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Chapter 17. Alibi

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2005 8:44 am    Post subject: Chapter 17. Alibi Reply with quote

available from Amazon.com:

Murder On A Horse Trail: The Disappearance of Chandra Levy
by Ralph Daugherty
ISBN: 0-595-31847-9

Murder on a Horse Trail: The Disappearance of Chandra Levy also available free to read online here on www.justiceforchandra.com
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2005 5:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


Timothy Burger and Helen Kennedy of the New York Daily News reported it, the release from Condit's office of an alibi timeline to ABC News:

Rep. Gary Condit has compiled a detailed account of
his movements in the days surrounding the May 1
disappearance of Chandra Levy - showing he was
either working or with his wife when the intern

A source close to Condit gave ABC News a
comprehensive time line of the congressman's many
activities, covering the six-day period from April
28 to May 3.

But, adding to the general confusion surrounding the
case, Condit's office promptly disavowed the time
line once it was published on ABC's Web site.

"It's not accurate. It's not complete. It's just
bits and pieces," his chief of staff, Mike Lynch,
told the Daily News. [1]

The New York Times added that the schedule given to ABC included "omissions." Michael Doyle of the Modesto Bee was told: "It went out when it wasn't ready to go."

"Bits and pieces with omissions that went out when it wasn't ready to go". In other words, "oops, Condit didn't want you to see that. If it was exposed to the light of day, then people who ask questions would be able to see just what lies he was getting away with for an alibi." Can't have that now, can we?

How had this timeline been exposed to the light of day, what "bits and pieces" in it were not ready for its antiseptic glare, and why?

Just before Chandra logged off the internet for the last time and disappeared, Condit went into a private meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney in Cheney's office he keeps in the House of Representatives to discuss the California energy crisis, that crisis of a deregulation experiment that was bringing down Condit's ally, Governor Gray Davis.

Cheney's press secretary, Juleanna Glover Weisss, said the meeting happened between 12:30 p.m. and 12:50 p.m., "at Condit's request." [2] The Newport is just ten blocks from the Capitol, and Chandra logged off ten minutes after Condit left the meeting. What a coincidence. The D.C. police say Condit is not a suspect. Surely Condit has an alibi to not be a suspect? We will see.

The next day, Wednesday May 2, Condit met with an ABC News reporter, Rebecca Cooper, where Salon's Jake Tapper reports "they discussed the efforts the White House was making to reach out to him, as a conservative "Blue Dog" Democrat, especially on energy policy." She met him at the Rayburn Building, where Condit had his office, at 3 in the afternoon, waited for him to finish voting, then took a cab with him to the Tryst, a restaurant close to Condit's apartment. She interviewed him and left about 6 pm, going back to ABC and writing up a memo summary for her reporter colleagues.

It was familiar territory. Cooper was married now but used to date Condit according to colleagues, reports Niles Lathem. Interestingly, Lathem goes on to report:

She is an attractive, well-liked and hard-working
off-air reporter at ABC News whose lengthy
association with Condit so concerned her network
bosses that they barred her from working on the Levy
story when she offered to land the elusive Condit
for an interview. [3]

She was not in a position to seek Condit out for an interview, but the day after Chandra disappeared, three days before the Levys would call him and tell him Chandra was missing, he sought out an ex-girlfriend reporter to talk to her about the Republicans reaching out to him, for a meeting he had requested, that took place just as Chandra was logging off for the last time.

Michael Isikoff of Newsweek cites "sources familiar with the meeting", vague enough to be from Condit or the Republicans, as saying that Cheney and two aides met with Condit "at the suggestion of Republican leaders". Weiss the press secretary described it to CNN as a typical meeting.

A 12:30 pm lunchtime meeting with Cheney without lunch sounds like Cheney was accomodating a last minute request from a critical Congressional vote, Condit, for a meeting with him, possibly made by Condit during the previous day, Monday, when Condit was at a White House lunch. Was Isikoff's source a representative of one of those Republican leaders or of Condit? How long in advance was the meeting requested? Is there a Republican leader who says he sought an urgent meeting between Condit and Cheney? Was there another member of Congress from California who Cheney also met with for the same urgent reason, or were they just "reaching out" to Condit?

