.

By then he was already serving time for attacks on two women in Rock Creek Park, and prosecutors have been able to introduce evidence of those other attacks in the murder trial underway before Judge Gerald I. Fisher.

But the only evidence expected to directly implicate Guandique is the testimony of Morales and other inmates. As expected, the defense, in its cross examination, began this morning trying to undercut Morales's testimony as self-serving.

Still, with his matter-of-fact exposition of gang life and his damning account of his conversations with Guandique, Morales made for a compelling chapter of the trial.

Morales said Guandique told him how he had been hiding in the bushes and how he ran up and grabbed Levy from behind and dragged her off a trail in Rock Creek Park.

"She was fighting. She was struggling," Morales recalled Guandique telling him. "He said by the time he got her to the bushes, she had stopped struggling."

-- Henri Cauvin

(This post has been updated.)

More on this story: Full coverage | Major events | Key players

By Henri E. Cauvin  | November 4, 2010; 1:45 PM ET
Categories:  Chandra Levy, From the Courthouse, Homicide, The District, Updates  
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Comments

So he told a known gang member that he killed Sandra Levy 4 years prior? Yawwwwwwwwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnnn!

Posted by: PublicEnemy1 | November 4, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

So, what does this do to Morales' credibility in jail to be known as the jailhouse snitch?

Posted by: alfreda_bowser | November 4, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

In the attacks that he is convicted of, Guandique ran behind the victim for a little while.

Posted by: blasmaic | November 4, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Morales' release from Federal prison is 08-05-2016, so he'll be free at age 55; perhaps only to be deported. Meanwhile, he gets segregation time compliments of BoP and then perhaps a new identity and a few bucks upon release.

Is that enough to persuade the dude to lie? 90%+ of inmates who die in Fed system are at the hands of other inmates, but who is to know what's going thru the mind of a felon? If I were a juror I would be reluctant to believe Morales. Let's see who else the prosecution has in its sorry lineup of snitches.

Posted by: hungrypirana | November 4, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I rememeber when I was a kid, I used to always here that they couldn't convict you on circumstantial evidence. This article says they have no real evidence, so they're relying on circumstacial evidence, and jail house snitches, who wouldn't be basically putting themselves on the snitch to be killed list in the joint if they didn't think they were going to get something out of it. Whether or not guandique did it it's a sad say in America when someone can be on trial based on this kind of evidence. It erodes the entire system when prosecutors bring charges to trial when it is impossible to meet the burden of proof. I'm not saying they can't or won't convince a jury who really doesn't care (a couple were seen nodding off during testimony the first day). I'm saying the'd be lucky to meet the preponderance of the evidence standard. It is not possible that they can reach the beyond a reasonable doubt standard. This disgusts me. The judge is just as much to blame as the prosecution. This should be thrown out today. It's a farce.

Posted by: red2million | November 4, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

@red2million, you were misinformed about the admissibility of circumstantial evidence. Often, it's the most reliable kind of evidence. Eyewitness testimony is among the least reliable.

Jailhouse snitches are worrisome. If you can't pay a witness money for testimony, you shouldn't be able to pay a prisoner with freedom. Or if you're going to give the witness consideration, make the deal before trial and let the jury know what the deal is. Whenever a person is exonerated after being wrongly convicted of a major crime, the original conviction usually rested on false testimony from a prisoner.

Posted by: pundito | November 4, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

As we all saw with the OJ trial, even DNA evidence means nothing, as scumbag defense lawyers twist the truth all around until it confused the unsuspecting juror. Circumstantial evidence is the best.

Posted by: password11 | November 4, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Guandique didn't kill her.

Posted by: blasmaic | November 4, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

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