Acquittal

06/29/2010
By Doug

But Not Exoneration

It took a sober and, at times soft-spoken, Judge Leibovtiz little more than an hour to plow through what she termed “…a very long and complicated legal trial.”  We have previously posted, and will post here again, Judge Leibovitz’ verdict in its entirety.

Because the story of today may not be just in the acquittal, but in the suggestions of guilt.

The hour long recitation of findings and conclusions swung like a pendulum – finding first strong merits in the government’s argument, then the defense.  It was like standing on the edge of the ocean while the ocean rolls in, then out.

Early on, however, there were signs that things weren’t going the prosecution’s way.  Among Leibovitz very first findings were that sometime “….between 11:08 and 11:49…” Robert Wone was stabbed.  This seemed a suggestion that the Judge was not persuaded by the government that the defendants were lying about the time line, and that Robert could have been stabbed just about the time of Victors 9-1-1 call.  Later, she returned to this point, noting that the government itself in closing statement admitted to not knowing with certainty what was happening when in the house.

She turned to definitions of “beyond reasonable doubt” and the various legal standards of proof – notably that in criminal trials.  Noting a turn from early use of “moral certainty” in U.S. legal proceedings, she noted the current standard she must follow is “evidentiary” certainty.  “This case has been a…test of reasonable doubt…” she noted from the bench.

Turning to the elements of each charge the prosecution needed to prove “…beyond a reasonable doubt…”, the judge detailed the specifics of obstruction, conspiracy and evidence tampering.  Crucial to each was demonstrating intent – specific intent to deceive, mislead, impede or undermine an official investigation.  Turning through each, a sense grew in the courtroom that the government had not proven this element in their case.

“I’m persuaded the murder was not committed by an intruder unknown to the defendants,” Leibovitz began, turning again to specific findings of fact.  Robert Wone was “…entirely immobile…” at the time of his murder.  The knife found on the scene, she said – noting testimony from Dr. Henry Lee – was “…used to commit the stabbing…” of Robert.  This replacement of the knife was an important element of the prosecutions case, she said, and they had not proven it.

“It is very likely Mr. Price pulled the knife from the victim’s chest,” she continuted, noting that he may well have tampered with the knife but she couldn’t conclude it beyond reasonable doubt.  Further, she couldn’t conclude that Price wiped Robert’s body, “…although it’s probable.”

She then turned her sights on the defendants.

“From the beginning, each one of them – Mr. Zaborsky included – displayed a demeanor wholly at odds with what anyone would expect from an innocent person who’s friend had just been murdered tragically and violently…” going on to characterize their response “dischordantly.”  defendant’s behavior was wholly at odds with normal human behavior…” adding that she found all of them acted “dischordantly” with just having found a friend murdered in their home.

Joe Price was “…arrogant, unconcerned, flippant, aggressive, self-centered and dismissive.  Mr. Zaborsky was hystrionic and tearful, but entirely passive and apparently unmotivated to help detectives…” noting his 9-1-1 statements were “…at best eyebrow-raising, and at worse calculated.

Mr. Ward was from the start distant and detached, unmoved, patient and calm.  He also was apparently unmotivated to help police solve this terrible crime.  Of which, had it truly had been done by an intruder, he could easily have been the victim.”

That said, one can only judge a person’s knowledge and intent so far by demeanor.  Another sign things of things to come.

The decisions came next, although they did not come as a surprise at this point.  Even though the judge found the intruder theory implausible (“Overall, the defendant’s story that an intruder committed the offense is incredible beyond a reasonable doubt” she said), even though the judge found it likely one or more of the defendants knew who murdered Robert Wone and/or covered it up, even though it was “…very probable the government’s theory is correct,” none of this was enough to clear the high hurdle of beyond a reasonable doubt.

Again raising the difference between moral and evidentiary certainty – in what sounded and reads like a tip to her understanding of what actually happened – she still was encountering what she termed “the math problem”: in short, a sense that while two of the three may well have been proven guilty of the charges brought, there was still a reasonable possibility that one was “…the odd man out.”  And given there being no way to determine who might be the odd man, she was forced to acquit all three defendants on all seven charges.

Citing Sir William Blackstone, she employed his famous axiom: “Better that 10 guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer.”

Judge Leibovitz apologized to the Wone family and their supporters, noting the appropriate legal findings in this case on evidentiary certainty were of “cold comfort.”

For their part the defendants reacted little – Victor shedding a tear toward the end, but Joe and Dylan remaining largely stoic.  Their families, too, seemed to evidence little joy in the verdict.  Members of the Wone family appeared genuinely distraught.  The media swarm gathered turned and looked at each other as if to say “Innocent?  Really?

No, not really.  Acquittal is not not guilty; not guilty means merely not proven.  Judge Leibovitz’ own words offer strong testimony to her understanding of this distinction.

The defendants left quickly; Bernie Grimm and the prosecution team spoke with members of the media.

Last note: we asked a member of the Covington & Burling legal team assigned to the civil case when that would begin.  “45 days?” we asked.  “No, it starts this afternoon.”

Price counsel Bernie Grimm speaks to the press

AUSA Glenn Kirschner speaks to the press

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769 Responses to “ Acquittal ”

  1. CuriousinVA on 06/29/2010 at 9:10 PM

    There are also pictures of Victor and Dylan on the WAPO site outside the courthouse. Dylan has a smirk that makes me want to vomit.