Did Condit usually meet with Republican leaders such as the Vice President and aides without any of his own staff as he did for that meeting? Was Cheney aware who the Republican leaders were who requested it? If Republican leaders requested it, wouldn't he need to know the specific agenda to address to Condit? Or did he, in fact, come to listen to Condit, because there was no Republican leaders asking for a meeting?

But what does it matter anyway if Condit's meeting with Cheney ended before Chandra disappeared? The fact is, no one would have known just when Condit was out of that meeting if Rebecca Cooper hadn't learned of the existence of a timeline and asked Lynch for it, curious as to how her meeting with Condit had been portrayed in it.

She was puzzled as she looked at the entries for May 1 and May 2:

Tuesday, May 1
Condit rides with staff to the office in the
morning. At 12:30 p.m. ET, he meets with Vice
President Cheney. He returns at 3:30 p.m. for
meetings and phone conversations with constituents.
At 5 p.m., Condit has a doctor's appointment. At
6:30 p.m., he votes on the House floor. From 6:30 to
7:30 p.m., he meets with a reporter at the Tryst
restaurant in Adams Morgan. Later, he and the wife
stay home and eat dinner.

Wednesday, May 2
Condit rides into work with staff and attends
Agriculture Committee and Select Intelligence
Committee meetings. At 11:30 a.m., Condit casts
votes on the House floor. At noon, he participates
in a meeting with the California congressional
delegation. From 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m., he
participated in a bipartisan meeting at the White
House. At 2:30 p.m., he returns to the Intelligence
Committee. Later, he casts votes on the House floor,
meets with congressional leaders and heads home for
dinner with his wife at 5:30 p.m. After dinner, they
go shopping at an "Off The Wall" store. [4]

The critical time of Chandra's disappearance was well alibied for the police. A meeting with the Vice President at 12:30 pm, returning at 3:30 pm. Meetings, phone calls, a visit to the doctor, votes, another meeting with a reporter at the Tryst. A busy day indeed to account for his time, dominated by an afternoon with the Vice President when Chandra disappeared. That is what returning at 3:30 pm means, doesn't it? After all, if he wasn't with the Vice President, where could he be?

But, puzzingly, her meeting with Condit on Wednesday afternoon wasn't there. Instead, it said he met with congressional leaders when he was at the Tryst with her from 3 pm to 6 pm. He did have a meeting with an unnamed reporter at the Tryst the previous evening, the day Chandra disappeared. Why would he tell the police he met with some other reporter at the Tryst but not her?

ABC contacted Michael Lynch and Abbe Lowell and asked. Lowell said it was a draft and contained mistakes. Lynch said he had been chastised by the lawyers for handing it out to ABC, and no more would go out, including no corrected version that ABC was asking for. Getting no answer from Condit's people, ABC also contacted the Washington police and explained the discrepancy to them.

A month later, the police had yet to get back to a surprised Rebecca Cooper, or even question her as the unnamed reporter in the timeline that she was able to identify herself as. Jake Tapper of Salon followed up with the Washington police on the erroneous timeline:

"First of all, I don't know if we know about that,"
said Sgt. Joseph Gentile, public information officer
for the D.C. Police Department, when asked about the
mess-up in Condit's schedule. "Second of all, why
are you asking about Condit's state of mind? We're
looking for Miss Levy, we want to know about Miss
Levy's state of mind. Third of all, we don't
identify the people we talk to." [5]
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2005 5:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The police wouldn't be asking Cheney or his staff about his meeting with Condit either. But the damage had been done. By ABC News posting Condit's timeline on its website, even including making a helpful correction by moving the meeting at the Tryst to Wednesday afternoon since Condit wouldn't provide a corrected one, the wording in the timeline that implied that Condit was with the Vice President for three hours while Chandra disappeared had been exposed.

So if a carefully parsed phrase that indicated Condit was with Cheney for three hours couldn't stay, they would say how long the meeting was. Duncan Campbell of the Guardian quoted the Condit "camp" as saying that Condit met with Cheney "just 30 minutes before Ms. Levy logged off her computer" and that the meeting lasted 45 minutes. "This would put Mr Condit away from Ms Levy's apartment at the time the police believe she went missing."

15 minutes past Chandra's log off puts Condit away from her apartment when the police think she disappeared? Not only was the Condit source lying, it was only 20 minutes, not 45, but what kind of instantaneous disappearance did Condit have in mind that clears him if he was in a meeting 15 minutes after she logged off? What does he know that makes him think that's an alibi?

