More From The Hearing (Updated Throughout, Video, WRC-TV)
Room 318 of the Moultrie Courthouse was packed this morning: three defendants, four defense attorneys, two Assistant US Attorneys, one presiding judge and a gallery of nearly one hundred spectators and media. High turnout and high interest.
Judge Frederick Weisberg got things underway by admitting he didn’t have the chance to read the latest document submitted by the defense; namely the 50 page response to the government’s response to their motion to compel discovery. Still with us?
Judge Weisberg said he wasn’t determined to rule yet on pending evidence and discovery issues. Rather, he wanted to discuss the possible “Innocence Protection Act” hearing with regard to further DNA testing on several pieces of evidence, which may include the blood spot found on the comforter from Dylan Ward’s bedroom, which we only learned about this week.
Weisberg also said that at this point it was unlikely he would rule in favor of the defendants on their request for a Bill of Particulars, which challenged the government’s allegations of a two and a half year long conspiracy orchestrated by the defendants. To the tune of 17 counts.
CONSPIRACY CHARGES: Defense attorneys said if the window of the conspiracy spanned two and a half years then they, too, (the defense team) could be considered as implicitly involved in the conspiracy. Assistant US Attorney Glenn Kirschner said that was certainly not the case. Kirschner, or “lead dog” as Price’s attorney Bernie Grimm jokingly called him, proposed they would be willing to discuss a narrower window of the conspiracy charges.
THE HOUSE KEYS: There appears to be an another issue that complicates the matter of the keys to 1509. Weisberg questioned prosecutors whether the only overt act of conspiracy following the night of the murder was Joe Price’s alleged lying about his brother having a set of keys to 1509 Swann Street. The superceding indictment states that Joe Price in his interrogation failed to mentionthat Michael Price – referred to at one point this morning as Joe’s “drug addicted brother” – had a set of keys. That document also states that in November of 2007, Price again failed to mention to Kathy Wone that Michael had keys to 1509.
Price’s counsel Bernie Grimm stated that during his interrogation Joe said that his keys were held by “just some contractors,” and that Price also claimed he provided a written list that included the name of his brother Michael Price. Proving this will be tricky. Apparently the first hour of Price’s videotaped interrogation either was not recorded or is missing . We also heard that the written list of key holders that Joe supposedly provided is missing as well. Did anyone check the ECB facility? The leaky box maybe?
THE BLACKBERRY: The remainder of the status hearing focused on Robert Wone’s BlackBerry recovered at the murder scene. We learned this week that US Secret Services failed to “image” it’s contents. In the government’s response to the motion to compel discovery we’re told that Detective Waid saw two unsent emails from Wone to his wife Kathy and a colleague, time stamped at 11:05pm and 11:07pm respectively – the first email telling Kathy he’d taken a shower and was off to bed, the second to a work colleague confirming lunch plans for the next day. Again, both emails were unsent according to Waid.
The defense team is leaning on those time stamps to show that the government allegations that Robert was incapacitated, abused, and tortured for over an hour was impossible, of course by using the 10:30pm arrival at Swann Street. Whether the BlackBerry will even be introduced as evidence remains to be seen. Right now the emails are being considered as evidence while the defense teams consider it just an allegation. It seems unlikely this can be resolved before the trial..
DNA TESTS: Weisberg asked both the defense teams and prosecutors to meet soon on whittling down the 105 point list of discovery items to “a manageable number” and to agree which may required DNA testing, perhaps jointly through an independent lab. Weisberg asked for that list to be completed and presented to him by May 15. What sounded like a groan, possibly from one of the many firms’ associates seated nearby punctuated Weisberg’s order. Grimm said he and his colleagues would work with the prosecutors; “we’re friendly,” he said.
Judge Weisberg announced the next status hearing for Friday, May 22 at 2:00pm. He gave no indication of when the trial may start, “months away,” perhaps. He also further relaxed the conditions of the defendants’ release by ordering they no longer have to appear weekly, and can just call in by phone to DC Pre-Trial Services. If any of them are to travel outside the jurisdiction they are requited to notify of that as well.
THE SCENE: We got to the hearing room about 10 minutes before the gavel and it was already full so we ttok spots standing at the rear. Seats suddenly opened up as the defendants and their counsel vacated them and made their way to the courtroom well. Front row.
The defendants were all wore various shades of gray suits. They sat together behind their respective attorneys with Dylan in between Joe and Victor. Fromwhere we sat it appeared that Joe and Dylan looked to be sitting closely and Victor a bit further away. This is probably explained by the fact that Joe and Dylan were in those pedestal swivel chairs bolted to the floor that any seat a DC juror sits in, while Victor sat behind attorney Thomas Connolly in an office chair.
Both Joe and Victor were wearing their gold commitment bands on their right ring fingers; Joe, the most animated of the three, spent much of the time with his legs crossed, occasionally chewing on his nails.
Dylan appeared mostly expressionless and was described as one observer looking “…Caesarean…with his hair cut short and his aquiline nose.” Victor was often seen glancing around the courtroom and focused many times on the gallery. He whispered to Dylan during the proceedings which elicited only a nod.
As for the attorneys, Connolly seemed to be the most engaged with Judge Weisberg and handled many of the day’s chores. Schertler got his share of time, Grimm to a lesser extent, but very little it seemed for Spagnoletti. AUSA Glenn Kirchner with his shaved head, goatee and serious bearing has the look of a ex-Marine wrestler hard-ass.
Kathy Wone left the court before adjournment and was seen in the anteroom with apparent family and friends. After Weisberg adjourned, the threesome held court in the hallway outside the hearing room surrounded by 10 or 12 well wishers. Joe and Dylan both appeared very lively and conversant with their supporters, so lively that one observer commented their behavior seemed akin to that of a cocktail party: engaging, smiling and hugging. Victor appeared more serious and mingled less with the crowd.
The defendants lingered inside the courthouse for the better part of a half an hour before departing en masse, all except for Mr. Grimm.
Bernie Grimm stayed behind to answer questions from the attending media. This first clip shows a brief exchange with Paul Wagner, a reporter from WTTG-TV, DC’s Fox affiliate. Wagner filed this piece.
Exhibiting his candor, accessibility and telegenic skills, Mr. Grimm stuck around for even more interviews, this time with WRC-TV’s Michael Flynn, The Blade’s Lou Chibarro and one other reporter we were unable to identify.
Leaving the courthouse a small gaggle of media and cameras followed the defendants down Indiana Avenue towards 6th Street. WRC’s Flynn filed and ended up having the best footage.
Although being tried together, as they departed the three appeared less as a team and more like 3 separate defendants walking away with their respective attorneys.
– Michael and Craig