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Assistant D.C. Police Chief Discusses the Investigation Into Chandra Levy's Disappearance

Aired July 13, 2001 - 18:09   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you live to Washington right now. We're getting an update now from Terrance Gainer, the police officer. He is briefing the press on the Chandra Levy investigation.

ASSISTANT CHIEF TERRANCE GAINER, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: You know we're conducting searches in the District, and we may find what we don't want, and that is the case that maybe her body's been hidden.

QUESTION: Chief, do you (OFF-MIKE) that Abbe Lowell, Condit's attorney, went to a polygraph examiner as opposed to using D.C. (OFF- MIKE)?

GAINER: Well, listen truly my feelings and how I feel about it are not really important. I do think...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) polygraph...

GAINER: Well, I do think what's important in to get a good polygraph is that you must be very comfortable with the examiner. We wanted the FBI to do that. We wanted to ask the questions. The examiner who Mr. Lowell says does have a good reputation -- he's very experienced, but I've never been involved in a polygraph in all these 30-some years of policing and homicide investigations where the polygraph examiner didn't want to know the facts of the case. And generally, the honest facts of the case, quite frankly, are given by law enforcement authorities, so this is a bit self-serving.

However, he didn't have to take the polygraph examination. We will take that information like we take everything. And we will examine it, see how it helps the case.

QUESTION: Abbe Lowell is basically saying, you are picking on the congressman, enough is enough, that it's counterproductive, that you should be looking for Chandra Levy while you are focusing on the congressman?

GAINER: Well, we are fully capable of focusing on a lot of things and that is what we have done. As I said, you know we are conducting searches because she may be dead, we are putting out information that may help people find her, we are working on trying to clear up the congressman issue. That is one-dimensional, and I know a lot of people have looked at it, but that is not all we looked at and that is not all we are looking at.

QUESTION: Chief, Abbe Lowell says (OFF-MIKE) cooperative. Do you buy that? Do you believe he has done everything he can to assist law enforcement?

GAINER: Well, in many respects he has been cooperative. I mean, he didn't have to open up his apartment, and he did that. He frankly doesn't have to take a polygraph exam, and he did that. It took us three interviews to get the questions answered that we wanted, so I guess some place we're coming down the middle. But I want to emphasize there is a lot of things going on in this case except the congressman.

QUESTION: Basically, the congressman's attorney, Abbe Lowell, was saying, chief, that, yes, it took three interviews, but I got the impression he was saying you weren't asking the right questions.

GAINER: Well, I guess that is what I would expect a defense attorney to say.

QUESTION: Did Abbe Lowell ever negotiated with the D.C. police about a polygraph?

GAINER: No, and frankly, I tried to correct that word a few times, so again I'm trying to give deference and make sure that we use the right words. We knew we had to get together. I had several conversations with Abbe Lowell about it, and my impression was that we were going to continue that dialogue and get to it.

I took him at his word that the congressman had congressional business, and knew that hopefully we would get together. Again, I don't think it surprises anybody that a defense attorney as sharp as Abbe Lowell would give his client a polygraph before he offers it to the police. Again, I just didn't expect it quite this way.

QUESTION: Chief, based on your police experience (OFF-MIKE) what do you think the chances that are that she's still alive?

GAINER: I'm very hopeful on that, because when you go back and look at missing cases across this country, most of the people show up, and it really doesn't make any difference whether it is two days or two years, that has happened. But we also have to be prepared for the worst. Now, none of us want that, but you have to be realistic in these things and look at that.

QUESTION: And what is the status of the criminal background on people in the building as well as the health club?

GAINER: Our detectives are still working on that. As most people know, we sent about 16 detectives back into that building to try to finish that. We are going to work on those interviews, interview other people who are calling in. We are seeking information from cab drivers if they have any information about this, same with the metro bus drivers, so there is plenty of work for us to do in this. And we are not going to give up, and we are not going to let our ego get in the way.

QUESTION: Chief, you heard some of the questions that were posed to Congressman Condit. Would you have you asked anything differently?

GAINER: Well, I would have let that to a professional examiner who is working for the metropolitan police or the FBI along with our detectives. I really think there has to be, again, some give-and-take between the investigators and the polygraph examiners for it to be really meaningful.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE), are the D.C. police satisfied with the answers?

GAINER: I haven't seen the questions, I haven't seen the results, I haven't seen the graphs and I haven't seen the answers, so it's way premature. We are looking forward to that, and we will give it to our experts and see what they say you.

QUESTION: You continue to say he is not a suspect, there is no evidence of the crime, but yet you searched his apartment, you accepted DNA samples, and now you say that you are disappointed that your people couldn't do a polygraph examination. Some people say it's semantics here. Sounds like you're treating him as a suspect in this missing persons case.

GAINER: No, it's just not the case, so I'm trying to be very clear. If someone is a suspect, then the police will say that, and at least to the suspect so he will know that, or his attorney, and he is not.

QUESTION: Are you looking at him as possibly being involved in this?

