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The Search for Chandra Reaches Gary Condit's Apartment

Aired July 10, 2001 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILLY MARTIN, LEVY FAMILY ATTORNEY: They have no basis upon which to believe him. They do not believe that he is being forthright. We've heard statements from his representatives that he's being candid and forthcoming.

Larry, getting information from Congressman Condit, is like pulling teeth. It comes out only when he's forced to admit these facts.

ABBE LOWELL, CONDIT ATTORNEY: Go take your cameras and your pads and your pencils and try to see if there's somebody else out there who might have some information that can actually find this woman, as opposed to prying into the private lives of the Condits once and for all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER COSSACK, CO-HOST: Today on BURDEN OF PROOF: Investigators say they will search the Washington apartment of Congressmen Gary Condit. Plus, a flight attendant, who claims to have had an affair with Condit, plans to meet with federal prosecutors.

ANNOUNCER: This is BURDEN OF PROOF, with Greta Van Susteren and Roger Cossack.

COSSACK: Hello and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF.

Washington detectives say they'll search the D.C. apartment of Congressman Gary Condit. Police accept the offer made by the California congressman's legal team. And meanwhile, investigators are searching for answers in the disappearance of 24-year-old intern Chandra Levy who was last seen on April 30.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOWELL: Not only has he allowed access to his apartment, some of you might know --maybe some of you don't know -- that on the very first time he spoke to the police, he, the congressman, invited police where -- to his apartment. It happened in May. They sat right there. This has not been anything but the congressman's attempt to be open.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COSSACK: Joining us today from Chicago is private investigator Paul Ciolino. And from Washington, we're joined by attorney Louis Hennessy, a former commander of the Washington Homicide Squad. And also, in our D.C. bureau, former U.S. attorney Cynthia Alksne.

I want to go right to you, Louis. You're the former commander of this homicide squad. What does it do to an investigation when you have, one, the kind of publicity that we're having in this case and two, in a sense, dueling lawyers going on television and to the media every day, each accusing the other side?

W. LOUIS HENNESSY, FORMER D.C. HOMICIDE DETECTIVE: Well, obviously it brings added attention to the case. And that can be good or bad, depending on the results. In this particular case, I think what the Levy family has done and has been successful with, is keeping the case alive and keeping it in the public's attention to force as much information out about the whereabouts of their daughter as possible.

On the other hand, I can understand where the Condit team is reluctant to release any information that could look bad or disfavorable to him, particularly in light of the fact that so much of the information that they have released, confidential information, has been released to the news media.

COSSACK: And Louis, in that sense it seems that an accusation has been made against the police that some of this information is being leaked by the police department. Would you agree?

HENNESSY: Well, every time I've heard confidential information being leaked, such as Representative Condit admitting to the relationship, an extramarital relationship with Miss Levy, it's been attributed to anonymous, high-ranking police sources. And this is highly unethical, very unprofessional. And it really puts a very black eye on the department, which I believe, for the most part, has gone about this investigation in a very professional manner with that exception. And I think it will have lasting effects on the agency.

COSSACK: Louis -- and I don't mean to be picking on you, but because of your expertise in this matter, do you think that the reason these leaks are coming out is because the police department of Washington, D.C. is feeling an immense amount of pressure to solve this case?

HENNESSY: Well, there are certain things that could come out that may be able to help an investigation. And in many instances, we do release information or police do release information that will assist them in an investigation. However, on these cases, these are things about a private affair that was given in confidence and within a matter of minutes, it's released to the national media. You know, it just leaves a bad taste in everybody's mouth. And I think that it's not going to benefit the investigation at all.

COSSACK: Cynthia, let's talk a little bit about the now search, imminent search, we believe, of Congressman Condit's apartment. The accusation or at least the information being, well, listen, he volunteered to do this weeks ago. Whether he did or he didn't, is it a little late to be conducting a search now?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR D.C.: Well, it's better than no search at all. But you know, Abbe Lowell's protestation about "oh, you know, all he's trying to do is help" is pretty outrageous given the fact that he's been sort of leaking slowly, information only -- you know, it's like a drip, drip, drip only when he's forced to.