The three hours with Cheney was replaced with, according to Isikoff, returning to his office after a 20 to 25 minute meeting "taking phone calls" and meeting with staff members. "He may also have gone to the House gym and worked out," Isikoff reports.

"Taking phone calls"? "May have gone to the gym"? English translation. He wasn't in his office and no one knows where he was. Taking phone calls means there's no record of dialing a number to know who he was talking to which would have confirmed he was there. What did he do, play Frasier to Dayton's Roz saying "caller on line 3" and him answering with "I'm listening"?

Investigators told Michael Isikoff: "He was in his office [that afternoon]," said one law-enforcement official. "We've spoken to his staff and we're comfortable with their responses. His time is accounted for."

Was there even one constituent who reported talking to Condit Tuesday afternoon? Any staff besides Dayton? Dayton appeared with other staffers on Larry King Live but it was only Dayton who said:

On May 1, I was with him probably every day that
week. We went over, we met with the vice president
that day, I was with him then, I picked him up, and
we went to the meeting together, the vice president
was gracious, and it was the first time I got to
meet the vice president. Then we went back to the
office. So I was with him, you know, the whole day.

Except that Condit may have gone to the gym, the corrected timeline now says. Any congressmen that lifted weights with him that afternoon, or just a solitary unmemorable workout? Could Condit leave the Rayburn Building where his office was without anyone noticing? Consider this excerpt from Time's Matthew Cooper as a horde of reporters chased Condit around the building:

Indeed, the "Ag" committee has rarely been so packed
with TV cameras going live - although the media
horde trailing Condit somehow missed him leaving a
late-night committee session last week to meet with
the FBI and Washington police for a fourth
interview. [7]

It doesn't matter much anyway if he doesn't have a car, and he noted prominently in his timeline that he doesn't have one, reports the New York Daily News. ABC News reports that his staff says he doesn't have a car. Makes it hard to be involved with a missing girl or make a call at midnight from Luray if you don't have a car, doesn't it?

In fact, the police wouldn't have known that Condit drove a red Ford Fiesta if Anne Marie Smith hadn't told them. Michael Isikoff of Newsweek reports the car was owned by a Condit aide. Where was the Ford Tuesday afternoon? How did Condit obtain it when he used it? Was the car registered with the Capitol Police and have a tag? Was it parked in a Congressional parking lot?

He got to a doctor's appointment somehow around 5 pm, according to his timeline. No doctor was reported to have seen Condit. The modern miracle of medical record privacy probably makes this a difficult area to investigate, probably not even possible to determine without a subpoena if he saw a doctor, when he made the appointment, or whether something happened to him that required a doctor Tuesday afternoon. Had he been deadlifting 110 pounds and hurt his back?

And subpoenaing a member of Congress can take awhile. When subpoenaed for some information later, Condit told Mark Sherman of the Associated Press that "he was considering whether to comply". Separation of powers and other weighty constitutional issues to be studied carefully first, we can presume. Just too much trouble. So ok, he went to a doctor.

Tabloids alleged it was a chiropractor Condit said he saw. Couldn't be that obvious, because the slang definition of a chiropractor appointment is:

to Have a Chiropractor Appointment v. To purposely
not be somewhere when you're supposed to be,
especially school, to ditch. [8]

Naaaah. Couldn't be.

So no verifiable alibi for the whole afternoon when Chandra disappeared. He didn't vote until 6:30 pm. That is five and a half hours from when Condit left the meeting with Cheney until he voted, with only Dayton vowing to have been with him, except when Condit "may have gone to the gym". Five and a half hours is extreme, but given that Dayton told Joleen McKay that talking about the past "will ruin you", essentially unalibied.

The meeting with the reporter at the Tryst that didn't take place from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm, one of the "bits and pieces not ready to go" in the first timeline, was replaced with a staff member driving him home at 7 pm.

