The Bicycle Thief – Updated with crappy video
Today’s afternoon session was dedicated mostly to the cross examination of Bryan Waid, the MPD lead detective on the case. Some of this was covered in a 3:40pm update, but we’ll expand upon it here.
Zaborsky counsel Tom Connolly kicked things off and it seemed that every minute there was another objection from AUSA Patrick Martin.
Judge Lynn Leibovitz sustained nearly all of them. Martin was so much in the habit of leaping up today, one of his objections was a bit premature; Connolly didn’t even get his question out first.
Apparently there was another burglary at 1509 Swann, this one ocurring in August 2008. A bicycle was stolen from the patio area. And to prove how easy it was for someone to make it over the fence, Tom Connolly played a videotape.
The tape of Connolly and his lucky staffers vaulting over the back fence of 1509 was a sight to behold. All got over the top, even the boss, but not without some small struggle. Each of the mock burglars needed hand holds on the top rails and all used their feet on the fence trying to scale it. We later learned from David Schertler that these tapes have been on the shelf for quite some time; they were shot in 2006.
Judge Leibovitz, seemingly always in a jovial mood asked if anyone tried to jump over the fence holding a pork loin. Hearty laughter then filled room 310. The laughs stopped there.
Connolly then went over Waid’s observations from when he first arrived at the crime scene and his interview with Zaborsky. Connolly got Waid to admit that his client was cooperative, went to the VCB without protest and that his crying was “natural under the circumstances.” Connolly underscored that Zaborsky was exhausted, operating on no sleep. The distancing of Zaborsky from his fellow co-defendants continued; no one asked Zaborsky about other key holders, and there was no evidence that he let Michael Price into 1509 or was even aware of his presence that night.
We then learned about an attempted burglary at 1417 Swann Street two weeks after Robert’s murder. A man climbed over the chain link fence from the alley and tried to work the doorknob to break in. The home’s occupant wrestled with the doorknob from the inside of the house, foiling the robbery. The perp went back over the chain link fence and ran away. More on this later.
Bernie Grimm’s cross of Waid began at 2:45pm. He read the email chain (which began on July 29) between Robert and Price that led to the overnight stay. Robert asked to “crash on the couch,” and he told Price to, “…feel free to say no.” Grimm had other emails between the two, one including best wishes to Robert on scoring the RFA gig, “It’s a good fit for you,” Price wrote.
Grimm, too, was curious about the 2008 bike theft. It was reported by the woman of the house (perhaps the same lady who chases us away every time we go in the alley to refresh ourselves on the layout). The woman saw the 5’8″ perp scale the fence, grab the bike, then rescale the fence in his getaway we were told. Then it’s was back to the videotape.
Shortly after Robert’s murder, Sarah Morgan made a return trip to the VCB for questioning. She sat in a similar drab and spartan interrogation room that her then housemates were in just a few days prior. In the brief clip we heard her tell of:
Neighbor Chuck Wolf’s house being burglarized by way of a rear glass door; two guys she knew who were robbed at gunpoint in the alley, another gentleman was robbed at gunpoint on the 1500 block, Scott Hixson, and that her friend Jim’s car was broken into once, maybe twice.
This was the second time we heard Hixson’s name mentioned today. Earlier, Waid said, one of the occupants of a black BMW who were in the VCB parking lot waiting for Ward to emerge from his interviews was Hixson. He was in the car with both Price and Zaborsky.
Grimm asked if Waid followed up with Wolf on his burglary. No. Did he canvas the Swann Street neighbors in the days after the murder? Not thoroughly it appears. Did he follow up with contractors or the maid service key holders? Apparently not. Would it not have been important to chase those leads? Yes.
Grimm then asked Waid about a key list and drawing Price allegedly made for detectives at the VCB. Waid saw neither. Grimm then played a short portion of Price’s interview, in which the defendant responding to a question of how he found Robert on the sofabed, said, “Robert was laying on the bed as I drew it (for Detectives Wagner and Norris).” Waid never followed up with his colleagues on either the phantom list or sketch.