  2. Tallulah on 06/29/2010 at 9:14 PM

    Bill, dude…your rhetoric as well as your perpetual use of the “lynch mob mentality” phrase are getting tedious. Unless you have a new point to make, perhaps it’s time for a little rest.

    • Bill on 06/29/2010 at 9:45 PM

      It isn’t just my point but others. And it’s shameful and should concern you and others.

      • Carolina on 06/29/2010 at 9:54 PM

        Bill, I know you feel I am among the cyber mob and I’d probably do well to shut up. The thing is, I can see where you might be coming from. It seemed like the trial brought us some well-intentioned but somewhat— I don’t have a good word for it because any I choose will sound harsh in ways I may not mean.

        I believe most of these posters only want justice for Robert, and that may not necessarily be justice, full stop. On many occasions, I have felt there was a lot of bad crime novelization going on, often referencing only the facts that fit that story.

        That said, I really do think that if your mission is not as a troll but as a voice of opposition, it would be a lot more productive to lighten the rhetoric. I cannot tell if you are speaking from barely contained glee that the three walked, or if you are frustrated with what you see a focus on all the wrong things.

        I know we’ve all had moments of anger and frustration.
        That’s all I really have to say to you. I don’t think it’s important to have the last word or to be “right,” whatever that is.

        • Bill on 06/29/2010 at 10:13 PM

          Carolina – thank you for your considered post. I sincerely appreciate your sharing. Certainly some of your comments to me were personal (calling me a “dick” comes to mind). I apologize to you for any of my comments that were unnecessarily personal or disrespectful.

          From the outset, I was concerned by what I saw as a tidal wave against the defendants. And when I did share, I said that it might be helpful to wait until all of the evidence was presented before rushing to a final opinion. Those comments usually resulted in attacks to me (not necessarily from you).

          Thank you again for your comments. I wish you well and goodnight.

      • Bea on 06/29/2010 at 9:57 PM

        Bill, I thought we were civil and considerate toward each other despite disagreement. I’m surprised you think this of all of us.

        • Bill on 06/29/2010 at 10:07 PM

          Bea – I’ve respected and found value in many of your post and appreciate style. I do not believe you were or are part of the “lynch mob” mentality, although I do believe it exists here. I was particularly disturbed by last week’s / weekend’s salivating as people were getting time for them to go to jail. Further, I was deeply disturbed by the references to prison rape.

          • Bea on 06/29/2010 at 10:18 PM

            I agree that prison rape jokes are/were out of line, but I suspect that by tomorrow the nerves will have settled and we’ll be back to civility (or what we used as a civility standard before). I am taking some of the more outrageous comments with a grain of salt – people vent, and if, for example, a member of the Wone family came on here and blew a gasket, so be it.

            We still have some out-there folks coming on here (some brand new) to claim complete vindication, that the trial decision connotes ‘malicious prosecution in action’ and shows homophobia on behalf of the federal prosecutors – all nonsense in my opinion – and they got the acquittals they were looking for. I think it’s wise to address the substance of the comments (and I admit to some wise-assery myself) and not paint everyone as belonging to an EITHER/OR grouping.

            • Bill on 06/29/2010 at 10:25 PM

              Your comments are wise and I thank you for your counsel.

        • Patrick on 06/29/2010 at 10:33 PM

          You should stop your homophobia too.

  3. cc on 06/29/2010 at 9:17 PM

    Do all defendants have a right to not have a jury? I feel if there was a jury common sense would have prevailed and Mr Wone would get justice for these three men who either killed him or covered it up. I hope and pray new murder charges are brought up against these three savages. Also I hope Mrs wone wins the civil case and drains all three of their bank accounts, assets, etc. They should be in prison and I hope someday they will be but the next best thing is to make each one bankrupt and suffering for eternity.

    • Liam on 06/29/2010 at 9:27 PM

      You don’t understand. In this instance the result was probably not correct, but the common sense of the judge did prevail. She followed the letter of the law. Our system is supposed to be skewed toward protecting an innocent person from being wrongly convicted, rather than being skewed toward convicting when it seems a close case (or skewed toward convicting, period, in some other countries).

      The judge used common sense to reinforce these principles of the American justice system.

      • Liam on 06/29/2010 at 9:30 PM

        I should clarify. When I say the “result was probably not correct” I mean if an all knowing all seeing being could tell us what happened, I believe that we would find these guys guilty. Under our system, the result was correct (IMO).

  4. Southern Lurker on 06/29/2010 at 9:31 PM

    looking at the tweets today, I could not believe the judge said Michael Price did not do it. This is bizarre to me, that the judge would opine so freewheelingly.

    • AnnaZed on 06/29/2010 at 9:48 PM

      I was surprised by that too, and what on earth did she base that finding of fact on?

      • Bea on 06/29/2010 at 10:06 PM

        Frankly I think she was saying that the evidence was much greater against one/more of the defendants being the murderer than Michael Price.

      • Southern Lurker on 06/29/2010 at 11:14 PM

        People have answered, and it’s fairly easy to find in the text.

        But this is bizarre, and uncalled for.

    • Scott on 06/29/2010 at 9:57 PM

      I could be wrong, but I think what her ruling said about that was just that there was no convincing evidence that Michael Price was involved. So it wasn’t definitively ruling out his involvement, but rather just saying there’s not much of anything suggesting he was (based on the evidence).

