Photo: AP Images


Actual Malice is a true crime thriller that will take you through the backrooms of political gamesmanship, deception, and cover-up. If it were a novel, readers would marvel at the rich character development, riveting pace, and often-bizarre twists that make Actual Malice a compelling read. The fact that it is scrupulously documented nonfiction is sobering.


If you know nothing about Gary Condit or the tragic death of Chandra Levy, there has never been amore engaging and thoughtful introduction to the sordid interplay between politicians, law enforcement, and the media. Actual Malice should be required reading for any public figure.


If you followed the story of the murdered intern and the congressman driven from office by one of the most intense media cyclones in history, Actual Malice will challenge virtually everything you think you know.


Breton Peace takes readers on a roller coaster ride through Congressman Condit's eyes, as corrupt and incompetent cops and a dark, insidious team of "scandal management" experts manipulate a willing press.


To begin, Carolyn and Gary Condit had come an incredible distance together since setting out from Oklahoma for California where Gary and the Condit family name became synonymous with the Central Valley.


In May of 2001, the moderate Blue Dog Democrats—of which Condit was a founding member—held significant power in Congress. Condit had used the coalition to deliver bipartisan victories in Bill Clinton's second term and was now flexing that muscle on the House Intelligence Committee. Condit accomplished what few of his generation could achieve—genuine political independence from both political machines.


The sky was the limit.


When Chandra Levy—a twenty-four-year-old Bureau of Prisons intern—disappeared in 2001, the wheels came off Gary’s ambitions. Accused of having an affair with Levy, a whirlwind of rumor, intrigue, and treachery surrounded him.


More than a decade of lies, manipulation, and deception followed until, in 2016, the justice system cracked under the stress of its own spinelessness.


Actual Malice chronicles in vivid detail the heartache and intrigue behind the salacious, if fanciful, headlines that too often drive public debate and derail the serious business of our nation and its system of justice.

Gary Condit was the cofounder and leader of the moderate “Blue Dog” Democrats that held the balance of power in Washington during Bill Clinton’s second term.

This brief but productive period marks the only time in American history that an organized group of congressional members successfully drove policy around the entrenched partisan interests of the two dominant political parties.

Condit’s public career began in California. The partnership that made it tick, however, had its roots in an Oklahoma high school where Gary Condit and Carolyn Berry met, fell in love, and began a lifetime relationship that would produce two children, Chad and Cadee.

Condit’s career path to Washington began as the youngest Vietnam-era mayor in America, and weaved its way through a lost battle with California’s legendary self-described “Ayatollah of the Legislature,” Speaker Willie Brown.

When a political Wall Street scandal erupted in Washington and lead to a local congressman’s resignation, Condit had a clear path out of Sacramento and into a new life as a California congressman in DC.

As he did in Sacramento, Condit wasted no time before charting his own course on the national stage. He opposed NAFTA, despite intense lobbying from his own district’s wine industry and President Clinton himself. He voted against the landmark repeal of Glass-Steagall protections and was one of a handful of members who voted for the first war in Iraq and against the ill-fated second intervention triggered by intelligence community claims of weapons of mass destruction.

Condit’s conflict with the intelligence community began with the CIA orchestrated intervention in Yugoslavia. In the aftermath of that war, Condit, a member of the House intel committee, was a persistent force in compelling the prosecution of Slobodan Milošević.

Condit was at the apex of a career marked by extraordinary bipartisan influence in both Washington and in the California Capitol. All of that derailed when, in May 2001, Chandra Levy, disappeared.

What followed was one of the most bizarre periods of American history. It tested and denied justice to two families, and revealed the ugly underbelly of DC’s political, media, and law-enforcement establishments.


Breton Peace is an attorney specializing in the representation of domestic and international clients involved in the development of a variety of complex energy, infrastructure, and real estate projects.

Bret is a graduate of Stanford University with an undergraduate degree in religious studies, and the University of Michigan Law School where he was the recipient of the school’s most prestigious academic scholarship, the Clarence Darrow Award. At Michigan, he also earned awards for highest class mark in the areas of corporate criminality and civil procedure, served as an associate editor for the Journal of Law Reform, and graduated cum laude.

Bret’s legal work includes a wide range of first-of-a-kind transactions in highly regulated industries such as nuclear energy, federal land management, gaming, and telecommunications. His prior experience includes practice at an international law firm and as in-house counsel for a new build nuclear power plant project in the Middle East.

Bret lives in El Cajon, California, with his wife, Noel; his daughter, Elena; and his two sons, August and Ezra.

His work takes him regularly to the United Arab Emirates and the Republic of Korea.

This is his first book.