The Price of Freedom

Below is the legal defense letter that Joe Price sent from his work e-mail address to friends and family requesting support for the fund.  On first glance, several things jump out.  First, Price sent this from his work e-mail address, presumably from the same computer where a “large quantity of gay male pornography and sado-masochistic photos” were found as revealed in the affidavits for the search warrants.  Second, he sent the letter on November 13 from an Arent Fox e-mail address, which is 14 days after Arent Fox announced that Mr. Price was on paid leave, and listed his attorney bio as “inactive attorney.”  Third, from the way that the letter is written, to the way that the letter is signed, the equality in the relationship that Victor Zaborsky mentioned to investigators the night of the murder had not been achieved after two years.

For those folks who are inclined to donate to the fund, the letter is published in full, and you can certainly contact the fund administrator to make a donation.


From: Price, Joseph (
To: ‘xxxx@xxxx’
Sent: Thu, 13 Nov 2008 2:20 pm
Subject: An urgent plea for your support

Dear Friends and Family,

We apologize to some of you in advance if this is the first time that you have heard from us in a while.

Unfortunately, we find ourselves in the rather desperate situation of having to ask all of you for your help.

As most of you likely know, it has been over two years since the August 2, 2006 tragic and senseless death of our longtime friend Robert Wone.

In the ensuing two years we have spent more than $150,000 dealing with the police’s so-called investigation and their inexplicable theory that we were somehow involved with Robert’s death, despite our having immediately provided the police with lengthy, detailed statements and having voluntarily provided DNA and finger print samples.

Now, more than two years later, to our shock and dismay, the prosecutor in charge of the case is threatening to bring criminal charges against us and has had our dear friend and former housemate Dylan Ward arrested on a meritless claim of obstruction of justice.

Our attorneys estimate that the cost of a trial, which will necessarily involve a number of experts, will run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. We have no choice but to sell and liquidate every asset in order to pay this staggering sum as our very freedom hangs in the balance.  Our parents are doing the same,sacrificing retirement savings and taking on unprecedented debt to aid us.

Sadly, even all of that will not be enough.  Thus we find ourselves in the frankly embarrassing position of having to ask your assistance in helping fund our defense.  Toward that end two dear friends, both of whom are attorneys, have established a legal defense fund trust to which we dearly hope you will contribute.  These funds will be used to help pay our attorneys and the costs of the experts necessary to prove our absolute innocence.

You can contribute by sending your check, payable to “Legal Defense Fund Trust” to:

Carol McGee, Esq., Trustee
Alston & Byrd
The Atlantic Building
950 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004

Needless to say we are extraordinarily grateful to each of you for any and all support you can provide.  We are still in shock at this unimagined development and stunned by the complete lack of protections our so-called justice system affords the falsely accused.

Please also note that your contributions are confidential and unlike information about political contributors, is not available to the public.  And please share this request with any and all whom you think may be motivated to contribute, honestly we need all the help we can get.

With much appreciation and love,

Joe Price
Victor Zaborsky
Dylan Ward

IRS Circular 230 disclosure: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that, unless expressly stated otherwise, any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.

-Posted by David

Craig’s take…

This is an interesting find. What stands out to me in this letter is Joe’s tone and some of the language he
uses. Notably, why does he say to his close “friends and family,” more than two years after the crime that, “…this is the first time that you have heard from us in a while.” What’s taken him, Victor and Dylan so long to reach out and share their sides of the story with those closest to them? I also find it peculiar that an accomplished attorney and partner at such a prestigious firm would speak so disparagingly (and on-the-record) of the criminal justice system in which he is, “…stunned by the complete lack of protections our so-called justice system affords the falsely accused.” There is also the swipe at law enforcement by characterizing “…the police’s so-called investigation…”

But it’s the last part of that sentence which seems most incongruous. Joe refers to the police’s “…inexplicable theory that we were somehow involved with Robert’s death…”. To me, the cold, hard and undeniable fact that the three defendants were present in the home at the time of the murder, mere feet away from the guest room where Robert laid dying, offers a very “plicable” theory as to their involvement. The police really didn’t make that great a leap to posit that the three may be “involved” in some way.