      • Scott on 06/29/2010 at 10:01 PM

        Okay, to give a direct quote, she wrote that “I am unconvinced that [Michael] committed the murder, especially because none of the defendants acted like they thought he had.”

        • Carolina on 06/29/2010 at 10:08 PM

          None of the defendants acted like they thought the others did it, either. What a strange statement for her to have made.

          • Bill on 06/29/2010 at 10:15 PM

            You know, you are absolutely right and I missed it. Why did she even comment on Michael since he was part of the trial? Seem strange. Great catch.

            • Bill on 06/29/2010 at 10:26 PM

              I meant to say that Michael was NOT part of the trial.

              • Carolina on 06/29/2010 at 10:31 PM

                I have read and re-read, and I cannot think of a reason for her to have included this. Yes, Michael’s name was brought up in the trial, but it was such a misfire that her conjuring him up seems to come from nowhere.

                I wonder if she edited something out and this was a remaining artifact.

                • Bill on 06/29/2010 at 10:47 PM

                  Wouldn’t that be a major flaw in her writing? Would that have an impact in arresting Michael for Robert’s murder if they found they could get an indictment?

                  • Southern Lurker on 06/29/2010 at 11:11 PM

                    No

                  • tassojunior on 06/29/2010 at 11:39 PM

                    No. All that matters of her decision is the decision of not guilty.

                • Scott on 06/29/2010 at 10:50 PM

                  Now you got me curious, so I went back and looked at it in context. It seems like what’s she’s doing is trying to address various strands of the government’s evidence. The paragraph after the one I quoted from, earlier, is pretty interesting, too (and she makes a stronger statement about Michael’s possible involvement):

                  “Because the defendants seemed so certain he was not the murderer, I conclude that Michael Price probably was not the murderer, although his failure to attend class that evening and his phlebotomy studies are certainly worth pausing over in the circumstances of this case. But that the defendants did not suspect Michael Price when it would have been so logical to do so, is additional evidence that the defendants, or at least some of them, knew who had murdered Mr. Wone.”

                  • Carolina on 06/29/2010 at 11:18 PM

                    Because they would certainly never lie and mislead anyone about the identity of the murderer. Heavens, no.

                  • Carolina on 06/29/2010 at 11:19 PM

                    Why would she say she didn’t believe the lies about the intruder and didn’t believe their lies about not knowing anything, but takes them at their word that they didn’t think Michael did it? Especially since Joe was all but throwing him at the police?

                    • slwapo on 06/30/2010 at 2:25 AM

                      Agreed. Something stinks big time.

                • Bea on 06/30/2010 at 2:53 AM

                  I’m not replying below since it would be maddeningly tiny and hard to read. No slights intended.

                  I think the word “acted” is meaningful, meaning that the defendants didn’t BEHAVE that night as indicative of thinking Michael did it – they called him to come pick him up, Joe stated during interrogation that his brother was a violent man and an addict. If they were “covering” for Michael, they would not have “acted” this way. Not that it makes sense, really, but I suspect this is what she was trying to say.

  5. La on 06/29/2010 at 9:46 PM

    Editors-NBC is reporting that the interrogation tapes of the defendants have been released and have posted some clips on their website. When will you have them posted on this site so that we can watch them in their entirety?

    • AnnaZed on 06/29/2010 at 9:51 PM

      Do you have a link for that?

      • CuriousinVA on 06/29/2010 at 10:08 PM

        They are posted on the WAPO site. There is a link in the comments. I’d relink it but I’m no good at that.

        • Nelly on 06/29/2010 at 10:18 PM

          Thanks for the link. From those tiny snippets, only Zaborsky seems genuine.

          • Bea on 06/30/2010 at 3:10 AM

            Interesting watching the NBC ones versus the other ones (Post, another local channel) to see that Victor did change “scream” to “low breathy grunts” after the “Mercedes meeting”.

            Ward seems like he really couldn’t care less. Price is too animated – and he clenches his fist after saying the others couldn’t have killed him. Would love to have a specialist analyze these tapes for “tells.”

            Warning: about to be snarky for those who don’t want to read it, but it’s odd to see Joe Price with a few less chins. His physical appearance has changed the most in four years, and by a considerable amount.

    • chilaw79 on 06/29/2010 at 10:09 PM

      They just showed a few excerpts from the video tape interviews with Price and Zaborsky on Fox TV locally here in DC.

      Apparently, the video tapes were released this afternoon following the verdict.

  6. Pablo on 06/29/2010 at 9:49 PM

    No matter what anyone’s opinion is, you all praise the justice system when there’s a guilty verdict passed down, so let’s praise Judge Leibowitz for a sound decision which proves once and for all, these 3 men ARE NOT GUILTY and were targeted by vicious prosecutors who dis-liked their personal romantic relationship/lifestyles!!!!!!!!!! Period, nothing else that you post matters because the justice system proved their innocence.

    • Bea on 06/29/2010 at 9:55 PM

      Pablo, you’re late for your date with Tasso. I do respect our justice system and I respect Judge Leibovitz’s verdict much as I disagree with her conclusion about reasonable doubt. But by no means did she declare them innocent (her words were “guilty by moral certainty”), and she applauded the prosecutors as well as defense counsel. She’d not have tolerated anyone persecuting anyone for “personal romantic relationship/lifestyle”. If YOU read her opinion and came to this conclusion consider Sylvan Learning Center for remedial reading assistance.

