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
Washington Post editors
June 17, 2010; 11:30 AM ET
Categories: From the Courthouse , Homicide , Keith L. Alexander , The District
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