PHOENIX — A judge has dismissed former U.S. Rep. Gary Condit's defamation lawsuit against an Arizona newspaper that said the California Democrat lied to investigators about his relationship with a Washington intern who disappeared and was later found dead.
The Sonoran News, a weekly serving communities north of Phoenix, had included the statement regarding Condit in a 2005 article about a brother of the former congressman.
Gary Condit served 13 years in Congress before losing a re-election campaign in 2002 after he became caught up in news coverage related to Washington intern Chandra Levy. She disappeared in 2001, and her remains were found in May 2002 in a Washington park.
Condit denied he had anything to do with her disappearance or death.
Granting a motion by the newspaper to dismiss the suit, Judge Kristin Hoffman of Maricopa County Superior Court ruled that Condit is a public figure and that he failed to prove that the statement was false.
Condit also failed to show that the newspaper, described on its Web site as "The Conservative Voice of Arizona," published the statement with either knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard as to its truth, the judge ruled.
An affidavit provided by Condit did not deny that he lied to investigators, and he balked at answering questions on whether he told investigators that he had a "romantic and-or sexual relationship with Chandra Levy," Hoffman said in her ruling, which was dated July 17 and filed July 19 by the court clerk.
"There is no admissible evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that the reporter or publisher ever had any doubt about the truth of the statement or that they acted with reckless disregard of its truth or falsity," Hoffman's ruling said.
Condit attorney Jeff M. Brown of Boca Raton, Fla., expressed disappointment with Hoffman's ruling but said he and his client had not decided whether to appeal it.
"It's unfortunate that there's no protection for public figures in Arizona and that the defamations can just be repeated, irrespective of their truth," Brown said. "I don't think we could have proved any more than we proved."
Condit reportedly told police he had an affair with Levy, but in a sworn deposition in an earlier defamation case, he denied being romantically involved with the intern and insisted "we were friends."
After losing his congressional seat, Condit and his wife, Carolyn, bought at least one home in a Phoenix suburb, according to Maricopa County property tax records. Brown declined to comment on where Condit lives.
A lawyer for the Sonoran News, Daniel Barr, said the newspaper would ask that Condit be ordered to pay its legal fees.
A telephone number for Condit was not immediately available, and his attorney did not respond to an e-mail request for comment.
Earlier this year, an attorney representing Condit in a defamation suit filed last November against writer Dominick Dunne withdrew from the case, saying it was not warranted.
Attorney Mark E. Goidell said the 2005 suit appeared to rely on the same statements by Dunne as a 2002 lawsuit that was settled under undisclosed terms. Both lawsuits claimed Dunne made false claims about Condit's relationship with Levy.