      • tassojunior on 06/29/2010 at 10:09 PM

        Bea, you’re letting your facade of nice person down. I don’t date Pablo and that’s an insulting comment on a personal level.

        • Bea on 06/29/2010 at 10:12 PM

          I apologize to you, Tasso. To Pablo, not so much.

          And I never said I was a nice person.

          • tassojunior on 06/29/2010 at 10:34 PM

            You’ll nicen-up with age. I suspect you’re young.

            • Bea on 06/29/2010 at 10:56 PM

              That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me. But, no.

              And I do appreciate your ‘good manners’ today even though we disagree (that the cops rushed to judgment because of homophobia – I think these were the correct defendants and that the cops had the right idea, though they screwed up the blood evidence in a major way).

              • tassojunior on 06/29/2010 at 11:35 PM

                Which blood evidence? The sheetrock & dryer were taken to FBI labs. WaPo said Wone tested negative for a laundry list probably including Ketamine. I’m sure they kept a vial to do further tests. I’m missing the blood evidence too.

    • Bill on 06/29/2010 at 9:56 PM

      Perfectly stated!

    • Carolina on 06/29/2010 at 9:59 PM

      Trollin’, trollin’, trollin’,
      Keep them doggies trollin’!

      • Kate on 06/30/2010 at 9:12 AM

        Good lord, Carolina – quoting Frankie Lane!

        I love it!

        Thanks for my first smile of the morning,
        Kate

    • cinnamon on 06/29/2010 at 10:00 PM

      I accept the verdict Pablo, but don’t expect me to put blinders on to everything else. That’s just not going to happen.

      Also I think you have either not read the judge’s order or don’t understand it because it did not prove their innocence.

    • mw on 06/29/2010 at 10:02 PM

      You must think Judge Leibowitz is homophobic for what she thought those defendants did.

    • Grrr on 06/29/2010 at 10:26 PM

      Pablo,

      Gosh, I have always thought the Robert Wone’s motivation for going to Swann were more than a little “catch-up” or potential business concerns with JP. Considering his circumstance, I think he was considering JP romantically. BUT, I never thought the Swann Street boys knew nothing of what happened to Mr. Wone. Further, the prosecutors did what they could do to justice for what was obviously an (unproven) murder by this troika. Yes, it is true they were rightly targeted: as conspirators, but NOT homosexuals.

      • Grrr on 06/29/2010 at 10:28 PM

        unprovable

    • DD on 06/29/2010 at 11:18 PM

      Pablo – the justice system proved that even the judge did not believe that there was an intruder. Their lifestyles had nothing to do with this case. The gay community did not rally around them, nor did anyone in the gay community make a protest about media coverage of their lifestyle. If they were unfairly prosecuted, the gays would have let everyone know. Their prosecution was fair.

  7. tassojunior on 06/29/2010 at 9:59 PM

    The travesty still remains that, like 300 other unsolved murders since this one, we still don’t know who the murderer was.

    The decision came down to 1) Despite Lee’s Hollywood persona, he convinced the judge that the knife found was the murder knife and 2) The prosecution’s scream timeline was unsupported. Neighbors have always thought that if it came down to the second that it would fail.

    After the decision I phoned a good friend who teaches law at AU and does pro bono defense work which I’ve helped with on occasion. My questions had to do with how the judge’s statements squared with the decision. His response was that this judge is as pro-prosecution as to be found. She’s basically a “hanging judge”. She tried to help the prosecution make it’s case repeatedly. In her decision she bent over backward to praise and agree with the prosecution even agreeing with questionable theories. But ultimately it’s just the decision that matters legally, not her statements.

    He said that in the civil trial the defendants can still take the 5th but in a civil trial that can be held against them. The judge’s statements cannot. Most importantly he feels that the decision, while not technically double jeopardy to a murder trial, as we’re taught in law school, still presents a problem. In a typical case of murder where obstruction is also alleged independently it’s usually a separate act. Like a murder followed by obstruction like threatening a witness, etc. But when you have a judicial decision that someone did not lie when they said they did not commit the murder, things get stickier. Technically maybe not double jeopardy, but easy to work around, no.

    A big problem with homophobia is that it’s yet another reason to jump to rapid conclusions. If these homicide detectives could always solve every case in the first few minutes they’d be worth not just their $200K, but a million dollars. I hate that “48 Hours” show where the premise is if you don’ solve a murder in 48 hours you likely never will. Sure it’s often possible to coerce a suspect to confess. Sometimes even if they’re innocent.

    But when you’ve got a suspect who’s not obviously guilty but who is talking freely, why not get all the information you can? What is this suspicion of people who are willing to talk? Why always force a talker to lawyer up? Maybe the talker will hang themselves. And why not investigate other possibilities if only to exclude them?

    I don’t like that 90% of federal trials result in conviction. I don’t like that a mediocre 3-day defense like this one costs $3 million. What chance do defendants who can’t afford that have even if innocent ?

    That this case so overcame the odds and went against the public hysteria for conviction, before a “hanging judge”, just shows that it was a crummy case from the start. It was a crummy case because it was a crummy investigation.

    • Bea on 06/29/2010 at 10:03 PM

      We agree that the MPD screwed up the blood evidence, but I for one feel confident that Judge Leibovitz’s “moral certainty” of the defendants guilt would have crossed the “evidential certainty” line taking her to ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’

      We had the right defendants, in my opinion.

