Friday, June 12, 2020

Prosecutors In Chandra Levy Murder Case Charged With Disclosure Violations

The District of Columbia Disciplinary Counsel has filed ethics charges alleging that two Assistant United States Attorneys violated their disclosure obligations in the high profile criminal trial of the accused murderer of Chandra Levy.

The petition alleges that the misconduct came to light after conviction and involved non-disclosures concerning a cooperating witness.

In 2008, Ms. Haines, an experienced AUSA specializing in cold cases, was assigned to handle the investigation of Ms. Levy’s murder. She asked Mr. Campoamor-Sanchez to assist her in the case as second chair...

Had Respondents disclosed [witness] Mr. Morales’s prior debriefing to the defense, the defense would have known to investigate Mr. Morales’s history of cooperation with law enforcement...

Without the evidence that he had debriefed to law enforcement years before the alleged “redemption,” the defense was unable to effectively challenge the prosecution’s argument about Mr. Morales’s motive for coming forward with damaging testimony about Mr. Guandique.

The defendant was convicted and sentenced to 60 years.

Two years later, Fresno police were investigating Morales

In light of these revelations, the USAO assembled an independent post-trial team to conduct an investigation into Mr. Morales’s past and determine what needed to be disclosed to the defense. The post-trial team learned that Mr. Morales had attempted to cooperate with law enforcement in 1996 as part of his plea deal. Neither Ms. Haines nor Mr. Campoamor-Sanchez were on the post-trial team.

By letter dated November 21, 2012, after the USAO decided disclosure to the defense was necessary, Mr. Campoamor-Sanchez disclosed to defense counsel the details of Mr. Morales’s previous attempts to cooperate with law enforcement.

The charges were eventually dismissed and the defendant was deported. 

Additional reporting from AP News. 

Armando Morales was a gang leader, drug dealer and a jailhouse snitch. But he was also a commanding, dynamic presence on the witness stand when he told jurors that his cellmate, Ingmar Guandique, confessed to the murder of Washington intern Chandra Levy.

Jurors believed Morales, and prosecutors obtained a conviction against Guandique at his 2010 trial despite lacking a confession, witnesses or DNA evidence. They obtained a conviction even though everyone knew that police had initially suspected another man, former California congressman Gary Condit.

But for the past five years, while Guandique was imprisoned on what was to have been a 60-year murder sentence, defense lawyers accumulated new information that cast doubt on Morales’ truthfulness. They learned that he asked to be put into the witness protection program in exchange for his testimony, even though he testified he hadn’t sought any benefit for testifying.

One count alleged misconduct only by the more senior attorney on the trial team

As Mr. Guandique’s trial approached, tensions developed between Ms. Haines and Mr. Campoamor-Sanchez about their respective responsibilities at trial. Between October 31, 2010 and November 14, 2010, Ms. Haines and Mr. Campoamor-Sanchez exchanged contentious emails about these issues.

On two occasions, on November 8, 2010, and November 14, 2010, Ms. Haines forwarded internal USAO emails to her boyfriend, who was not a part of the USAO or the Department of Justice. The emails contained confidential and secret information related to the government’s strategy for prosecuting the Guandique case.

That conduct allegedly violated the duty of confidentiality. 

The charging documents in In re Haines & Campoamor-Sanchez can be accessed at this link.

Notably the District of Columbia Court of Appeals has opined on the ethics of disclosure by prosecutors in a 2015 decision

This matter comes before us upon the Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility (“the Board”). The Board recommended that a 30-day suspension be given to Andrew J. Kline (“Kline”) after finding that Kline violated Rule 3.8 (e) of the District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct (“Rule 3.8 (e)”). Rule 3.8 (e) prohibits a prosecutor in a criminal case from intentionally failing to disclose to the defense any evidence or information that the prosecutor knows or reasonably should know tends to negate the guilt of the accused. Bar Counsel takes no exception to the Report and Recommendation of the Board. Kline argued, inter alia, that he did not violate Rule 3.8 (e) because his ethical duties are coextensive with the duties imposed under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). Specifically, Kline relies on the “material-to-outcome” standard recognized by the United States Supreme Court in Brady’s progeny to argue that a prosecutor cannot violate Rule 3.8 (e) unless there is a reasonable probability that the information or evidence withheld made a difference in the outcome of the trial. We hold that Kline’s interpretation of Rule 3.8 (e), which incorporates a retrospective materiality analysis, is not the appropriate test for determining whether a prosecutor has violated Rule 3.8 (e). We also hold that Bar Counsel proved by clear and convincing evidence that Kline intentionally failed to disclose information in violation of the rule. However, we  conclude that given the confusion regarding the correct interpretation of a prosecutor’s obligations under the rule, sanctioning Kline would be unwarranted.

The rule provides that a prosecutor shall not

 (e) Intentionally fail to disclose to the defense, upon request and at a time when use by the defense is reasonably feasible, any evidence or information that the prosecutor knows or reasonably should know tends to negate the guilt of the accused or to mitigate the offense, or in connection with sentencing, intentionally fail to disclose to the defense upon request any unprivileged mitigating information known to the prosecutor and not reasonably available to the defense, except when the prosecutor is relieved of this responsibility by a protective order of the tribunal;

The trial in the Levy murder case took place before this pronouncement. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


Worth noting that neither is with DOJ any longer. The senior prosecutor went to an immigration law firm in Centerville, Massachusetts, but is no longer there. The junior prosecutor is now with the SEC.

Posted by: Andy Patterson | Jun 15, 2020 8:17:11 AM

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