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The Search for Chandra Heads to D.C. Streets

Aired July 13, 2001 - 12:30   ET



CHIEF CHARLES RAMSEY, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: Mr. Condit, because of his position, is obviously getting the majority of the attention in this case. But we have an awful lot of work to do. We're taking a look now at people on probation, parole, and tracking them down, trying to reach out for cab drivers, anybody who may have any information at all. And we're even taking a look at composite sketches of Chandra Levy in the event that she is alive.


ROGER COSSACK, CO-HOST: Today on BURDEN OF PROOF: The search for Chandra Levy heads back to the streets of D.C. as investigators and police dogs scour abandoned buildings for the missing intern. Plus, the Justice Department expands its investigation into whether Congressman Gary Condit obstructed justice.

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

COSSACK: Hello and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF.

D.C. police are back on the streets of the capital city searching abandoned buildings for Chandra Levy. Yesterday, investigators used cadaver dogs to comb structures near the apartments of Levy and Congressman Gary Condit for clues about the missing intern.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CO-HOST: Now, in hopes that Levy may still be alive, police are creating computer generated pictures of what she might look like had she altered her appearance. In addition, federal prosecutors have expanded their probe into whether Condit obstructed justice by asking Ann Marie Smith to sign a false affidavit about their alleged relationship. That's what she claims, that he asked her to do that.

COSSACK: All right, well joining us to discuss the latest in the search for Chandra Levy, in Atlanta, former D.C. detective and CNN consultant Mike Brooks. Here in Washington, we are joined by criminal defense attorney Ron Sullivan, former federal prosecutor, Marty Rogers, and former D.C. police detective, Howard Miller.

Howard, let me just start off with you. We now know that the D.C. police have taken to streets of D.C. and are beginning to comb buildings, perhaps old building, perhaps vacant buildings. Why now and why not 10 weeks ago?

HOWARD MILLER, FORMER D.C. POLICE DETECTIVE: Well, they -- it's apparent to me that this is sort of going down the checklist. They're going to have to, you know, go to the fundamentals and they're following through starting from the residence.

COSSACK: But why not 10 weeks ago?

MILLER: Well, they -- it goes to the issue of the severity of the missing person report at the time of the incident, of the notification.


COSSACK: Expand on that. I'm sorry, just expand -- what do you mean by that, the severity?


COSSACK: I mean what's not so severe about a missing young person?

MILLER: Well, there are a lot of missing adults who choose to be missing. And they have a tendency to show up within 72 hours, 48 hours or a week later. There was no sign of trauma, no crime scene- type information. So, the severity level is at a very basic point and manpower is just not applied unless there is something to prioritize the search.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mike, do you get the sense that this is simply a grid search? You're just going to simply look at every single building or is there something that suggests that they might have a tip that there is a body in abandoned building?

MIKE BROOKS, FORMER D.C. POLICE DETECTIVE AND CNN ANALYST: No, I don't think that there's any tips in particular, that they have any body in a particular building. Again, what Howard says, I think they're going in and they're dotting all their "I's" and crossing all their "T's". Initially, when someone is reported missing and a report is made, they'll set up a command post and then they'll go ahead and they will search the area directly around where the person is believed to have been missing from. So I think...

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know if that was done in this case because I mean, right now -- I mean a lot of people have never, you know, been witness to a missing person's search? I mean, do you think they set up a command post here on probably May 5 or so when they began to -- or at least when the report came in?

BROOKS: Well, by procedure, by metropolitan police procedure, that's what they do. And they classify the missing person as serious or non-serious depending again, on the circumstances that they have and the information they have to go on at the time. So at the time, they did -- probably did a search.

They're going back now, expanding that search area, and going through all the buildings, looking for anything at all that may be of any evidentiary value, maybe some of her clothing, also, in the areas surrounding these buildings, anything that could be a shallow grave, again, in the eventuality that Miss Levy is -- you know, is dead. But again, they're not -- we're not giving up hope. And law enforcement is not giving up hope that she still is alive.

COSSACK: Mike, you know, there's been criticism of the D.C. Police Department and some of that criticism goes like this, that if this -- if Congressman Condit was anybody else but a member of Congress, he would have been treated a lot differently than he has been. Is there some special protocol that the D.C. Police Department has to go through in regards to investigating a congressman? And let's not forget that it's Congress that gives the funds to the D.C. Police Department to operate.

BROOKS: That's correct. And we're well aware of that. But again, the D.C. police are totally nonpolitical when it comes down to investigating crimes as is the FBI. But there are certain protocols, as you say, that have to be gone through and that what they have to do is the prosecutor's office, the Assistant U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington will contact the Department of Justice. And they have to go through the Department of Justice before any interviews and those kinds of things can be done.