      • Bea on 06/29/2010 at 10:04 PM

        Whoops – “feel confident that Judge Leibovitz’s “moral certainty” of the defendants guilt would have crossed the “evidential certainty” line taking her to ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ had the blood evidence not been screwed up.”

    • Carolina on 06/29/2010 at 10:04 PM

      First, I want to say thank you for a well thought out discussion with not an ounce of venom or joy at getting to sit on the “I told you so” side.

      Can you actually picture a scenario in which murder charges would be brought? I can’t. I think the civil action is the end of it.

      • tassojunior on 06/29/2010 at 10:29 PM

        I sincerely want to know who the murderer is. Several of us here tried to get a few people we honestly suspect looked at to no avail. Why they didn’t even question Collins or Michael Price or anyone else is beyond me.

        I think not jumping to conclusions is just a matter of aging for most people. Some never learn but most do. Good crime writers know that no one wants to read a story that’s solved in the first few pages.

        • Carolina on 06/29/2010 at 10:34 PM

          I will tell you that Phelps was high on my list until I was told he had an airtight alibi. I certainly hope it was more suffocating than Michael’s.

    • mw on 06/29/2010 at 10:18 PM

      Some good points.

      I think the police’s interview techniques as the result of their prejudices against gays – not necessarily a hatred, but a belief that if they bullied them enough, they would cave. They underestimated the criminal minds of these three, and their ability to pull this off.

      The police are of course a fair target for criticism. But that doesn’t change what happened that night.

    • Bill on 06/29/2010 at 10:32 PM

      tassojunior – Like so many other comments that you have made, I respect and appreciate your argument and thoughts. At least for me, you have brought a balance and sanity to the site. Thanks.

    • enjointhis on 06/29/2010 at 10:42 PM

      “It was a crummy case because it was a crummy investigation.”

      Yes. And if the three defendants hadn’t had the resources they did (or were poor and dark-skinned), nobody would have given a damn, and they would have been convicted. So I find this a triumph of resources rather than justice, which is something I’ve spent a fair amount of my career fighting against. Had MDC done things right, I remain firmly of the belief the three would have been convicted.

      • Kathleen on 06/30/2010 at 1:56 AM

        I disagree. This case never needed a high powered defense team. There are any number of excellent attorneys in this town that could have achieved the same result. Even expensive experts can sometimes be convinced to work for less when the money is just not available.

        If there were failings by the police then they hurt the defense as much as, if not more than, the prosecution. This has always been a weak case. Even knowing the judge’s prosecution leanings I also know her to be honorable and smart and I never thought she’d convict.

        • Bea on 06/30/2010 at 2:04 AM

          Kathleen, but don’t you think if the Ashley’s Reagent mistake hadn’t occurred that the proper use of Luminol would have made a huge difference? For example, had it shown blood on the walls of the guest room? Intruders rarely stop to clean up. I understand that if the proper application of the proper substance had shown NO blood on the walls, floor, etc., that this would have been more definitive for the defense. Either way, it would have been very important.

  8. Patrick on 06/29/2010 at 10:02 PM

    To all you members of the cyber lynch mob: direct your anger to the incompetent, homophobic prosecution team led by the evil Glenn Kirschner. He should resign in shame. The verdict exonerates the defendants.

    • Carolina on 06/29/2010 at 10:06 PM

      Nope, only in the minds of those in supreme denial.

    • Nelly on 06/29/2010 at 10:11 PM

      No, it does not exonerate the defendants, and Kirschner did what he could, given the circumstances. They probably did assault and murder Robert Wone and cleaned up, but the sad thing is that because all three of them have steadfastly stuck to the same story, there’s no way to prove who did what. I still direct my anger at Dylan Ward, Victor Zaborsky, and Joe Price. I look forward to them sinking in life and hope bad karma comes back to bite them.

    • mw on 06/29/2010 at 10:14 PM

      If this verdict “exonerates” the defendants (it doesn’t but whatever), than what’s your problem with the prosecutors? That they brought charges to begin with? Do you not think there was even probable cause here? Nothing suspicious at all here about what happened?

      Throwing around terms like “evil” to describe a prosecutor, when you can’t point to one thing the prosecutor did that was wrong or illegal, but strongly defending these guys, a group that even this judge believes contains at least one person involved in murder, is, troubling.

      • mw on 06/29/2010 at 10:20 PM

        So what’s your evidence that THIS prosecutor committed malicious prosecution? I assume, since you seem so sure of this, you have something even stronger than the evidence against these defendants?

        • mw on 06/29/2010 at 10:24 PM

          I think you just don’t understand what malicious prosecution means. It doesn’t mean that when the state doesn’t meet their burden, and the defendant is found not guilty, that the prosecutor has committed malicious prosecution.

          • Patrick on 06/29/2010 at 10:30 PM

            Glenn Kirschner and the prosecution team admitted in media statements that their case was a “challenge.” It was botched from the beginning. The prosecution was malicious, homophobic targeting of gay men who were acquitted and exonerated. Criminal case closed.

            • Doug on 06/29/2010 at 10:31 PM

              Civil case open.

            • Carolina on 06/29/2010 at 10:32 PM

              Just because you keep singing the same song doesn’t make it true.

            • mw on 06/29/2010 at 10:32 PM

              That’s your evidence? You’re ready to convict Kirschner because he said this case was a “challenge”. He’s evil and needs to resign because he said this case was a “challenge”.