The last sentence assuring contributors’ confidentiality is rather interesting as well. Why wouldn’t the recipients of the letter, his close friends and family, be more than happy to stand up publicly and voice their support by contributing in a transparent manner to their defense? Why the guarantee of secrecy?

In any event, I encourage all who continue to stand by Joe, Victor and Dylan to contribute to their fund.

– Posted by Craig

25 comments for “The Price of Freedom

  1. I know who did it
    02/13/2009 at 10:32 AM

    As a lawyer myself, I understand that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and that everyone is entitled to a zealous defense. On the other hand, if they did in fact murder Robert Wone and/or cover up the murder, it pains me to read this bald request for money.

    Also, do we know if the defendants, in having to “sell and liquidate every asset” have sold their house in Florida. Presumably, they purchased the house in Florida because of the states’ favorable laws protecting real estate from creditors and judgments, etc., no?

  2. kluver
    02/14/2009 at 10:12 AM

    They say in the letter that they have no other choice to liquidate their assets. They did not say they have done this yet. Also, I seem to remember that when they were discussing the bail issue for J,V,D there was discussion that the deeds for their FL and DC would be used as protection.

    It seems to me this letter was an attempt to get $$$ so they did not have to liquidate their assets so they could continue to live their life.

  3. Anon. in Arlington
    04/30/2009 at 3:05 PM

    Now, re-reading this letter in connection to our editor’s blog posting of 30 April 2009, I am struck that once again that Joe used an Arent Fox email system to send out a very personal plea. So late in the game, how could he not see this the least bit unethical? Gmail, yahoo, … there are myriad free email systems in which to send something like this if you were not paying for a private internet connection at home (which seems highly unlikely). It appears he continuously blurred the lines between business and private life.

    • Lance
      04/30/2009 at 3:55 PM

      Seriously, “unethical”? I get lots of personal email from friends’ professional accounts. If I had a dime for every email I got that said something like “Let’s meet up Saturday before the concert and get dinner” followed by ten lines explaining to me that the contents of the email were subject to confidentiality and did not necessarily express the views of the firm and…

      • CDinDC
        04/30/2009 at 4:00 PM

        Funny this should come up today…’s a comment in an email sent this morning from the Managing Partner of my firm today….

        “………The email system is a privilege and should not be abused…………”

        Personal use is allowed, but not condoned in my firm, and little nudges like this let’s everyone know.

      • Anon. in Arlington
        04/30/2009 at 4:41 PM

        It is one thing to say “lets get together for drinks” and yet another to ask for funding from friends and family. Not sure where you work, but in my nonprofit here in DC, that could lead to dismissal (I have worked for many npo’s and it is the same – use sparingly but do not abuse).

        Not only does it display a long-term project (such as, oh… planning your wedding or class reunion using only your work email account) but it also is using company resources that do not belong to you. In addition, the request is deeply personal and has no place coming from a workplace computer.

      • KM
        04/30/2009 at 5:06 PM

        Lance, I agree that a lot of personal email happens on work accounts.

        But this rises to a new level, in part because one could be forgiven for assuming that Arent Fox supported, or at least knew and condoned, everything in Price’s letter. In fact, depending on the recipient’s status and relationship with the firm, I could imagine someone feeling pressured to make at least a token contribution, and give lip service to its contents.

  4. Bea
    04/30/2009 at 5:48 PM

    KM, good point. I am a partner in a law firm, and while I use my work email account for some personal things, it’s WAY out there to send out a personal plea to MANY recipients – akin to sending out such a plea on firm letterhead. It implies that the firm is in support of his request for a hand-out.

    I don’t know the Arent structure or if their partnership agreement had specifics about “cause” removal of partners – many just have that a certain percentage of partners vote you out. Because you’ve signed that contract, if you’re voted out that’s it.