That's odd. Odd, you say? Didn't people see Dayton driving Condit to and from work all summer as reporters chased him around? Sure, but before Chandra disappeared, Dayton usually didn't drive Condit home at night. Dayton often didn't drive himself. He tells Larry King:

Well, OK, I live in Alexandria, Virginia. I mean,
it's been treated like it's 100 miles away. I ride
my bike from my house to the office. [9]

Condit also rode a bike or took a cab, as Dayton tells Thomas Frank of Newsday:

Dayton, the Condit aide, said Condit no longer rides
his bike to work or takes a taxi because the media
throng outside his Washington apartment "makes it
hard to get a cab." Aides pick him up each morning
and bring him home each night. [10]

For example, the day after Chandra disappeared, Condit took a cab to the Tryst restaurant near his apartment with ABC News reporter Rebecca Cooper. And no staff member gave him a ride home all week in his first timeline. But when the timeline was corrected, a staff member was driving Condit home.

Why did Dayton drive Condit home the day Chandra disappeared, when it appears it was not his normal procedure?

What was different about Tuesday for Condit to be driven home, other than his mistress disappearing? Did Dayton actually drive him home that day, and if so, why only that day?

Questions for us, but obviously not enough questions to make Condit a suspect to the Washington police. Niles Lathem of the New York Post reports:

A shift in the search for missing intern Chandra
Levy from Capitol Hill to Dumpsters near her
apartment is expected to take the heat off her "good
friend" Rep. Gary Condit - at least for now, police
say. New information, based in part on careful
analysis of Levy's cell-phone records and e-mails
from her laptop computer, has led police to believe
she was in her downtown Washington apartment for
most of the afternoon on May 1 - a little less than
24 hours after she was seen canceling her membership
at a health club. [11]

How the police think that sending an e-mail at 10:45 in the morning and signing off the internet at 1 pm leads them to believe that Chandra was in her apartment for most of the afternoon is anyone's guess. Cell phone records? Independent reviewers of her cell phone bill reported no calls at all that day, much less in the afternoon.

Yet the heat was off. Condit had provided an alibi. Close enough for government work.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2005 6:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Next chapter - The Watch

Murder on a Horse Trail - Table of Contents

1. Burger, Timothy J. and Helen Kennedy. “Pol Has a Time Line Alibi: Busy on
Hill, with wife when intern disappeared.” New York Daily News 29 June 2001.

2. “Police to return to parks in Levy case; Experts: Condit damaged own reputation.”
CNN 22 July 2001.

3. Lathem, Niles. “ABC Reporter Dated Condit.” New York Post 7 July 2001.

4. “Condit’s Calendar.” Good Morning America. ABC News. 9 July 2001.

5. Tapper, Jake. “Police ignore Condit’s faulty alibi.” Salon 18 July 2001.

6. Dayton, Mullen, Mejia, Moore, Austin. “Gary Condit’s Staff Speaks Out.”
Interview with Larry King. Larry King Live. CNN. 30 Aug. 2001. Transcript.

7. Cooper, Matthew. “Under the Hot Lights: Gary Condit’s Cowboys.” Time 29
July 2001.

8. “to Have a Chiropractor Appointment.” at
http://www.geocities.com/gypsygal14/Slang.html , 5 Sep. 2002.

9. Dayton, Mullen, Mejia, Moore, Austin. “Gary Condit’s Staff Speaks Out.”
Interview with Larry King. Larry King Live. CNN. 30 Aug. 2001. Transcript.

10. Frank, Thomas. “Condit Labors On.” Newsday 18 July 2001.

11. Lathem, Niles. “Chandra Probers Easing Up On Condit.” New York Post 1
July 2001.

Campbell, Duncan. “Cheney could be Condit witness.” Guardian 23 July 2001.

“Condit Gives Police Timeline, Police Officials Negotiate To Interview Wife.”
ABC News 29 June 2001.

“Condit Has an Alibi.” Newsweek 20 July 2001.

“Condit: Questions to Mrs. In Advance.” New York Times 30 June 2001.

Doyle, Michael. “Anxiety deep, answers few in Levy case.” Modesto Bee 12 May

Doyle, Michael. “Condit’s schedule checks out.” Modesto Bee 22 July 2001.

Isikoff, Michael. “The Battle Over Chandra.” Newsweek 23 July 2001

Marshall, Joshua Micah. “ABC’s messy role in Condit affair.” Salon. 13 July
2001. http://www.salon.com

Sherman, Mark. “Rep. Gary Condit subpoenaed for documents related to missing
intern.” Associated Press 15 Nov. 2001.
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