              Meanwhile, the rest of us are evil because we’re trying to evaluate what happened based on the evidence.

              What’s going on here?

              • tassojunior on 06/29/2010 at 10:44 PM

                He’s evil and his whole office needs to resign because his office prosecuted the public murder of a homosexual as a misdomeaner.

                • mw on 06/29/2010 at 10:49 PM

                  All right, now you’re getting somewhere – what case is that? If it’s anything like you describe, I agree he should resign.

                  But just like Furhman being a racist doesn’t make OJ innocent, a gay with less enlightened opinions about gays (if you can prove that was the case here, I still haven’t seen any evidence), doesn’t make these guys innocent.

                  Until we have that proof though, you’re a total hypocrite for criticizing people about their opinions in this case, where we actually have evidence.

              • CDinDC (Boycott BP) on 06/29/2010 at 11:47 PM

                Oh for pete sake, Patrick….now you’re just getting weird. Weird..er, I should say.

            • Corcoran on 06/30/2010 at 12:09 AM

              “prosecution was malicious, homophobic targeting of gay men”?

              I’m trying imagine if we had the gayest, nellyist, queeniest inspection or prosecution in history — say, Detective or Prosecutor Cream-Puff — leading this case/trial…

              Det. Cream-Puff: “Hey, girlfriend! I just love how you decorated the guest room! But what’s this dead straight, but kinda cute, little Asian guy, doing messing up the feng shui in your guest room?

              Suspects P-Z-W: “Girl! We have no idea what happened… We just like heard some grunts/screams/chimes, and next thing we know, our houseguest is dead!”

              Det. Cream-Puff: “Oh my god !! How totally freaky for you! You must be so upset… I mean he stained your 900-thread-count Kazahk cotton sheets an’ all that. How horrible! But what did you think happened? Do you think he was, like, upset with being hetero and all that, and that he stabbed himself?”

              Suspects P-Z-W: “No, he was straight. Really, really, really straight. We think it must have an intruder, or maybe that nasty homeless guy who lives in the alley, who had the nerve to waltz into our loving model-threesome household, and stab our houseguest — and with our own Williams-Sonoma cutlery, that was, by the way a gift from our DP-registration ceremony! — and then try to make it look like it was one of us!”

              Det. Cream-Puff: “Oh, you poor little innocent things. How absolutely dreadful.”

              In the end, different approach; same answers.

      • Carolina on 06/29/2010 at 10:25 PM

        A guy gets murdered in the home of three men and no sign of any intruder. Tell me something, what would you call a prosecutor who DIDN’T take that to court?

        Nevermind. I have to stop feeding the trolls.

        • interested observer on 06/29/2010 at 11:05 PM

          I personally think that Dylan Ward committed the murder, Joe Price covered it up, and Victor Z was clueless.

          That said, the DC police/crime lab really f-ed this case up. They did not cover leads properly. Most importantly, they were homophobic. Reading the interview transcripts, I am horrified that someone like Det. Norris is on the force. Even if one believes, as I do, that one or more of the the Defendants committed the murder, the actions of the DC police greatly contributed to this failed prosecution due to their homophobia.

          We must be honest about this.

          • thinktheyRguilty on 06/29/2010 at 11:06 PM

            interested observer – totally agree with you

            • interested observer on 06/29/2010 at 11:18 PM

              thx.

          • thinktheyRguilty on 06/29/2010 at 11:10 PM

            Robert Wone was murdered. No one goes to jail. There was no intruder. The three knows who did it but were all acquitted. You’ve got a killer or killers walking freely on the streets. Scary, don’t you think?

            • Carolina on 06/30/2010 at 1:20 AM

              At least we have a good description.

              • Bea on 06/30/2010 at 1:25 AM

                As I said on another thread, now that the “Catch-22″ which prevented Joe Price from working closely with the police has been removed and he can roll up his shirt sleeves and get to work.

                Unless his fear of arrest wasn’t “obstruction” and instead it was fear of a murder charge, of course.

                • EricFormerlyNewbie on 06/30/2010 at 9:41 AM

                  Bea,
                  I always enjoy these reminders. Much like OJ is still in search of the real killer, it is time for Joe to make good and help prosecutors find Robert’s killer(s). Of course that will be hard to do from FLA. His 4 years of ‘frustration’ are over. Now he can help.

          • plumskiter on 06/30/2010 at 9:46 AM

            agree on all scores.

      • Matter of Time on 06/29/2010 at 10:25 PM

        Really… you must be kidding. Dude- please get with reality.

    • Matter of Time on 06/29/2010 at 10:21 PM

      Patrick- Not sure what planet you are on or how you define exonerate?? I think you should re-read the verdict. Far from exoneration

      • Patrick on 06/29/2010 at 10:27 PM

        Glenn Kirschner and the prosecution team FAILED. Their objective is vengeance — not justice. They are homophobic. Gay men are convenient targets of prosecutors and U.S. Attorneys.

        • mw on 06/29/2010 at 10:30 PM

          Again, where’s your evidence of malicious prosecution? You’re throwing around very serious allegations and backing them up with NOTHING. And then vilifying people who are relying on actual evidence to have opinions about what happened that night.

          What’s your deal? Are you a relative?

          • Patrick on 06/29/2010 at 10:40 PM

            I am not a relative or acquaintance of any of the defendants. They are victims of a vicious, evil homophobic Assistant U.S. Attorney, and a U.S. Department of Justice that relentlessly demonises gay men.