VAN SUSTEREN: Marty, two questions based on what Mike said. No. 1 is why should a congressman get any special treatment going through the Justice Department. I mean what warrants that, you know, it should just be a straight investigation, at least in my view. I don't know why a congressman would get special treatment.

Secondly, you've worked with the police department and the FBI. Is it nonpolitical or...

MARTY ROGERS, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, it is. In my experience, the D.C. police, the Metropolitan Police Department and the FBI are nonpolitical, capital "P" political, democrat-republican. But you're right. Roger or one of you was just saying something like, you know, they know where their funds come from. And their funds come from appropriations from Congress.

And you know, the fact is that congressmen are treated, especially here, not just by law enforcement, but in every place, special parking spots at the airport and all sort of things.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, you know, I'll give them the parking. But when you've got a missing woman -- and we keep saying this is a missing persons versus -- technically, there is no body.

ROGERS: We hope so.

VAN SUSTEREN: But what we're all thinking is it's a homicide by someone, not by the Congressman, by someone. I mean that -- I mean people do think that. We don't say that. We try to be sort of politically correct and say it's a missing -- but that -- I mean why should anyone, at this point, get sort of special treatment. ROGERS: Well, I think at this point, two months after the fact, no one should. He was, I think, given special treatment if he really wasn't pushed by the police when he was questioned earlier. Because in my experience, very few 24 year-old girls -- women are considered very good friends of people that they don't work or you know, have some sort of professional relationship with. If he told them in the early interviews that he had a very good relationship or close relationship with this woman, they should have asked the next question --- well, was it a sexual relationship, how long did you know her, all sorts of things as opposed to oh, she was a good friend. That doesn't happen very often in law enforcement.

VAN SUSTEREN: And the -- I mean the other odd thing is, I think, he was quoted, if I'm correct -- said is that they had to break off a good friendship because he's moving back to California. I mean you don't break off good friendships, you -- I mean you can still use your telephone.


ROGERS: You break up sexual relationships.


COSSACK: Ron Sullivan, how different is it -- the congressman's treated? I know, you -- you know, your background is you're a chief of the federal public defender's office. You see people who don't have that kind of clout that apparently a congressman has in this city. How differently is it, the way he was treated and the way perhaps some of your clients get treated.

RON SULLIVAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Absolutely, the local public defender office -- so A.J. Kramer won't get angry at me, OK -- but very differently, very differently. He was accorded a degree of respect indifference that the clients of the public defender service are not accorded.

VAN SUSTEREN: Which they should though. They should have...

SULLIVAN: But that's...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... it's not -- wait a second, Ron. It's not a question of respect. Every single person in this city ought to be treated with respect whether you're a congressman or not. The only thing that's sort of funny to me is the fact that you have to go through justice to get permission sort of. I mean because that's what's bizarre.


COSSACK: Well -- but I mean that's the problem. That's the point he's making, yes.

SULLIVAN: I agree with you a 100 percent. And yes, that -- because most people, from what I Hear, are saying that Congressman Condit should be treated in the way that they treat my clients.

My view is that my...

COSSACK: Which should be us.

SULLIVAN: ... clients should be treated in the way that the congressman is treated. He's treated especially because he knows his rights. He has a wonderful lawyer who is not going to let the police walk over them.

Most people do not know -- the people that I represent don't know that you don't have to talk to the police. You don't have to submit to search.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I guess what...

SULLIVAN: You don't have to do these things. And he fully -- Congressman Condit exercised his rights and the police department knew that they couldn't force him into doing something.

VAN SUSTEREN: But Ron, you know, I think...

COSSACK: That's the public defender's job, to tell them that they don't have to do those things.

VAN SUSTEREN: But there's a little bit -- but there's a little bit of difference. I mean if you treat someone with respect, you should treat everybody with respect. But here, the situation we sort of ask -- if you ask a softball question. I don't know if that's happened. But you didn't, for instance, follow-up on the nature of the relationship, that's something a little bit different from respect.

But we're going to take a quick break. Up next, changing your appearance: If Chandra Levy is walking the streets somewhere, how might she disguise herself? Don't go away.


The city of New York and its police union have agreed to pay Abner Louima $8.7 million to settle his lawsuit against them for police brutality stemming from the 1997 incident. The settlement is the largest ever in a police brutality case in New York.




