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Baskin-Robbins found it hard to get scoop on Gary Condit

WASHINGTON -- Former Modesto-area Rep. Gary Condit can be hard to pin down, a newly released trial transcript shows.

Condit's periodic elusiveness is one of many tidbits in the transcript from a civil trial that could cost the Condit family more than $100,000. The Condits owe the money to Baskin-Robbins for damages and attorneys' fees for a franchise deal gone sour.

"If you think Baskin-Robbins have expensive prices for their ice cream, you wait until you start paying somebody else's attorney fees, Mr. Condit," U.S. District Judge Earl H. Carroll advised Condit's son Chad during the trial. "And you're going to find out what it is."

The one-day trial in the case of Baskin-Robbins Inc. v. Gary Condit et. al. concluded more than a year ago. Until now, though, the 142-page trial transcript has been sealed.

The transcript's unsealing reveals some surprises. For instance, Chad Condit has written a 300-page book. The handwritten, unpublished manuscript titled "Sources" could shed light on a family that once dominated Northern San Joaquin Valley politics.

In October, Carroll ordered the Condit family to pay Baskin-Robbins more than $45,000. The money covers unpaid franchise, advertising and late fees for the two Phoenix-area ice cream stores run by the Condits in 2005 and 2006. Separately, Baskin-Robbins seeks more than $60,000 in attorneys' fees and litigation costs.

The lawsuit costs rose, in part, because the Condits proved consistently hard to find. Newly filed records, for instance, show that process servers tried 10 times to serve legal documents on the family. Ultimately, U.S. marshals were needed to finish the job.

"On some attempts, there was a small child who appeared at the window by the front door, but no adult responded when I asked for the Condits," one process server stated in a legal filing.

Notices sent repeatedly

Before the lawsuit, Baskin-Robbins repeatedly mailed notices that the franchise fees were overdue. On each occasion, the signatures acknowledging receipt of the letters named people who did not work at the stores.

The elusiveness extended to the Oct. 23, 2007, trial.

"Where's Gary?" Judge Carroll asked.

"I don't know," Chad Condit answered. "I believe he's out of town. I don't know where exactly he's at."

Between 1972 and 2003, Gary Condit was an increasingly visible public figure.

He rose from Ceres mayor and Stanislaus County supervisor to state assemblyman and, starting in 1989, U.S. congressman.

Condit's political career started unraveling in 2001, when he drew intense media scrutiny after the disappearance of one-time Bureau of Prisons intern Chandra Levy. Police have repeatedly said he is not a suspect in her death. Condit's family members consider much of the reporting on the case to be biased and sensationalized.

Chad Condit did not elaborate during the trial on whether "Sources" is fiction or nonfiction. He mentioned the manuscript and his writing it by pencil amid a broader discussion about his lack of computer experience, which he said impeded his ability to properly file franchise reports with Baskin-Robbins.

"I'm not computer-savvy," Condit testified. "My kids make fun of me, but I'm not. And to be sued for the -- this amount because I didn't learn this fast enough, to me is not fair."

City wasn't paid sales taxes

The family paid $130,000 for the franchise rights at the two stores. But soon after taking over the stores, Chad Condit acknowledged, the family stopped paying sales taxes to the city. The Condits' attorney, Joseph Holland, argued that the problems were aggravated by a Baskin-Robbins supervisor who had a "personal vendetta" against Chad Condit. Chad Condit testified it was hard even to persuade a Baskin-Robbins supervisor to sell the stores in the first place.

"He was skeptical of my abilities to be an ice cream man, I guess," Condit testified. "And he, I guess, ended up being right."