            • Carolina on 06/29/2010 at 11:22 PM

              So… He turned you down?

          • tassojunior on 06/29/2010 at 10:52 PM

            mw- We have had an unusually large number of what we know are malicious prosecutions of gays within a block of 1509 and it is frightening to us. It’s actually the very educated straights who are most convinced while gays either deny or try to stay under the radar. Whatever may be true elsewhere, reverse discrimination is not our problem yet here.

            • Clio on 06/29/2010 at 11:45 PM

              A pogrom against gays within a block of Swann? Who knew!

              This spicy ham lost her flavor and credibility a long time ago, I am afraid.

              • AnnaZed on 06/30/2010 at 1:32 AM

                A bit of left over ham, not to old to eat but probably no longer savory on bread makes a good addition to a gumbo I have found.

                • tassojunior on 06/30/2010 at 1:39 AM

                  Very ignorant of what tasso is.

                  • AnnaZed on 06/30/2010 at 1:48 AM

                    Um, I was raised in New Orleans. I know what tasso is.

          • Bill on 06/29/2010 at 11:04 PM

            I know that this is going to result in people going crazy on me, but I agree with mw and Patrick. I have made no secret to my strong belief and personal experience that cops are homophobic. The detectives brought up sexual orientation in a salacious manner (come to Jesus comment) during their initial interview at VCB. I believe homophobia is widespread in the culture and in law enforcement.

            • Patrick on 06/29/2010 at 11:15 PM

              @Bill:
              Absolutely: Glenn Kirschner and his idiots, the MPDC, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney for DC, and the U.S. Department of Justice (Attorney General Eric Holder), are eager to criminalize all gay men — based on false innuendo and allegation, at every opportunity. And you cyber lynch mobbers amaze me in your relentless support for the evil, genocidal Glenn Kirschner. Gay men should be grateful that the Judge was not motivated by homophobia and the AUSA’s revenge motivation.

              • Craig on 06/29/2010 at 11:18 PM

                Patrick: You’re pretty mouthy for someone who just showed up 5 hours ago. Get lost, ok? That would make this gay man grateful.

                • proudpapa on 06/29/2010 at 11:42 PM

                  Thanks, Craig.

                  I’ve never met Mr. Kirshner or, for that matter, Mr. Holder. But of this I’m sure: at least one AUSA poured herself into this prosecution because, and only because, she believed the defendants were guilty!

                  I am inclined to extend that assumption to the whole team.

            • DD on 06/30/2010 at 12:22 AM

              Where was your rally? I must have missed it. Where were your press conferences standing up for the defendants? Where were your public rebukes after the homophobic police statements came out at trial? It is nice of you to claim all this homophobia now. A guy was stabbed with a knife in a home with no forced entry? Don’t you think it is important for police to determine who is sleeping with whom to determine motive? I want my police to ask such questions.

          • Kathleen on 06/30/2010 at 2:19 AM

            Well, someone leaked all that so called evidence and extraneous information about the defendants that never got introduced at trial and that the prosecutor so readily abandoned.

            Poisoning the potential jury pool by leaking to the media and community material and salacious theories that you know are never going to get into evidence or that you have no real proof for is not ethical conduct.

            The government’s handling of this case has been troubling from the beginning. After watching the videos available and reading the defendants’ transcripts I don’t know why anyone would have expected one more ounce of cooperation from any of the defendants. I hope that is a lesson to all.

    • enjointhis on 06/29/2010 at 10:45 PM

      Ladies and gentlemen, please stop feeding the troll. If he truly believes what he writes, that alone suffices to establish the worth of his contributions.

    • Clio on 06/29/2010 at 11:33 PM

      Glenn is not evil, but he did suck in this trial. His understudies, though, were much more promising than he was — Patrick Martin and Rachel. None of them are homophobic, though. The verdict was a left-handed compliment, barely-veiled gesture of contempt: it hardly “exonerated” anyone. So, Patrick, dear, shoo before the peasants with pitch forks and torches get you!

      • Carolina on 06/30/2010 at 12:07 AM

        Or Victor makes him turn off the PC. Already he’s using his new found clout.

        • Lee on 06/30/2010 at 6:08 AM

          “Homophobic twat”? Really? “300 lbs of malevolent odor with a bad color job”?

          Having a little trouble with the opposite sex?

          I don’t think you’re going to get to Carolina by calling her names. However, with any luck, you might get your sorry ass banned from this website.

      • Lee on 06/30/2010 at 6:09 AM

        tasso, could you please post that link about ten thousand more times?

  9. John on 06/29/2010 at 10:13 PM

    The boys still have to deal with the mirror: will they be able to look themselves in the mirror? I think not! And they still have to deal with their nightmares. There is the rub!

    • Pete McLeanVa on 06/29/2010 at 10:18 PM

      No, the Ambien and Lunesta block out the deserved nightmares.

    • Jo on 06/29/2010 at 10:50 PM

      These three will have no problem looking in the mirror because they lack conscience. If any one of them had a conscience, the truth would have been told long ago and the killer(s) would have been held accountable.

    • Grrr on 06/29/2010 at 10:52 PM

      John,

      You are correct!