RAMSEY: One of the theories we're operating on is that Miss Levy went off on her own and does not want to be found. If that is the case, one of the things we can do is alter the pictures we have, crop her hair, shorten it, color it blonde, put it in a ponytail so people will have some other visual reference in case they see her or have seen her on the street. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Investigators are searching abandoned buildings in the Washington, D.C. area for any clues to the whereabouts of Chandra Levy. The police, they're using high-tech computers to generate new pictures of what Chandra may look like if she were to disguise herself.

Joining us here in Washington is forensic imaging specialist, Joe Mullins.

Joe, tell me, how do the police do this special imaging to try to see how she can disguise herself?

JOE MULLINS, FORENSIC IMAGING SPECIALIST: We have a library of reference photographs that we can use to put together a composite. The library consists of you know, different eye colors, glasses, hairstyles, clothing. Basically, we can manipulate a photograph into any composite that someone's requested.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is that done by computer, is that what it is?

MULLINS: Yes, it's all on the computer.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, you have actually done an example for us of photographs. I think we can put it up on the screen for the viewers to see of the different photographs.

COSSACK: And these are of you, Joe, right?

MULLINS: Right, that's -- I put this together for a demonstration.

VAN SUSTEREN: And these are -- this is different aging ones though, right?

MULLINS: We have aging samples and just changing the appearance. I believe there's one of me minus...


VAN SUSTEREN: We've made you a little bit older, bald.

COSSACK: And with glasses.



VAN SUSTEREN: And that's done by computer?

MULLINS: It's all done on the computer. There is instant photo composite software. It's all done using commercial software, mostly artist techniques.

COSSACK: Joe, how long does it take you to generate these kinds of photos? And does this replace what used to be -- the sketch artist used to. We've all seen the movies where the -- we ask the person to come in -- and please ask the person to come and say do they look like this, do they look like that. Does this replace that?

MULLINS: Right. We use -- technology is definitely on our side. The sketch artist is still putting out great work but we like to keep it with the times and do it with the computers. So it's better for us and the public to get a -- more of a photographic representational image of the people we can.

VAN SUSTEREN: Howard, why would -- I mean if Chandra Levy is missing, I'm not so sure why the police should be looking for her. I mean because she's an adult and she can do what she wants. If she's sick of Washington and wants to get out of here or whatever, has a family problem or whatever -- if there's a suggestion of a crime, I understand why we're spending the resources. So why spend the resources on the imaging to see how she could disguise herself?

MILLER: Well, the -- obviously, over 8 weeks, we -- I heard reference earlier -- we talked about glamour photos. And most of the photos of this lady that we've seen have been pretty much glamour photos. And we need to see real life photos, what does this person look like in day-to-day life. And if she alters her appearance, we need to see what she looks like as a blonde or with a ponytail.

VAN SUSTEREN: Marty, if she's missing, it's different then if there's a crime that's been -- I mean she has a right to be -- to make herself missing, right?

ROGERS: Right. She's 24 years old.

VAN SUSTEREN: And should -- if she's -- if there's evidence that she's missing and not that there's been a crime, should the police be looking for her?

ROGERS: You know, I think they should because I think that the interviews that they've done with her family and her friends suggest that she is not the kind of person -- doesn't sort of have the personality to sort of skip out. I mean it would be very difficult...

VAN SUSTEREN: So why do the imaging pictures? Why change how she has looked?

COSSACK: Well...


ROGERS: Why not?


VAN SUSTEREN: Because why not spend the time looking at buildings, why not -- I mean it's a question of resources.

COSSACK: Well, what if she was abducted? All right, you know, I don't know what happened. But let -- but what if she was abducted against her will and disguised? I mean what if she's being held against her will and she's...

VAN SUSTEREN: And she's -- and she's living in Palm Springs?

ROGERS: With blonde hair.

VAN SUSTEREN: With blonde hair?

COSSACK: You know, I don't know. I mean -- but I'm saying it sounds like a research tool that makes sense.

VAN SUSTEREN: I just think that this is one area...


VAN SUSTEREN: The police department has limited resources.

ROGERS: Well, that's not many resources to do that.

COSSACK: Joe, let's have -- listen, Joe, talk to us about what it takes to generate these pictures. And how quickly you can do it and you know, how -- the different kinds of things you can do and the different kinds of pictures.

MULLINS: I mean I don't think it's a waste of time. It's obviously -- you know, she's missing. It can't hurt to manipulate her image so people can actually put a face with the image -- of her with blonde hair, glasses, you know...


MULLINS: ... shaved head, aging.

VAN SUSTEREN: But if she's done -- here's the problem, if she's done that, that is an act she has chosen to do herself. And she has a right to be missing if she's changed her hair color. If she's done that -- that's not it.

Ron, do you want to get in on this?

SULLIVAN: Yes, I mean I think the practical reality is the Metropolitan Police Department has come under so much fire in terms of what they haven't done that they just want to cover all the basis.