    The wording used has a lot of play in it but “on administrative leave” as first reported left me assuming that he was continuing to get a paycheck (although possibly not his usual draw – they are “draws” not “salaries” if an equity partner). It seems that his status has changed (either “fired” or “let go”) and he’s no longer associated with or employed by Arent.

    He has until May 1 to apply to take the Florida bar exam in July (given in February and July like many states). Or maybe he took it in February (records might reflect this out-of-state travel). The problem, of course, is that “[I]n order to be admitted in Florida, an applicant must have proof of good moral character” and go through that screening process. I had a friend who had a twenty-year-old Driving While Intoxicated charge have to go through a lot of hoops to prove he was fit to sit for the new state’s exam, so it ain’t a cake walk.

    • CDinDC
      04/30/2009 at 6:21 PM

      Didn’t the defendants release conditions prohibit travel out of the state? Or was that relaxed (along with the drug testing requirement) recently?

      His legal career is pretty much doomed if he’s convicted.

      • David
        04/30/2009 at 7:38 PM


        They surrendered their passports, and have to report when they are going to be out of the district area, is the latest information that I have.

        David, ed.

        • KM
          04/30/2009 at 7:51 PM

          It occurred to me that Bea, and some other posters, share or exceed Joe Price’s job/$ status. I don’t, and Joe’s letter and its language on Arent’s email account feels like bullying to me. Anyone else have that take? Kind of, “this IS the situation and here is what you will do, and I have the clout behind me to back it up.” It fits to me with the mechanics of how Joe would exercise a controlling nature.

          Re-reading the letter and Craig’s take, I am struck with how undignified it is. This letter from Joe, in his own words, provides the clearest insight into his character that I am likely ever to get.

          The tone is emotional, in a self-pitying, defensive, angry sort of way. Their “desperate” situation; “dealing with” the authorities; “we have no choice,” “sadly,” “threatening;” they are “in shock” and “stunned.”

          Yes, they have a right to their feelings. A dignified letter, however, would omit all reference to how hard this murder has been on them.

          Re: whether Joe has passed the FL bar exam – Are bar exam results published, or is that only in some states, and only for first-timers? And how much would innocent-until-proven-guilty figure into the good moral standing provision?

          • Bea
            04/30/2009 at 8:52 PM

            I checked Florida, and while the February bar results are in (it takes months), they are coded for confidentiality (no names). Some state bars have search functions to see “member attorneys” but the Florida site is being updated for maintenance.

            • Anon. in Arlington
              04/30/2009 at 10:17 PM

              Thanks for looking that up Bea! A friend mentioned that the application process to even sit for the BAR is rather tough, and they may not admit him to the test with all the disclosure statements he would have had to make. Does this sound correct? Also, does Florida “wave” attorney’s who are licensed in DC and/or VA (or is it just a DC thing to accept state licensure?). Just wondering if he can beat this system in some manner.

  5. Bea
    04/30/2009 at 6:34 PM

    I think his career is already in the toilet. Until he loses his license he might get work chasing ambulances but nothing like the life he once knew.

    I think the defendants were able to travel provided they got permission (assume a viable reason would be taking the bar).

  6. CDinDC
    04/30/2009 at 9:42 PM

    Joe refers to Dylan as “our dear friend.”

    I guess this letter was going to friends and family that didn’t know about his three-way relationship.

    Wonder if Joe and Victor had friends that were aware of Dylan’s true status.

    Looks like Joe had many faces.

    • Anon. in Arlington
      04/30/2009 at 10:01 PM

      Well, by this time Dylan was on the outer circle, set to live in FL until the affidavit brought him back to DC. The three may never have been able to reach “equals” as was mentioned on 3 August 2006. Friends and family certainly learned a lot more than they ever wanted to in the affidavit.