I really blame the congressman here for prolonging this investigation. And if he has absolutely nothing to do with disappearance of this girl, he has wasted hours and hours and hours of police time and the trail has gone cold. And it's his fault. And if for some reason this case cannot be solved because of the time he's wasted, he deserves the blame for that quite squarely.

COSSACK: Cynthia, you know, I've heard this accusation made before that because he didn't -- wasn't forthcoming initially at the initial interviews -- and that's what we understand happened -- that he didn't admit the type of relationship he had with this young woman, that that impeded in the investigation of this case. That was Billy Martin's claim, the attorney for Dr. and Mrs. Levy.

But be more specific for us, if you can. How would that really impede? I mean the notion being that he said, "OK, I knew her. I -- yes, we were friends." But he never really took that next step and described the intensity of their relationship. Why would that hurt?

ALKSNE: But -- well, it was more than that. First, he lied to her parents and he says, "Well, I last saw her on the 24" when actually he saw her on the 29. I mean that means, OK, we don't know where she was last seen and seeing him. She was spending time in his apartment. They had a certain relationship. They were going to certain restaurants. Her state-of-mind was X. She was upset about something. She was happy about something. Maybe she committed suicide.

I mean any number of things could flow from their relationship. It's the most intense relationship in her life in the Washington, D.C. area and the police needed to know that information immediately. And instead, he was more concerned about covering his political behind than he was about finding this girl. And the Levys have every right to be outraged by that.

The police -- it's very difficult to find a missing person who just vanishes from her apartment building when everything is left upstairs and all she had is her keys. And there doesn't appear to be any physical clues at her apartment or at least that we know about. And they needed all the information they could get. And they got nothing from him and it's offensive.

COSSACK: Louis, we now hear that perhaps the congressman, if asked, would take a lie detector test. Is that something that you would advise the police to do?

HENNESSY: Obviously, I think, from the police perspective, they have nothing to lose by offering the polygraph exam. Frankly, I'm surprised that he offered to do that. You know, they're not totally conclusive. And you know, given the way that the information has leaked out, if the test doesn't come back favorable to him, I would assume that that information may get back to media pretty quickly as well. So I think he has a tremendous amount to lose by taking the exam. And I'm somewhat surprised he's agreed to do it.

ALKSNE: I bet he doesn't do it.

COSSACK: Cynthia, why not? Cynthia, why don't you think, in light of what Louis said -- I mean, look, don't you feel that it's now sort of the genie's out of the bottle, as far as he's concerned, that at this point, is -- as you just point, don't you think he has to do everything can he to kind of cover himself and cover his political behind?

ALKSNE: Yes, you would think -- well, first of all, his political behind is gone. He's finished in his district. His political career is over. He might as well resign. I mean it's just over. I've been reading the papers in his district. I mean that's -- so forget that, that's gone.

The question is what is smart legally for him. I can't imagine that Abbe Lowell, who's a good lawyer with a bad client, is going to let him agree to take a polygraph exam because he has nothing to gain by it, quite frankly. It would be great for the police and the investigation at the U.S. Attorney's Office if he would take it because they need to make some kind of determination of whether or not this guy is a suspect. And if the polygraph exam will help them do that, it will decrease the amount of work they have to do.

And it's -- I -- having used polygraphs many times in the Justice Department, I think a good FBI-administered polygraph is a wonderful investigative tool. But my guess is, a guy like Condit is too chicken to go ahead and do it. And he's still -- is more concerned about himself than he is about the investigation.

COSSACK: All right, let's take a break.

D.C. police have been investigating the disappearance of Chandra Levy for more than nine weeks with apparently no success. The parents of the missing intern have turned to a private investigator to help find their daughter. Let's talk to one when we come back and find out what the private investigator can do that perhaps the police can't. Stay with us.

(BEGIN LEGAL BRIEF)

The Arkansas Supreme Court adopted a new procedure of having to review every death sentence imposed by an Arkansas jury. The procedure will become effective August 1. The court will have to review all phases of the capital case.

