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The Search Continues for Chandra Levy

Aired July 6, 2001 - 12:30   ET



CHIEF CHARLES RAMSEY, D.C. POLICE: We've all along said one of three things could happen -- she either left and doesn't want to be found, she -- the possibility of suicide or foul play. Now, as time goes on, the possibility of suicide becomes more and more remote only because you would think you would find remains after a period of time.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CO-HOST: The search for Washington intern Chandra Levy continues. And Levy's aunt tells what she knows about Chandra and Congressman Gary Condit.

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

VAN SUSTEREN: Hello and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF.

There are new developments in the case of missing Washington intern Chandra Levy. Police have interviewed Carolyn Condit, wife of U.S. Congressman Gary Condit. Condit says he's spoken to police three times, twice in person. Linda Zamsky, an aunt of missing intern Chandra Levy, says her niece told her about having a secret relationship with Congressman Gary Condit. She also told "The Washington Post" Condit gave Levy gifts, including a bracelet and chocolates.

Joining us today, Licha Nyiendo (ph), Louis Hennessy, the former head of the Homicide Squad at the Washington, D.C. Police Department, and criminal defense attorney Jim Cole. And in the back row, Shane Ward (ph), Perry Salzhauer (ph) and Lesley Wexler (ph).

And joining us with the latest, CNN correspondent Bob Franken.

Bob, what can you tell us about the relationship between Gary Condit, the congressman, and Chandra Levy?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course, what is important here is what the police are trying to determine. Now there have been some published reports that say that the police are gravitating toward the belief that there was a romantic relationship. But I just spoke with a law enforcement source, who is knowledgeable about all aspects of this investigation, and he said that the consensus really is a little bit of skepticism, that officers are really having trouble determining A: whether there was one; and B: what relevance it has to the investigation.

One of the concerns, they say...

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me just ask you something, Bob. Does that mean that they do not believe the story that's being reported in "The Post," that the aunt claims that Chandra Levy said she was having a relationship, a romantic one, with Gary Condit?

FRANKEN: Well, they make two possibilities -- one, that Chandra Levy may have in fact, been the young intern who had a crush on somebody and that was why she said what she did -- No. 1. And No. 2, they really are skeptical about some of the claims that are made. As the one top police official told me, he's concerned about an agenda that somebody might have, for instance, the thought that the Levys in California might participate in some effort to oppose Congressman Condit politically. So there is that kind of question, that is still in their minds.

I was also told about the interview yesterday with the congressman's wife, Carolyn Condit, which occurred in a suburb of Washington, in an FBI field office. He says that the entire three or four hours, which as he said is how long it went, was spent with a minute-by-minute discussion about what occurred while she was here in Washington, during that period of time in late April and early May when Chandra Levy disappeared, when she was with Congressman Condit, when she was not with Congressman Condit. He went on to say that there was nothing particularly new that they got, nothing that would bring them closer to finding Chandra Levy.

Now, the next question is do they anticipate interviewing Congressman Condit again. He's been interviewed twice. He says that that is entirely a possibility but there's been no determination that that is going to occur.

The one last point was, you'll remember yesterday, the police chief, Charles Ramsey, said about 100 people have been interviewed, not just Congressman Condit. Who were they? Well, a large number of them were people who were in the health club the last day that Chandra Levy was there, on April 30, to turn in her membership before she was leaving town. About 135 people were there. They've interviewed any number of them. The rest he said were friends, colleagues, acquaintances, people at work both here and in California. That is why the number is as high as it is.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Bob, don't go away yet. I might have a few more questions.

With Congressman Condit, has he been interviewed by both the D.C. police and the FBI or just the D.C. police?

FRANKEN: Well, they usually -- they have a joint operation because of course, this is an investigation that is nationwide and the FBI, in particular with the federal police force, like the district police force is, participates in just about everything. So, the FBI agents were present when D.C. police were questioning.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, this may be a collateral matter but it may have some legal significance, has Congressman Condit, if you know -- has he denied having a romantic relationship to the D.C. police and/or the FBI?

FRANKEN: We have been told that when matters of the relationship came up -- of course, he was in the presence of his lawyer, particularly for the second interview -- that he refused to discuss the nature of the relationship.

VAN SUSTEREN: So he has not specifically denied having a romantic relationship as far as we know.

FRANKEN: As far as we know.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, three to four hours with the congressman's wife. Do we know what kind of questions were asked of her?