      Wonder if this was a strategic separation and only for show, or if the physical/emotional edge had worn off by this time. Of course by living in the Florida home, it mostly sets the stage for a new life in a new location for Dylan, Joe, and Victor either by themselves or collectively. (And one may easily be able to run a porn shop via internet from Florida.)

  7. susan
    10/15/2010 at 10:18 PM

    You know what’s interesting about that plea letter? It mentions RW’s “death” twice: “tragic and senseless” and then “Robert’s” death.

    But “Robert’s death” didn’t put them in the busking business. It was stabbing, murder, killing. Why the lack of correctly naming what happened? After all, it wasn’t RW’s death that put them in the appeal for $ business. Lots of deaths are “tragic” and “senseless.” Someone dying from “friendly fire” or a win-less war. But those don’t usually get people charged with obstruction of justice, etc.

    Also there’s the mention of being “our longtime friend.” In the videotaped interviews with VZ and DW they say things like, he was just a “casual” friend, they barely saw him, hardly knew him.

    • susan
      10/15/2010 at 10:21 PM

      My point above (in case it’s not clear) is that the choice of words one uses carries meaning and the most relevant word in this case, really, is not used in that appeal letter. It is, very notably, missing.

      • Clio
        10/15/2010 at 10:49 PM

        Yes, Susan, that is missing. I also wonder if Counselor McGee is still a trustee of the Fund.

        I also wonder if Kiki and/or Bruce would agree with the phrasing: “… and stunned by the complete lack of protections our so-called justice system affords the falsely accused.” Huh?

        • AnnaZed
          10/16/2010 at 12:11 AM

          I have asked previously about Ms. McGee and the status of this fund ~ does it still exist? was anyone fool enough to actually contribute to it? is Ms. McGee still charged with managing it? ~ but have gotten no answers. I wonder how supremely pissed of various contributors might have become as facts about the case and the trouple’s non-poverty and their considerable real estate holdings (ie their not having liquidated much)emerged. Those must have been some interesting conversations.

          • Cara
            10/16/2010 at 12:36 AM

            Hard to think of a more-maligned yet acquitted person than Hatfill, in recent years. He found the time to proclaim publicly his innocence, hounded as he was. Also hard to imagine why these subjects have not.

          • susan
            10/16/2010 at 12:59 PM

            Since it is a “Trust” and established through Alston & Byrd or via A&B, and thus probably a legal entity that’s tax deductible, I wonder if a call to A&B would establish whether it still exists.

            Re the language in that appeal letter, I think it was very carefully considered. All three guys were (are?) in the “appeal” business and the appeal was through language, with VZ as the milk marketer (you should drink milk and here’s why), JP as the attorney (find my client innocent!), and DW in the fundraising appeal biz (give to our cause!). All require manipulation of language to meet the desired ends however noble or not. That’s why it seems no accident that the one word they should feel strongly about, if they were/are innocent, is not used.

            RW might have had a “tragic and senseless death” had he forgotten to take some crucial medication or accidentally choked on something. But there was a knife, three stab wounds, etc., etc. and either screaming or grunts, depending on your story. Death happens. Murder? Not so much.

        • susan
          10/16/2010 at 1:01 PM

          I would think if he considers it “our so-called justice system” he wouldn’t be someone one would trust to represent them in the “so-called justice system” and he wouldn’t continue to practice law if he himself has such little regard or faith in the system.

  8. susan
    12/13/2012 at 1:19 AM

    Is the fundraiser still going on?

    I was re-reading the posts and I stand by one I wrote about it being very interesting that in the appeal letter J. Price refers to R. Wone’s “death” but never murder, assault, killing, etc. Interesting.

  9. Nelly
    12/15/2012 at 9:57 PM

    The fundraiser, I’m sure, lost a lot of steam years ago when more details of Robert’s murder were released in the press. I wonder who still supports Dylan, Joe, and Victor? Have they created new identities in towns where no one knows their pasts? I’d still like to know how Joe is making a living now. Doc review?!

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