As our night time copy editor alluded in last night’s post, yesterday, Judge Brook Hedge signed an order granting a stay in the civil proceeding against Joseph Price, Victor Zaborsky, and Dylan Ward in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Katherine Wone on behalf of the Estate of Robert E. Wone (see the Defendants’ Consolidated Motion to Stay for details of their motion). The judge ruled that all activities involving discovery shall cease until completion of the criminal trial, but not through appeals or post-trial motions. The judge indicated that by allowing the civil proceeding to continue in parallel with the criminal case, the Defendants’ constitutional rights, and the public interest could be compromised.
The judge’s decision is based on case law:
SEC v. Dresser Indus., Inc., 202 U.S. App. D.C. 345, 628 F.2d 1368 (1980) (“the strongest case for deferring civil proceedings until after completion of criminal proceedings is where a party under indictment for a serious offense is required to defend a civil or administrative action involving the same 2 matter.” Id. at 1375-76).
A status hearing is set for September 18, 2009; however, if a resolution is reached in the criminal trial proceedings before that time, the parties shall notify the Court so that the stay can be lifted and the matter can proceed.
Kudos to Mike Scarcella of The Blog of LegalTimes for always providing timely, ongoing coverage of all of the proceedings related to the murder of Robert Wone. Mike’s detailed analysis of yesterday’s ruling can be found at The Blog of LegalTimes.
– Posted by Michael
Thursday really provided two victories for the three defendants. As Michael notes, Judge Hedge’s temporary stay of the civil suit complicates the Wone legal team’s efforts to gain access (the legal process of “discovery”) to, in the words of the defendant’s attorneys, “Every pleading, every document, and every shred of evidence compelled from the defendants…”
While it is a stay (though a temporary one) and it is bad news for the plaintiff, Judge Hedge’s second ruling may have as great an impact as the first. Again as reported by the Blog of LegalTimes and also in the Washington Blade, Judge Brock also denied Kathy Wone’s request to full access of the electronic communications between Ward, Zaborsky and Price from the period July 1 to August 31, 2006. These would be both phone and email records for the three in the period before, during and just after Mr. Wone’s murder.
Kathy Wone attorney Ben Razi had argued such records would provide “state of mind” evidence for the three defendants. No doubt that would have been the least of what they may have provided.
However, with Judge Hedge’s ruling that is now mere speculation.