FRANKEN: The questions had to do with the line-by-line, minute- by-minute what she was doing when she was in town, when she was with the congressman -- translate when there's an alibi -- and when she was not and then of course to try and compare that with questions they had had for the congressman about what he was doing at those times. In other words, if she said, "I was not with him on April 29 from 12:00 until 2:00," they would go back and see that perhaps he would have said, "Well, I was at a meeting at that particular time with person X or person Y."

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, thanks to CNN's Bob Franken for helping us out with that.

Bob, I know you have to go chase down more on this story.

All right, Jim, let me talk for a second about answering questions with the FBI and the D.C. police. If you lie -- and I -- it's a big "if" -- but if you lie to the FBI in an investigation even on a collateral matter, such as whether you had relationship with someone, is that -- is there anything wrong? Is that a crime?

JIM COLE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It is a crime. If you lie to them about something that's material -- it has to actually have some relevance or some capability of misleading even if they don't rely on it. But if you lie when you are asked a question that is a crime. Your choices are don't answer or tell the truth.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course -- as I want to underline, of course, we don't know what was exactly said or not said by the congressman to the FBI or the police.

Lou, why would the police want to talk to Gary Condit's wife?

W. LOUIS HENNESSY, FORMER D.C. POLICE DEPARTMENT DETECTIVE: Well, I think that they hit on it pretty well just a few minutes ago -- is obviously, she could either make or break an alibi defense for him. If she was with him at the time that Miss Levy disappeared, obviously that means that Mr. Condit was not involved in that. And I think that that's probably the angle that they're going on.

And one of the things they talked about is they're trying to get a minute-by-minute breakdown as to her whereabouts and her -- the congressman being in her presence during that time. So, it looks to me like they're trying to retrace the steps to establish an alibi or break an alibi.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, Lou, you've been in this -- you were in the department for a long time doing homicide cases. Is there a strategy that you think the police would use interviewing the wife? Do you have a good guy, bad guy? Do you have a strategy in terms of how many people there?

HENNESSY: Well, I think what you'd want to do is you would want to approach this somewhat delicately. I mean, obviously, there's a lot of pressure on everybody, particularly her and her family as a result of this investigation. So, you'd want to approach it and really ask her for her cooperation. That's the approach that I would take or I'd recommend it be taken.

Just try to explain to her what we are trying to do, is look at this case, look at it as if it was your child that was missing, give us the cooperation you would expect someone to give us if it were your child that was missing and approach her from that perspective. And I think that they probably did and she was probably very forthcoming.

VAN SUSTEREN: Jim, a lot of people wonder, do you have to talk to the police? Do you have to talk to the FBI? Did Gary Condit have to talk to them? Did his wife have to talk to them?

COLE: As a legal matter, no, you don't have to talk to them.

VAN SUSTEREN: When do you have to talk to the police -- or whenever -- or the FBI?

COLE: Well, the only time you have is if you actually get a subpoena and you go into a grand jury room and are asked questions. And if you don't have a privilege, like an attorney-client privilege or a husband/wife privilege, you have to answer the question.

VAN SUSTEREN: Except for in the incidents here, as Bob reported, is that when the question got sort of on another matter, the nature of the relationship, apparently, the congressman's lawyer said, "Don't answer".

COLE: That's right. Well, in an interview, he does have to answer anything. He could have just said, "I choose not to talk to you". That's perfectly allowed, but it raises lots of questions.

And the question is whether, on a practical level, do you have to talk. And certainly as a congressman, as a public person, as a person who knew Chandra Levy, I think this is a practical matter. He has to talk. He has to answer questions.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, we're going to take a quick break.

Up next, using dogs to track a missing person -- our experts tell us how it's done right after this.


As part of a plea agreement to avoid the death penalty, former FBI agent Robert Hanssen plead guilty to 15 counts of espionage and conspiracy. Hanssen had been indicted on 21 counts that alleged he took $1.4 million worth of goods in return for passing information to Moscow.



VAN SUSTEREN: D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey says they've interviewed 100 people in connection with the Levy case. And while it is still being treated as a missing persons case, police say they have searched landfills with cadaver-sniffing dogs.

Joining us from New York, Penny Sullivan, vice president of the American Rescue Dog Association.

Penny, tell me, how do you train dogs to find cadavers?

PENNY SULLIVAN, VICE PRESIDENT, AMERICAN RESCUE DOG ASSOCIATION: Well, the initial training starts with a dog associating the cadaver material in a very positive experience.