Well, I'll just give you a pragmatic answer. They just want to do everything, sort of throw the net out and find her and -- you know, hopefully alive -- but then bring this to some conclusion.

COSSACK: Joe, I want to go right back to this computer one more time. Now, how many different kinds of pictures could you generate and at what aging level? For example could you project what she would look like 10 years from now, five years from now and how do did you that?

MULLINS: Absolutely. Again, it's all done with our library of reference photographs. We have, you know -- if she was missing 10 years, we could add 10 years -- what, it would make her 34. We would get reference photographs of 34 year olds that match her particular characteristics and apply those features to make her look 34, you know, add wrinkles, gray hair, glasses if that was something that...

COSSACK: And what kind of success ratio are you having with these pictures?

MULLINS: There were -- we've recovered, you know, several hundred since the Forensic Imaging Unit was started at the National Center. We've recovered approximately 300 cases.

COSSACK: All right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let's take a break.

COSSACK: I think it's time to take a break. Up next, federal prosecutors are expanding their probe into potential obstruction of justice. And a Georgia congressman calls for Condit to resign his post on Capitol Hill. Stay tuned.


Q: Why is a Canadian family suing Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. for $650,600?

A: Gross negligence for their son being crushed to death by a vending machine. He was trying to shake his soda loose from the 920- pound machine.



COSSACK: Welcome back, new developments keep emerging in the ongoing investigation into the whereabouts of Chandra Levy. And Georgia representative Bob Barr has become the first colleague of Congressman Condit to call for his resignation.

Marty, I'm going to talk to you a little bit about this obstruction of justice that we've heard about, that the United States Attorney's Office is looking into.

One of the things, on a personal note, is that my co-host here, the other day...

VAN SUSTEREN: Feels it in her bones.

COSSACK: ... feels it in here bones and told me -- she said, "You know, I think this guy has a problem on this objection of justice". And I don't.

VAN SUSTEREN: Assuming the facts are as the flight attendant says.


VAN SUSTEREN: That's the big if.

COSSACK: OK and I don't. I think that even if he did ask her and to sign an affidavit it wasn't true, I don't see him getting indicted on this. I think it gets down to a he said/she said. And I just don't see an indictment coming on this.

Greta, on the other hand, says assuming the facts are what they are; she's got a different feeling. This always makes me uncomfortable. What do you think?

ROGERS: I come down on Greta's side, I think. I think it is very problematic for him. And of course, we're assuming that what she said is true, that he personally, as opposed to an agent of his -- that he personally asked her to sign what was a false affidavit.

If in fact, he did do that and the government is able to find any corroborating evidence on that...

COSSACK: That's why I don't think it's going to happen.

ROGERS: Like phone records.

COSSACK: Phone records that...

ROGERS: I mean there's never going to be a third person present.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'll tell you the problem -- is that -- I mean what I understand is that there are phone records back that are showing conversations between them. We don't know the content of the conversation, which is a very sort of lame form of corroboration but nonetheless is corroboration that they spoke, No. 1.

But No. 2, we go back, Ron -- and let me go to you on this sort of special treatment thing. I do not think, in this day and age, a prosecutor can look the other way on a case like that and not toss it to a jury for consideration. This is a congressman. You can't get -- quote -- special treatment. If I was his defense lawyer, I'd be worried.


SULLIVAN: I would be worried as well. And I think you're on point with this special treatment because this notion of special treatment has been discussed so widely in the media that I think the prosecutor's office...

COSSACK: Come on, you guys, you've still got to have a little evidence here. And I...

SULLIVAN: And they wouldn't -- they may well put it in front of a grand jury. And to the extent a grand jury credits Anne Marie Smith's statement, then you have an indictment.

COSSACK: All right, let me ask you both of you the key question.

ROGERS: All right.

COSSACK: All right, come on, it's Anne Marie Smith's word. And now you have telephone calls that show that calls did go back and forth between Anne Marie Smith and now Anne Marie Smith says this is what happened. Which one of you two want to prosecute that case?

ROGERS: Well, of course, I would never mind putting that case before the grand jury.

COSSACK: The grand jury is easy.

ROGERS: ... very low threshold ...

COSSACK: The grand jury is easy. Which one of you wants to go and try to get a conviction...


VAN SUSTEREN: Let me tell you how...

ROGERS: It's a tough case.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... let me tell you how you go before the jury because you sort of hearken back to what justice's achieved, you know, when you get the right verdict. And you say to the members of the committee, listen, you are 12 members of the jury and you're going to consider this case. Whether you return a verdict of not guilty or guilty is not my concern as a prosecutor. Here is the evidence we have. It is your duty to evaluate it. They may convict. They may not. But a prosecutor saves face.

