Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Judge: Wone trial will proceed

The judge hearing the Robert Wone conspiracy trial denied a motion for a full acquittal on Thursday, meaning the proceedings will continue.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz dismissed charges of tampering with evidence against two of the defendants, Dylan M. Ward and Victor J. Zaborsky. But she ruled that all the other charges will stand.

Ward, Zaborsky and Joseph R. Price, also have been charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Those charges will stand, as will the tampering charge against Price.

“The government has met its burden and a reasonable juror could find guilt,” Leibovitz said. But she also said her decision was "not a verdict or any signal on how I will rule" at the close of the trial. Both sides waived the right to a jury trial, meaning that Leibovitz is the sole arbiter.

Prosecutors rested their case Wednesday after presenting more than 30 witnesses and hundreds of exhibits over nearly four weeks.

As soon as Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Kirschner, head of the homicide unit, was done presenting his case Wednesday, lawyers for the three defendants said that Kirschner hadn’t proved anything. But Leibovitz ruled Thursday that the trial should proceed.

From the beginning, this has been the most unusual of cases because no one is charged with killing Wone. But prosecutors tried to prove that Price, 39, Ward, 40, and Zaborsky, 44, who allowed Wone to stay with them on the night of his death in August 2006, know who killed their friend and conspired to stage the crime scene and cover for the killer.

It boils down to this: Did an intruder kill Wone, as the defendants say, or was it someone the housemates know? Prosecutors say the killer was someone the three men know, probably Price’s younger brother.

The housemates, who say they are in a committed three-way romantic relationship, waited 17 minutes before calling police so they could plant the murder weapon, alter the crime scene and scrub Wone’s body of blood, prosecutors say.

Wone, 32, a prominent lawyer who lived in Oakton with his wife, Katherine, was college buddies with Price and was staying at the million-dollar townhouse in August 2006 after working late at his job as general counsel for Radio Free Asia. Price and Wone had planned an early breakfast meeting the next day.

Prosecutors theorized that Price’s brother, Michael, killed Wone. They presented evidence that Michael Price had a drug problem, had a key to the house and knew the alarm code. Prosecutors said they did not have enough evidence to charge the younger Michael Price with any crimes associated with Wone’s killing.

The defense case already has begun.

-- Keith L. Alexander

By Washington Post editors  |  June 17, 2010; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  From the Courthouse , Homicide , Keith L. Alexander , The District  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Child porn indictment for Md. man
Next: Boy, 7, pulled from apparent kidnapper


This is good news. "What's done in the dark will always come to light". Wone will have his JUSTICE.

Posted by: access11 | June 17, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I realize this case is far from over, but hopefully it's a sign of things to come. The only one who seems even partly innocent is Zaborsky, but he forfeited any sympathy when he decided to go along with obstruction.

Posted by: alc0f7 | June 17, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

I see this as a victory for the defense.
Before they even start they knocked out 2 charges. So thats less work for them.
It's also a failure for the prosecution that 2 charges they tried to prove failed with out the defendants having to argue against them.

Posted by: MarilynManson | June 17, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Please find htem guilty guilty guilty. 17 minutes while he lay dead or dying. And you men call him your friend.

Send them away, please.

Posted by: Greent | June 17, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

This is a big win for the defense.

The bulk of the obstruction case was linked to the tampering allegations. Without that, the obstruction case is hanging by a thread.

Moreover, the tampering case was supposedly based on strong forensic evidence concerning the knife (which had allegedly been replaced), the evidence of cleanup of the crime scene, etc. The judge's ruling means that under no circumstances, even when viewed most favorably to the prosecution, could that evidence sustain a tampering count. That is bad news for the prosecution indeed.

Finally, the prosecution's view that Price's brother had something to do with the murder, and that Price (and the others) may be covering up for him, was a major switch from the prosecution's earlier view, which was that the brother had nothing to do with the murder and, rather, that it was linked to a sexual assault gone wrong.