VAN SUSTEREN: What does that mean?

SULLIVAN: Well, you associate it with something that the dog really loves, like a play reward, a great play session or his favorite treat. In fact, we select dogs that have high drives or inclinations, if you will, for certain behavior, like play or food.

VAN SUSTEREN: What kind of dog makes a -- is there a certain breed that's particularly good for searching for cadavers?

SULLIVAN: Well, many breeds can be used. It's more up to the individual dog. You want a dog that does have those high drives, as we call them, because if they have that, it becomes much easier to train the dog and you'll have a more dependable animal.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right...

SULLIVAN: So the selection of the dog is very important.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now we understand, in this particular case, that there are landfills that have been searched or are going to be searched. You bring a dog -- the cadaver-sniffing dog out to the landfill and take me through the steps of what you would do with the dog.

SULLIVAN: Well, that will depend to some degree on the handler, but usually the dog is given a specific command.

VAN SUSTEREN: Like? SULLIVAN: Well, it could be "suche" or "search". It means, to the dog, through the process of training, that he's going to be doing a slower, methodical search. And usually he'll be working off lead but not too great a distance from the handler. And he will very methodically cover the area, following some direction from the handler, but generally with his nose down and doing a close search.

Usually, the dog is allowed to work on his own without interference from the handler. But once the dog does get some sense, some cadaver sense -- he has also been trained to give a specific indication normally. It could either be what we call a passive alert where the dog, generally, will either lie down or sit, but basically remain fairly still. Or it could be an active alert. Some dogs are trained to actually dig and bark and indicate towards that specific source of the scent.

Bear in mind that these dogs may be looking for a very small amount of scent. So, they must work slowly and methodically.

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, I don't want to be overly gruesome but I imagine in a landfill, there's a lot of odor that is particularly pungent and unattractive at least to the human. I mean can a dog distinguish between, you know, even a dead animal and human remains?

SULLIVAN: Yes, that is part of the training. In fact, obviously, they're looking for human scent but also usually decomposition. But in the course of the training, once the dog knows what is positive and what he gets rewarded for, he's actually trained away from any other distracting scent. So, in fact, we call it proofing the dog. They are very dependable at picking out just the human scent.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, return for us -- Lou, go back to you. The apartment of Chandra Levy -- if you were back in the homicide division and you got the missing report and you went to her apartment, what would you do?

HENNESSY: Well, here, we're at a little disadvantage, in this case, in that there wasn't a murder. At least when they first went there, they weren't sure what they had. So they probably went there and looked around -- initially, did a cursory examination. But eventually, they would have had to bring in some forensic experts, probably the mobile crime lab, to process the apartment.

Things that they would be looking for obviously -- if there was some type of a caller I.D., the people who have called her, who she has called, any papers, a Day Runner or something that -- with her itinerary on it, printing, any type of glasses or dishes that may be out. They may have gone to the point of even silver nitrating the walls and using some type of...

VAN SUSTEREN: What does that mean, silver nitrate the walls?

HENNESSY: It's putting a chemical on the walls that will expose fingerprints. That's one of the processes that is used. There's other processes that are used. It's just more recent technology where you can use lasers to lift prints off of walls now.

VAN SUSTEREN: What about photographing the place? Is that something you want to do right away? And if so, how do you get permission on a missing person's report, first of all, to enter an apartment and secondly to take photographs?

HENNESSY: Well, they would probably be able to get permission from the next of kin. In this particular matter, it would be her parents, who would give them permission. I don't know who was on the lease, but anybody who's on a lease would probably be able to give permission.

They could get in. And the very first thing that they want to do before they get anything would be, photograph the scene so that they can take it in its natural or original condition. And then as they begin to process it, they would take photographs as they did it, in some instances or even videotape it as they're doing it so they could show exactly what they have done as opposed what was done before.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, we're going to take a quick break.

Does a congressman need a lawyer? What do you do if you represent Congressman Condit? Stay with us.


VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman Gary Condit has hired a lawyer and a P.R. representative to handle the press. How much help does this man need? Well, let's ask Jim.

Jim, you've represented some high-profile people. How do you represent this congressman and what's the day-to-day job?

COLE: Well, it depends. First, you have to make an assessment of what kinds of problems he has. mean he may have anywhere from no legal problem to a question of whether he's told the truth to government officials, to whether he has tried to obstruct justice and get other people to lie, to whether he may be involved in the disappearance. And it's a very different set of goals and of jobs that you're going to have in front of you, depending on which one of those things are you're dealing with.