(END LEGAL BRIEF)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LOWELL: With respect to lie detectors, I know there's a great public appeal for a lie detector test. But I know, from my practice, that they leave a lot to be desired. If the police call me and tell me that, at some point, they think that, no matter how suspect it might be, it can be helpful, I will discuss it with them. But I will discuss it with them and not with you.

MARTIN: The family does not believe that anything short of him taking a polygraph, anything short of him having some way to test his credibility, would give them any, any confidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSSACK: Since her disappearance, police have interviewed over 100 people who knew Chandra Levy. Yet, despite their best efforts, the attorney for Levy's parents have hired two private investigators to do their own investigating.

And joining is us now is Paul Ciolino, a private investigator.

Paul, what can a private investigator do that the police can't, that perhaps might bring a little success to this case?

PAUL CIOLINO, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Well, Roger, I think what they do most successfully is they're hand-holding the parents, frankly. All they're doing is repeating much of what the police did.

The problem in this case is the police waited so long. They treated this congressman like some kind of foreign dignitary that, you know, they don't want to hurt his feelings. I mean if this was just a regular guy, they'd have brought him in and dragged him down to the station and sweated him for however long it took to get what they wanted. Then they would have got a warrant to search his apartment and went forward.

I mean this is ridiculous. This thing has been going on almost a month now. These private investigators are basically going to repeat what the police have done. And they'll probably be there long after the police give up on this thing.

You know, and one of the other problems is how many other, you know, African-American kids 17, 18-year-olds are missing in Washington, D.C. right now and how much attention are they getting from this unit? I bet not as much as what's going on here.

COSSACK: All right, let's stop a second and go back. What the Washington, D.C. Police Department has said and continues to say is, this is a missing person's investigation. This isn't a homicide investigation. This isn't a criminal investigation. So the notion of bringing someone down to police department and sweating them out and saying the things that you've said, they apparently feel is something that shouldn't be done because they feel that there's apparently no probable cause to do it. Do you differ with that?

CIOLINO: I absolutely differ with it. They're lying. They're not telling the truth. They're sugarcoating it for the media. This guy is a suspect in a murder investigation. This girl has been missing for a long time. There's no sign of a suicide. There's no sign of her walking away. There's no sign she's had contact with anyone she loves or likes since this has happened. This has been a murder investigation in everything but the official word and they know it.

And when you've interviewed someone three times -- you know, they're doing it on his terms and if they're concerned about solving this crime, they've got to stop doing it on his terms. He's either got a great lawyer. He's either going to shut up and take the -- you know, take the Fifth Amendment or he's going to go down there and fully cooperate so they can move on and decide what they're going to do. You either rule him in or rule him out but quit playing around with him and quit lying too everyone about it.

COSSACK: Louis, I -- as a former commander of the police department, you know, that Washington, D.C. has said -- the police department has said time and time again, it recently -- that, one, this is not a criminal investigation, this is a missing person's investigation and, two, the congressman is not a suspect.

You've just heard what Paul Ciolino said, that in fact, that's just sugarcoating. This man -- this has to be a criminal investigation and it should have been, agree or disagree?

HENNESSY: Well, to a point, I do agree. First of all, it is a missing person investigation. But the police have got to handle it like it's a criminal investigation because this is the type of case that while it initially is an incident, it could develop into a crime. And if it does develop into a crime, they have to collect evidence and conduct interviews in a way that they would be admissible in court if it later does become a crime. So there is some truth to that. And in fact, that's the way most missing persons' investigations, that have these types of overtones, are handled.

With respect to dragging him down to the office and forcing him to talk and sweating him, I think that's probably a little storybook, so to speak, in that you know, this is an educated man who has an attorney. He's not going to be questioned -- he's going to leave. He's not under arrest. If he's not under arrest, he's free to go and you know he can't be compelled to answer questions anymore than anybody else unless he's under some type of a grand jury subpoena and doesn't have a privilege.