If one now accepts the prosecution's theory that the brother was the murderer and the 3 guys are covering for him, then the assumption that Wone was "assaulted" falls apart. There is no particular reason now to believe that whatever sexual activity occurred was anything other than consensual.

Which makes it a very interesting case, indeed.

Posted by: Meridian1 | June 17, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I hope at least they are convicted of obstruction. A life obviously means nothing to any of them.

Posted by: KBGilmore | June 17, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Oh Marilyn/Meridian, only the truly justice-blind would see this as a "victory". These were the least of the charges, and so far, in the judges mind, even this is still sticking to one defendant. And she's not convinced of their innocence in the other 2 major charges. Given: 1. the lack of blood, 2. the lack of defensive wounds, 3. the minimally 14 minute wait from the "scream" to the 911 call, 4. lack of bloody towels where pressure was supposedly being applied by a defendant (per the 911 advice), 5. precision/cleanliness of the wounds, 6. antemortem needle marks, 7. lack of anything being stolen from the house (when a watch, wallet, and many electronic devices were in easy reach), 8. lack of honesty when asked who all had keys/access to the house (did Joe just forget that his brother did? actually, no, he purposefully kept this from the downstairs tenant as well), 9. the initial hesitation to call police about the subsequent burglary, until it was later OK'd by the burglar's brother, etc., ad nauseum, lead me to believe that a reasonable judge would, beyond a reasonable doubt, find that something was sadly amiss with the defendants' stories. A slam dunk by the prosecution? Perhaps not. But no reasonable person could look at even this scant evidence and believe it was the result of an unknown burglar, who made no sound (save perhaps a chime?), jumped over a 7 foot fence, entered the house, picked up a kitchen knife, went directly to the 2nd bedroom past one occupied by a defendant, killed Robert so quickly he didn't have time to even clutch his wounds (though somehow he screamed? I dunno...), cleaned up the blood evidence yet left the murder weapon sticking in his chest, tiptoed back out, (having fully forgotten why he was even there--to burgle!--since he didn't take anything), jumped back over the 7 foot fence (instead of just letting himself out), and disappeared into the night. I mean, how ludicrous an explanation is that? Worst burglar ever, but he gets an A+ for stealthy murder.

Whether or not the 3 defendants had anything directly to do with the murder is unknown, but it seems to me a reasonable person, and this very astute judge, could see that a coverup, for whatever reason, was orchestrated by all 3. Hey, but that's just my opinion.

Posted by: sawrdja | June 17, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Meridian 1,

As I read the article, the tampering charges were not dimissed as to Price; only as to the other two defendants. If any tampering by Price was within the scope of the conspiracy, the other two could be found guilty of a conspiracy to tamper with the evidence and whatever else they conspired to do.

It looks to me that all of the defendants are in deep trouble and they would be well advised to make whatever deal they can with the prosecutors. If they are found guilty, they will spend a lot of time in prison. Covering up a murder is pretty serious.

Posted by: esch | June 17, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

This just menas Price will be the one to squeal since he will get the longest sentence. There's zero doubt they obstructed justice. Anyone with a brain can see that. A weak case for murder charges but not obstruction and tampering. 10-15 years for a co-conspirator will do. Just hope all 3 of these sickos get just what they desired in jail a 250 lb bunkmate who has been there for years!!!! Watch them scurry after a week in prison.

Posted by: espnfan | June 17, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

The author wrote "Wone, 32, a prominent lawyer."

Are you kidding? The only prominence of Robert Wone is his unsolved murder and this trial for obstruction of justice.

In the legal world, Wone was a nobody.

Posted by: ashafer_usa | June 17, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Also, the prosecution's assertion that the three are covering up for Price's younger brother makes absolutely no sense. If you are facing a possible 38 years in prison and you know who committed the murder, no twisted sense of loyalty would be worth the risk. All three of them would have immediately thrown the younger brother under a bus.

There is indeed something fishy about this entire crime, but from everything that I have read, the prosecution utterly failed to prove anything.

Posted by: ashafer_usa | June 17, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company