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, wait -- OK, let's start with the presumption of innocence. Let's assume that he has no involvement at all. But a lot of people out there are saying, "Why does he need a lawyer? Why isn't he just out talking if he doesn't know anything."

COLE: Well, it could be that he may have created a problem. He may have started off without a lawyer. He may have made some silly mistakes by not telling the truth in the first instance, in a few interviews, because he thought, "It has nothing to do with the real underlying issue. I'm going to avoid some embarrassment. I'm not going to tell the truth." And now he's got a legal problem. Now he's got an issue that he has to deal with assuming that something like that has happened.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why does he need a P.R. representative?

COLE: He's not only a person involved in a legal issue; he is a member of Congress and a very public person. So he's now got to decide, "How do I deal with keeping my job, my constituency and a lot of press that's going to be hovering around me".

And there is some very, very good advice you can get on how to deal in a crisis mode. Major corporations do the same thing. When they're in a crisis mode -- a situation comes to their door, they have to know how to deal with questions that are coming to them and that's where he's at.

VAN SUSTEREN: Lou, we -- periodically, we get reports from the police department -- from the chief. I mean, is -- do you think that there's a strategy in terms of how much the police are telling the people at this time or are they just bearing all? And is there a purpose behind it?

HENNESSY: Well, there's always a purpose behind it. It -- there's certain information that you don't want released to the public so that when somebody does provide information and was able to provide details that are only known to the police or the perpetrator, you will know that that person has information that has never been out there and it's, what we consider, crucial information.

The police will consider crucial information because they have to have either heard it from the perpetrator or they had to have done it or had to have heard it from the police. And of course, the police are trained not to give up that type of information during interrogations. So, they will strategically hold back crucial information and pertinent facts that are available only to those in the very close-knit investigation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Penny, I want to go back to the dogs. They've searched landfills but are the dogs also capable of searching other environments, for instance, water?

SULLIVAN: Yes, they are. And they've been very successful at that. Some of the scent from the missing subject will rise through the water and when it hits the surface, the dogs, either working from the shore or in boats, can indicate that scent also and very likely narrow down the area for the divers.

VAN SUSTEREN: What about if someone -- I mean this is maybe a little bit off your sort of area, from cadaver-sniffing dogs, but what about -- is it too late to send a dog into an apartment and then try to attempt to figure out where she went out the front door? Is that like we're way beyond that?

SULLIVAN: As far as the cadaver dog?

VAN SUSTEREN: No -- but I mean let's suppose that she's -- I mean she's living in her apartment and let's say she leaves. We don't know what happened to her. But is there anyway, at this point, to track any scent of her, even when she's living? Or is that beyond your area of expertise? SULLIVAN: Well, I know tracking dogs can follow scents days afterwards. But I would definitely say it would be a very difficult task, at this point, with the contamination that's occurred, many people being in and out of the apartment. I would say it would probably not be likely that they would have much success at that, at this point.

VAN SUSTEREN: Jim, I -- you know, we don't have all the details and obviously only the lawyers on the inside do, but I mean the best we can piece together, if you were representing Congressman Condit now -- and let's assume he has no responsibility at all -- should he come out and answer questions?

COLE: I think at a certain point he's going to have to just for his constituency. I think he definitely has to do it for the authorities, for the police and for the FBI. He has to answer all of their questions, at this point, to put that issue to rest.

The other issue is a public relations issue. And he's going to have to judge how far his constituents will stay with him and reelect him without him coming clean as to exactly what happened.

VAN SUSTEREN: But do you -- but now, we've heard -- you know, this flight attendant has come out and she's made statements. I mean are we a little bit beyond that, do you think, with constituents or not?

COLE: I think we are. What he doesn't want is death by a thousand cuts, at this point. And that's what he's starting to experience.

VAN SUSTEREN: A death by a thousand cuts, that's a good line. I'll use that sometime because it probably does describe it.

But that's all the time we have for today. Thanks to our guests and thank you for watching.

Tune in today "For-Free-For-all-Friday" as Bobbie Battista looks at the top news from this past week at 3:00 p.m. on "TALKBACK LIVE."

And tonight, on "THE POINT," an interview with Jim Robinson, attorney for Anne Marie Smith, the flight attendant who says she had an affair with Gary Condit.

And join us again Monday for another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF. We'll see you then.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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