Condit says he had ‘very close’ relationship with Levy, cooperated fully with police |

Condit says he had ‘very close’ relationship with Levy, cooperated fully with police

MODESTO, Calif. (AP) – Rep. Gary Condit acknowledged Thursday he had a ”very close” relationship with former intern Chandra Levy but denied he had any role in her disappearance nearly four months ago.

In his first broadcast interview since the disappearance, Condit, D-Calif., repeatedly sidestepped questions about whether he had a sexual relationship with Levy. He offered no apologies for his involement with the 24-year-old woman or his level of cooperation with police.

”I’ve answered every question truthfully. That’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re cooperating with the police,” he told ABC’s Connie Chung.

Terrance W. Gainer, Washington’s deputy police chief, disputed Condit’s assertion of early and complete cooperation with investigators following Levy’s disappearance on May 1. ”It took us three interviews and a lot of effort to get as far as we got,” Gainer said Thursday night.

Billy Martin, the Levy family’s lawyer, also took issue with Condit. ”He came forward only after pressure began to build and the facts of his relationship became public.”

In the interview, Condit also denied that he had romantic relationships with two other women – flight attendant Anne Marie Smith and former aide Joleen McKay – who have publicly asserted they had affairs with the married, 53-year-old congressman.

But his relationship with Levy, a Modesto, Calif., resident who came to Washington for an internship with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, was the focus of the half-hour interview.

Condit, who sat almost knee-to-knee across from Chung, kept his compusure in answer to pointed questions. His wife and two children watched from a monitor in a nearby room of the ranch, owned by a Condit friend in Modesto.

Asked repeatedly, Condit would not say whether he had a sexual relationship with Levy.

”I’ve been married 34 years. I have not been a perfect man. I have made mistakes in my life,” said Condit. ”But out of respect for my family, out of a specific request by the Levy family, it is best that I not get into the details of the relationship.”

Condit said he was honoring a request by Dr. Robert and Susan Levy, who said they wanted information that would help find their daughter, not details of any relationship she had.

Condit did provide some details. He said he met Levy in October and they spoke several times a week by telephone as they grew close. Condit said he wasn’t in love with Levy, but he liked her very much and they never exchanged a cross word.

The congressman took issue with several points made by Levy’s relatives. Most significantly, he denied lying to Mrs. Levy about the nature of his relationship with her daughter. He also said he and Levy never discussed a future together, having children or getting married, contradicting statements from Levy’s aunt, Linda Zamsky.

And Condit said he did not impose the strict secrecy rules that Zamsky said Levy related to her, rules that Smith, who claims a 10-month affair with Condit, also described. One of those rules was that when heading to a meeting with Condit, the woman was supposed to carry no identification.

”I never, ever told anybody not to carry their identification,” Condit said.

Levy’s identification, packed bags and other possesions were in her apartment when police searched it.

In the crucial days before and after Levy disappeared, Condit provided a timeline of their contacts.

They last saw each other April 24 or 25, he said, just after Levy’s internship ended suddenly. They spoke for the final time on April 29, a conversation Condit said lasted a minute or so and encompassed Levy’s plans to travel to California. ”She wasn’t upset about anything. She wasn’t upset about losing her job,” Condit said.

Condit said he phoned her again a day or two later, but Levy never called back. Condit was unconcerned because Levy talked about taking the train to California, which would have taken several days.

The next news he had was that she was missing. And it came from his wife, Carolyn, who received a call at home from Levy’s father. ”I was horrifed,” he said.

He said he has no idea what happened to Levy and denied having anything to do with her disappearance.

The interview occurred hours after a letter from Condit to his constituents began arriving in mailboxes throughout his central California district.

In the letter, Condit acknowledged ”my share of mistakes” but did not say whether he had an affair with Levy. The congressman acknowledged an affair with Levy in an interview with investigators last month, a police source has said.

”I hope our relationship is strong enough to endure all of this,” Condit told his constituents in the letter, which was addressed, ”Dear Friends and Neighbors.”

Jacqeline Elrich, 33, a Modesto native, read Condit’s letter Thursday on the steps of the post office. She said she hoped to hear on television what she did not find in the letter – an apology for his actions.

”I would want him to say, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t come forward right away with the truth. I was scared of what was going to happen with my family and with my constituents and I thought about my political career and my personal life instead of this missing woman,”’ said Elrich, a political independent who has voted for Condit before but said she will not do so again.

About 60 supporters of the congressman, 15 opponents and several dozen reporters showed up at a pro-Condit rally Thursday evening in Merced, Calif., about 40 miles from Modesto.

Washington police, baffled by the lack of clues about Levy’s whereabouts, have scaled back their investigation. Police Chief Charles Ramsey has said there is a ”significant chance” she never will be found.

Gainer, Ramsey’s deputy, reiterated that Condit is not a suspect. But he criticized the congressman for suggesting that police were unfair to his wife when they had her fly to Washington for an interview with investigators. ”He’s about the last person who should be saying someone else was unfair with his wife, don’t you think?” Gainer said.

Associated Press reporter Mark Sherman in Washington contributed to this report.

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