GAINER: We are looking at a lot of things, and the congressman is just one of those. And again, I don't close the door on anything. He wasn't ruled in, so he can't be ruled out, and we just have to be open-minded, and I think if police took a different tact, if we ruled out one theory or another, then it would be shame on us.

QUESTION: Do you still expect for law enforcement to give the congressman a polygraph?

GAINER: Well, I would say at this point it doesn't look like that's going to happen, but Abbe didn't say he would. Of course, didn't say he wouldn't.

QUESTION: Would you like to give him a polygraph?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE), questions in the polygraph examination, did he have anything to do with Chandra's disappearance, (OFF-MIKE) and does he know where she could be located. In your opinion, are there are any other pertinent questions beyond those three?

GAINER: Well, pertinence is in the eye of the beholder, and I don't think you can determine that just by hearing those three questions. Again, so I don't -- the technology and the subjective and the objective things that go into a polygraph are not answered by his having a press conference, and frankly, my responding to that.

I am happy that he says he is going to give that to the metropolitan police and the FBI, and we'll examine that. I mean, that's fair. And we will have to see what that is worth, but again that is not normal techniques. You have to know the facts. And the rapport built between the examiner, interrogator in an interview is very critical, and I don't know about any of those things.

QUESTION: Do you have information that Chandra Levy was or was not pregnant?

GAINER: We have no indication that she was with child, none whatsoever.

QUESTION: Beyond having your own examiner to do a polygraph test, is there anything else that the congressman (OFF-MIKE) law enforcement to help the investigation?

GAINER: Well, I think that's between my detectives and the -- Condit's attorney now, I guess. I'm not sure -- we are going to -- we have said all along, even after that third interview, if other issues came up that we would look at that.

We still don't have the results back of either the DNA or the material we took, so the door is wide open, and we have to be flexible, which we are; we have to be professional, which we are; and people have to be a bit patient, which is the hardest part, because the Levy family is still suffering from this, and I suspect the congressman's wife and kids are not real thrilled about this either.

QUESTION: Are you disappointed with this independent test, chief?

GAINER: Hey, listen, my personal feelings are irrelevant.

QUESTION: Do you...

GAINER: One of the questions, I understand.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE), would it be any help to (OFF-MIKE) anything that you found in the house (OFF-MIKE)?

GAINER: The DNA results and things we found in the house goes into our potpourri of information, and good detectives will determine what to do with all that.


GAINER: Pardon me?

QUESTION: It will help you...

GAINER: Oh, no, ma'am, I'm not saying that. You would be putting words in my mouth, but good try.

QUESTION: How long do you think will take some of the lab analysis of that?

GAINER: It's going to vary. We've have asked the FBI to expedite that, and they have been very cooperative with us, but they have a lot of cases, and we have to be respectful -- if you have a case pending in court, if you have a victim, if you have an offender, it needs to cue up.

QUESTION: Basically, the bottom line, chief, is Abbe Lowell is saying enough is enough. You have looked at the congressman inside out, backward and forward, what more do you want of my client?

GAINER: What we want to find is Chandra Levy, so I don't know what we want of his client or anybody else except for good, honest information, and we all keep working toward that. That's all I have, thank you.

QUESTION: Will Chief Ramsey come out and talk later, or is this it, sir?

HARRIS: Well, we've got quite a mouthful there from Assistant Chief Terrance Gainer there in Washington. Let's go now and get some more from our Bob Franken who is standing by in the Washington bureau. Bob has been covering this story from the very beginning. Bob, what did we miss at the very top of that?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we are hearing is that, in his polite way, he is saying that he is not satisfied with the way that this has worked out.

First of all, while Abbe Lowell said there were no negotiations, we are really dancing on the head of a pin here, there were discussion between Chief Gainer -- who by the way is an attorney, Assistant Chief Gainer -- discussions, several phone conversations, as you heard him say, with Abbe Lowell.

But at the same time, he feels like Lowell sort of pulled a fast one while conversations were going on, and the police had an expectation that they would continue with their controlling the interview. Lowell went and had this independent interview done, and of course, then described the three questions, which the congressman, he said, answered properly: does he know where she is -- she being Chandra Levy -- did he have anything to do with her disappearance or did he cause anybody to have anything do with her disappearance.

Now, the police chief said that is all well and good, but of course in the reporting business, we know that oftentimes the best question is the follow-up question, and he was saying that this is not normal, that you have to know the facts, you have to be able to answer the follow-up questions, and he is saying that it is a good possibility that, in fact, the interviewer might not have asked the follow-up questions that should be asked.

He also went on to say that the role of Congressman Condit may or may not be completed in this investigation, he says, all we are looking for is honest answers and we keep working toward that. So, it may not be that as far as the police are concerned, Congressman Condit has been taken completely off the hook. We should point out that police, Leon, always say that he is not a suspect.

HARRIS: All right. Thank you very much, Bob Franken, doing double duty for us this evening.



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