Condit aide testifies before Levy grand jury

06/12/2002 8:15 AM

11/20/2007 8:24 AM

WASHINGTON -- Investigators probing the Chandra Levy mystery have peeled back more layers from around Ceres Rep. Gary Condit, with the recent grand jury testimony of a longtime aide.

In interviews late last week, but scheduled before the discovery of some of Levy's remains May 22, prosecutors and grand jurors questioned Condit's Modesto-based chief of staff, Mike Lynch. Lynch is considered a witness, not a target of the investigation.

"He was honest and candid," Lynch's attorney, Beth Wilkinson, said Tuesday. "It was clearly not confrontational. And he answered all the questions honestly and accurately."

The questioning came as police continued their search for more of Levy's remains. Police scoured the site in Rock Creek Park for six days starting May 22, and returned last week after private investigators found what turned out to be a Levy shinbone.

So far this week, police have reported finding what appear to be 1- to 2-inch-long bones from a left foot. Tuesday, police found a 12-inch bone that is now being tested.

The latest bone find came on a day when three dozen police recruits looked through the area where most of the remains were found previously. The search was expected to continue today with the aid of volunteers.

The District of Columbia medical examiner has concluded that Levy, a 24-year-old Modesto woman, was a homicide victim, though her skeletal remains did not reveal a cause of death. She disappeared April 30, 2001, a week after completing an internship at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Reports soon surfaced of a possible relationship between Condit and Levy. Condit refused to comment publicly, and Lynch acted as his spokesman -- telling reporters more than once that there was no romantic relationship between the married politician, then 53, and Levy.

A romance with Levy "totally did not occur," Lynch said in May 2001.

Publicly, Condit has described his friendship with Levy as "very close." However, he has not denied multiple reports that he told police that he and Levy had an affair.

His former attorney, Abbe Lowell, said last year that the congressman "did not authorize" Lynch and other staffers to deny an affair.

Lynch went before two assistant U.S. attorneys for questioning Thursday. The next day he appeared before the 23-member grand jury.

Wilkinson declined to elaborate on how long Lynch testified or on the nature of the questions, and Lynch declined to comment.

"I don't believe the government is going to ask for any more testimony (from Lynch)," Wilkinson said.

Lynch is the first Condit staff member known to have appeared before the grand jury, though investigators have long been interested in the operations of the congressman's office.

Wilkinson, hired by Lynch last summer, wrote to prosecutors in July offering her client's full cooperation. She said she did not hear anything until several weeks ago, and a subpoena followed.

Condit attorney Mark Geragos has said that he will not elaborate on reports that Condit appeared before prosecutors on April 12, saying that first he wants an investigation of grand jury leaks.

Another top Condit staffer, legislative director Mike Dayton, hired an attorney last summer at about the same time as Lynch. Neither he nor his attorney, Stanley Brand, returned calls asking whether Dayton had recently been subpoenaed by the grand jury.

Lynch knows Condit as well as anyone, with a history dating back to the 1980s when they worked together in Sacramento. Lynch was the Condit's top aide even before the 1989 special election that brought Condit to Washington.

Since then, Lynch has spent most of his time in Modesto, overseeing district offices, tending to valley political networks and periodically traveling to Washington.

The grand jury has been meeting for months. In November, House rules forced Condit to reveal that the grand jury had subpoenaed documents from his office.

Questions about his behavior during the investigation continue to dog the congressman.

A flight attendant claims that Condit urged her to sign an affidavit falsely denying an affair. Last week, a spokesman for the attorney's office that prepared the draft affidavit said the office had not been subpoenaed.

In another alleged incident, police say Condit apparently threw away a watch box several hours before investigators searched his condominium. A former Condit staffer said the box had held a watch that she gave to the congressman.

The watch box ended up in a trash bin in a park in Alexandria, Va.

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