COSSACK: Greta, you don't take cases if you're a prosecutor unless you think you can win them.



ROGERS: ... likelihood of success.

COSSACK: You bet. And I --you don't go up there and say listen, you do what you think is best. You go up there with the idea you think you're going to win it. If you don't think you can win it, you have no business going.


ROGERS: I agree. You should not indict if you don't think you can convict them.

VAN SUSTEREN: But if you believe that this case is an indictable case -- if you believe you can win and you have a congressman -- I don't think with all the sort of political pressure -- because you're going to get that argument that he got special treatment because he's a congressman and nobody bothered to have known. I think that there's -- I think that he has an added -- I think a prosecutor has an added pressure to do something.

ROGERS: Well, could I...

SULLIVAN: The congressman has another set of difficulties. Assuming that he made inconsistent or less than false statements to the police earlier in the course of the investigation, the prosecutor is going to stand up and say that he said this day on Anne Marie Smith -- and you know he said this to Anne Marie Smith because he had a pattern of practice of trying to hide the nature of his relationship...


VAN SUSTEREN: Is that...


VAN SUSTEREN: But is that -- let me ask you this -- you know, Ron, that may -- is that -- I mean that sort of goes in a prosecutor's mind of whether or not the case should go forward. Would -- do you think that would come into evidence at a trial?

SULLIVAN: If I were a defense attorney, no.


SULLIVAN: But, OK, if I were...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, me neither, Ron.

SULLIVAN: Or you either.

ROGERS: Or me either.

SULLIVAN: It's a threat. I mean it's a threat. I mean, you know -- and particularly in D.C., many prosecutors and judges have sort of a broad notion of what sort of evidence could come in.

COSSACK: Howard, you know, you're an attorney in this. Well, you -- jump in on this. What do you think...

MILLER: Well, my...

COSSACK: I don't think this is such a winable case for the government.


ROGERS: Well, you didn't ask if it was winable.

COSSACK: Well, I mean if you win them, you've got no business bringing it.

MILLER: But you k now, we're missing the main point. And the main point is that the framers of the constitution gave us three branches of government. They made sure that one branch wouldn't impose itself accessibly over the other.

So here we are, the police or the members of the executive branch, we've got rules. We've got restrictions. Don't mess with the legislature. And that's the tradition that this is built on.

We had the framers who built a constitution that was perfect. We loaded it up with people and this is what we're dealing with today.


VAN SUSTEREN: Marty, you want to talk about this.

ROGERS: Well, I just think that was a very interesting separation of powers argument, about why congressmen should be treated specially. But what I really wanted to say was in connection with the obstruction of justice, the witness tampering thing, there was another thing that this flight attendant had said on television that I know a lot of people reacted badly to, that I did not react badly at all to, which was you don't -- he's told her, "You don't have to talk to anyone". She says he told her, "You don't have to talk to anyone. You don't have to talk to the press. You don't have to talk to the FBI".

A lot of people went oh, my God, he said you can't talk -- you don't have to talk to the FBI. But of course, a lot of people don't realize that you don't have to talk to the FBI. That's not his problem.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it -- does -- you -- I mean you do not have to talk to the authorities. But is there ever a situation, hypothetically, where you can sort of chill someone from talking to any authorities that it does become an obstruction of justice where you basically go -- I mean is that...

ROGERS: Well, sure, like threats to people -- like, if you talk to the FBI, you're going to have to pay the consequences, you know, we'll break your kneecaps or something. That's a form of obstruction. But the sort of witness tampering that this case suggests is something much less than that.

COSSACK: Well -- but the other side of the coin is you know, you don't have to talk to the FBI. But if you do and you do not choose to tell them the truth, that's a crime.

ROGERS: That's right.

COSSACK: And that is...

ROGERS: Eighteen USC 1001.


VAN SUSTEREN: Oh good. And on that note, we actually had a citation, a legal citation on this show.

COSSACK: Right. VAN SUSTEREN: But we have to take -- we're going to go. That's all the time.

COSSACK: Wait until the all time record.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's right. That's all the time we have for today. Thanks to our guests and thank you for watching.

Tonight on "THE POINT," hear a family's story of a woman who has been missing for more than four years. How is this case differed from the Levy search? Join me at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time.

COSSACK: And today on "TALKBACK LIVE," it's free-for-all Friday and they're going to be discussing all the top news of the week. So, send your e-mails and comments to Bobbie Battista. Tune in at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time.

We're going to be back Monday with another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF. We'll see you then.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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