COSSACK: Lou, when does it become -- when does it go from a missing persons' investigation to a criminal investigation? Now, I recognize -- you know, look, I'm a lawyer and you're, you know, a former police officer. We both know, and rightfully so, that there are constitutional rights that you've articulated. But when would the police have the right to request someone to come in or open up a grand jury investigation and try to get a subpoena?

Look, this is a missing person. There isn't a body here. When -- what -- when do the police -- or when are they able to step or sort of -- or take the next step? HENNESSY: Well, it's -- first of all, nothing stops them from inviting people in to discuss this case. I mean anybody can come on their own volition and discuss the case.

To transform it from a -- just an administrative or investigation of an incident to a crime they have to have some evidence of a crime. D.C. is one of the few jurisdictions where we have had successful murder prosecutions here where a body has not been found. However, in those cases, we had distinct evidence that a crime did occur, that it occurred here in the District of Columbia and we knew who committed it. And I think those things, from what I see, are lacking here.

COSSACK: All right, let's -- we've been discussing, this morning, the idea and the notion that Congressman Condit's apartment will be searched by the D.C. Police Department. We have some reaction from Dr. Robert Levy, Chandra Levy's father, as to that new development. Let's listen to what he has to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you think about the search of his apartment?

DR. ROBERT LEVY, CHANDRA LEVY'S FATHER: Well, hell, if that's what they want to do now, but you know, 10 weeks ago would have been a good time, I think, like I told the police that time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you really -- did you think that he had something to do with the disappearance of your daughter?

LEVY: Well, I don't want to comment on that now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSSACK: Cynthia Alksne, we're now -- we've been discussing when this switches from the -- you know, the investigation for a missing person into a criminal investigation. I think I can understand that you've -- in your opinion, this should have -- something that should have happened a while ago. But Cynthia, you know, you're a lawyer.

ALKSNE: This is a criminal investigation. The United States Attorney's Office is involved. The grand jury has been asked -- you know, utilized to get grand jury subpoenas.

(CROSSTALK)

COSSACK: All right, let's stop a second. Are you saying that there's a grand jury that is being utilized to get out subpoenas now?

ALKSNE: There is a sitting grand jury that's assigned to the homicide -- to homicide cases in D.C. at all times. That grand jury was utilized, as far as I can understand, to get subpoenas, to get the cell phone records -- that we know of so far, that had been used.

That grand jury is available. And Assistant United States Attorney Heidi Pashichow has been assigned to the case. I happen to know there's four or five other assistant United State attorneys -- everybody is working on it. This is a full-blown investigation in a criminal investigation with the police department, the FBI and the United States Attorney's Office working together. There's liaison people. Everybody's assigned. There's all kinds of things going on.

The idea that this is a missing person's case and we're all sort of doo-doo-doo, like hoping she's going to show up in Georgetown is completely ridiculous.

COSSACK: All right, let's take a break. And when we come back, let's talk more about Chandra Levy and let's find out a little more about this grand jury and this actual criminal investigation that is going on. Stay with us.

(BEGIN Q&A)

Q: A U.S. Appeals Court ruled on Friday that a lower court wrongly threw out a lawsuit brought by two Michigan men against what major fast food chain?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

A: Taco Bell. The men claim that the Mexican food chain stole their idea to use a Chihuahua in commercials.

(END Q&A)

COSSACK: We're back and we're looking at the Washington D.C. apartment of Congressman Gary Condit. The Washington D.C. police have indicated that they will be searching that apartment. And this is the apartment where the congressman resides.

I want to go back now to Cynthia Alksne.

Cynthia, you said right at the end of the last segment -- you said, this is -- look, this is a full-blown criminal investigation. Why then are the police, seemingly, not willing to admit that? And second of all, what does it mean when you have the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Washington D.C. Police and liaisons -- I mean what does that mean in terms of what kind of investigation is occurring?

ALKSNE: Well, first of all, you are -- and I'm sure Roger, you know this, there is a dance always with somebody who is a potential suspect -- I mean is clearly a suspect -- to try to continue to get them to talk to you and not clam up and take the Fifth. And you have that interchange and you don't push it too far but you have to push it far enough. And it's something that is a constant influx in negotiation. I think they're in the dance with him to get him to talk.