A short afternoon break followed, then Grimm began the second part of his cross. He asked Waid if he checked the recovered latent prints from the guestroom against Michael Price’s file. Waid said he did and there was no match. Grimm then went to the saga of Robert’s Blackberry and the Secret Service’s failure to image the data. Grimm asked Waid if he told “white lies” to Kathy Wone in an effort to play for time while the USSS dragged their feet on processing it. There was a thunderous government objection and Grimm immediately withdrew the question.
A cell phone of Robert’s was also recovered from the scene but it was not sent to the USSS because Waid said he could retrieve phone company data for any calls, in or out. Waid did try to access the phone about 4:00am on the morning of August 3. Grimm wrapped by stressing that Price and his housemates cooperated on the night of the murder, took the meetings (with counsel present) as requested by authorities and voluntarily submitted fingerprints and DNA samples. He got Waid to admit he was not a blood trace expert and not qualified to testify on any “cast off” of blood that may have been in the guestroom, or more accurately, not found.
Grimm punctuated his cross by playing the gay card again. Price, apparently in an off-caera interview, said he was accused of trying to “gay Robert up,” by detectives Norris and Wagner. That exchange did not appear on the videotape which led Grimm to speculate it happened before the tape rolled. Asked if “gay up” was a common term used by the Homicide squad, Waid said it was not.
It was David Schertler’s turn to cross at 4:00pm. He asked Waid about EMT Jeff Baker, “the character.” Waid interviewed Baker on August 26, 2006 in the back of a car parked at Washington Hospital Center. Did Baker draw a sketch of how he found Robert? No, Waid told him, the detective drew it himself. Schertler had a number of questions regarding the fingerprint analysis done on the guestroom latents. The prints were checked against five other known sets; those of Michael Price, Louis Hinton and three others who are in the database.
Schertler was curious about the attempted burglary of 1417 Swann on August 18, 2006. Waid learned of it by way of emails from the witness. The perp was never caught. More on that later.
Regarding the undisturbed cobwebs Waid saw on the trees and fence at 1509, Scherlter asked if photos were taken of them. Yes, said Waid. Where are they now, Schertler wondered. “Someone must have them,” the detective said. Schertler then played another video of some unlucky paralegals climbing over the fence at 1509, but this time they used the top of the adjacent shed as an aide. All got up and over but all seemed to need firm handholds and use of their feet to make the ascent.
At 4:30pm, Patrick Martin began his rushed redirect. He got Waid to clarify some key points on the August 2006 attempted break-in at 1417 Swann and the August 2008 bike theft at 1509.
As far as the 1417 Swann incident, Waid isn’t convinced it ever happened. It appears MPD Gay Liaison Bret Parson took a call and he then called Waid thinking that it would be of interest in the Wone investigation. Waid interviewed the partner of the person who reported it, and he told the detective he didn’t think it actually occurred; maybe his roommate wasn’t being square. No police report was ever filed and the scene was never processed of dusted for prints.
As far as the bike theft, someone did indeed scale the 1509 fence and grabbed a bike, but rather than rescaling the fence for a getaway, the thief went out to the alley by way of the unlocked patio gate. Martin ended the redirect by asking about the phantom list of 1509 key holders. Waid said Price never gave him a list of names nor contact information for him to follow up with.
That was it for the day but Judge Leibovitz gave out homework assignments. Next week is dark; after Friday’s session wraps, the trial resumes Monday, June 14. The judge wants the defense to use the time to draft their motions for judgement for acquittal, and for the government to ready their opposition. Leibovitz was loud and clear what she wanted, in particular from the prosecution:
“I want a detailed, factual recitation on inferences that you believe a reasonable juror could make on the evidence at the trial; specific applications of those to elements of the crimes you charge and include your obstruction language.
I don’t want a recitation of the evidence, but specific inferences you’re asking me to draw, broken down by defendants.”
Everyone can sleep in tomorrow morning. Friday’s session begins at 1:45pm.
From the Shakey-Cam: Zaborksy, Price and members of their legal team return to the courthouse after today’s lunch break.