If there's -- if they decide to start putting live witnesses in the grand jury, they want him in the grand jury. And if they've treated him from proper way, he might go in the grand jury. If they don't, he might not. It just depends. He might go on videotape.

You know, you never know what you're going to get. But if you're a juror and say, "Hey, you're a United States congressman but now I'm going to treat you like somebody who has 15 felony convictions. Be here at 2:00 and you're going to be here 10 hours," guess what, he's never going to talk to you again. And now you've lost an important witness in trying to find this girl.

Let's say this guy had nothing to do with it and he very well may not have. He's still an important clue in the link of events on why this girl disappeared because of his relationship with her. So, it's important to keep that open. But it is a dance and the police department has a tough time.

COSSACK: And Cynthia, I want to just underline something that you just said and I agree with, the idea of calling him a suspect is a broad term in that sense. He's someone who, clearly, obviously knew her and had a close relationship with her but in no way is it an implication that, one, she was murdered or he had -- if she was, that he had anything to do with it.

ALKSNE: Right. Generally, in the business, we talk about a suspect who could just be anybody and then you narrow it to subjects because we think we're getting there. And then we're talking target. OK, this is our guy.

So to say "suspect" may be a big deal to "NYPD Blue" fans but it's not that important in the business.

COSSACK: All right. Well, it would be important to me if I was called a suspect in this case.

(CROSSTALK)

ALKSNE: Well, I would suspect you in certain things. But I would rather not say.

COSSACK: OK, Paul Ciolino, let me go back to the role of a private detective in this case. We know what the police do. But I would think that perhaps there is more of a role for a private detective in this case simply because there's so much publicity and the police are operating under such a fish eye, that perhaps someone who is not a police officer would have the opportunity to maybe do things a little -- in a quieter way and get in to see people that perhaps the police just couldn't because of the publicity.

CIOLINO: Well, Roger, you know, just by virtue of our job, we're required to be -- have more finesse and be nicer to people. I mean we don't have any power. We can't make anyone talk to us. So, we've got to charm people into talking to us.

So, the private investigator's role is to go out there and get these people who are generally uncooperative to cooperate with them and maybe they could get some information that will be helpful to the case.

You know, we don't have any warrants. We can't do anything without really charming someone in the first 10 or 15 seconds you meet them to get them to cooperate. So, their role is important because they are able, often, to get people to talk to them that would not normally talk to the government or police officers for various reasons.

COSSACK: Louis, in terms of your new role now -- you're a former -- as we talked about, formerly with the Washington D.C. Police Department. But now, you're an attorney. In this situation, let me put you in the position of having to be the attorney for Congressman Condit. And with your specific knowledge, what would you be advising him?

HENNESSY: Well, I would -- the first thing I would advise him is, I don't think it would benefit him to take the polygraph examination. I don't -- I just don't see there's -- where he has to gain from that.

I would suggest if he's got nothing to hide, to go ahead and allow the police to search his apartment. Of course, there's some serious drawbacks there. I mean, he -- this is a creature of his own building, so to speak. And he's made this considerably worse than it could have been had he been completely forthcoming up-front. But I think people understand why he wasn't forthcoming about an extramarital relationship. It's not unheard of in this town, for that to occur.

So I think the important thing for him to do now is set the record straight, try to cooperate as much as he can. If there was some type of conclusive evidence that he could provide, such as DNA or a search of his apartment, go head and cooperate with that, give them what they can, particularly if he has nothing to hide. But I would stay away from the polygraph or any extensive interrogation sessions.

COSSACK: All right. And I'm afraid that's all the time we have for today. Thanks to our guests. Thank you for watching.

Today on "TALKBACK LIVE": Has the media gone overboard in its coverage of Chandra Levy's disappearance? Send your e-mail to Bobbie Battista and tune in at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time.

And we'll be back tomorrow with another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF. I'll see you then.

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