      We are keeper of our own souls. As a Catholic (not a very good one), I understand the serious gravity of grave sins. Forgiveness comes with reparation & the only way they can “deal with the mirror,” is to come clean and admit what they know. This could be a way that we know hell exists. They surely live there while alive. What happens after death is something that confounds us all. Their future life lives in the boredom of life that they ran from in their highly stimulated existence and; in the searing knowledge of the crimes they committed. “I am bored and guilty.”

    • Carolina on 06/30/2010 at 12:09 AM

      Somehow I don’t see any of them losing much sleep or avoiding many mirrors. That’s how they got where they are today.

      • Jack Star on 06/30/2010 at 1:44 AM

        This from an expert in avoiding mirrors, I am sure!

  10. gertiestn on 06/29/2010 at 10:18 PM

    I just watched the 10 o’clock news (not my usual habit). I rather wish I had not seen those images of Joe grinning broadly.

  11. Corcoran on 06/29/2010 at 10:22 PM

    Did anyone happen to see WJLA-TV “7 on your side!” interview with the trouple? There was a teaser on the earlier late afternoon broadcast that reporter Steve Tschida was going to interview one of the defendants for the evening segment. But I can’t find any video of the promissed exclusive video. Anyone?

    P.S. Why can’t the rest of us have cool pics like Bea, AnnaZed, et al, instead of the bizarre Amish quilt patterns?

    • gertiestn on 06/29/2010 at 10:23 PM

      We’re not cool.

    • des on 06/30/2010 at 9:25 AM

      gravatar dot com i think is where you can get an avatar.

  12. Patrick on 06/29/2010 at 10:36 PM

    Why are all of the women here supporting the evil Glenn Kirschner and his homophobic prosecutors and the cyber lynch mob?

    • mw on 06/29/2010 at 10:40 PM

      I’m now convinced you’re playing a character.

      Whatever gets you off, buddy.

    • Kathleen on 06/30/2010 at 2:22 AM

      I’m not and I always personally liked Glenn.

  13. Stephen F. on 06/29/2010 at 10:45 PM

    I have to commend Judge Leibovitz for her excellent judicial service – she adhered to the letter of the law, absorbed all relevant (and many irrelevant) details, and applied judicious analysis to the evidence.

    I agree with the overwhelming majority of her conclusions, even if I still disagree with the ultimate outcome.

    I have already discussed yesterday in my original posting regarding the case why I believe that the three defendants should be convicted for covering up the crime. I will not discuss the issue of who murdered Wone further as the judge has rightfully implied that one of the three defendants killed him.

    What I do want to do is fine tune my original assessment of the case based on the judge’s order as well as comment on the order itself.

    It appears to me that the keys to proving the charges of obstruction are the timeline and the defendants’ statements. Unfortunately, to the judge, the scream heard by Mr. Thomas was not enough to establish the timeline of the murder and indicate that the defendants lied about it. For me, with the guest bedroom directly next to the Thomas master bedroom, the scream that was either Wone’s or Zaborsky’s definitively pinpoints the time of the murder.

    As for the red flagged defendant statements, the defendants either misspoke under the duress of the incident or lied to the investigators regarding a number of significant issues. I still cannot believe that Price and Zaborsky, as they stated, did not immediately check on Ward’s welfare after finding Wone’s body. As neither the defendants nor the defense attempted to explain or correct this and other damning statements, I can only conclude that untruth is the correct view regarding at least some of them.

    Additionally, the knife handle may have been wiped but do we know who did it? And were the other defendants either involved in or aware of the wiping? The judge thinks it was Price, but there is reasonable doubt.

    (Also, I take back what I previously said about the needle marks, as their purpose is in question based on the uncertainty of whether Wone was drugged and a prurient theory floating around.)

    Finally, the judge’s “odd man out” theory. The judge states in her order that if she was convinced that the defendants lied about the timeline, she would have found them guilty of obstruction and conspiracy to commit such. Because she is not convinced of the timeline, she therefore cannot convict any of the defendants for these charges as she cannot tell whether any one of them is an “odd man out,” someone who is not “in” on the conspiracy to obstruct justice and has actually not committed any acts to obstruct justice. I take the opposite view of the timeline issue and therefore easily find that the defendants conspired to and acted upon obstructing justice in this case.

    With the lower standard of proof in the civil suit, hopefully the evidence substantiated during this trial and strong circumstantial evidence will carry the day and bring peace to the Wones.

    • vlad on 06/30/2010 at 12:07 AM

      I read the opinion several times and feel that the judge twisted herself into contortions to find a way to let them off. The hollow apology to the family of Robert is a load of crap. She gave the defendants the benefit of every reasonable and unreasonable doubt because of who they are – wealthy, connected white men. There was no way they were going to answer in any way for the death of a Chinese man. If a white male Arent Fox partner was found dead in the home of three Chinese guys, I have no doubt they would be convicted. Dylan Ward is a sick little freak who slipped Robert a date rape drug and then freaked out and stabbed him. Price was either in on it or protecting his boy toy. Victor is a pathetic loser who looked the other way. But in the end, guilty all three, they are wealthy well-educated white men who will never answer for killing a minority. The verdict is an embarrassment and a slap in the face to the Asian community.

    • DonnaH on 06/30/2010 at 12:35 AM

      Thanks for your thoughtful observations, Stephen. They gave me a clearer perspective on the reasoning behind the judge’s decisions.

  14. Bill Orange on 06/29/2010 at 10:53 PM

    Thoughts after a day of letting this percolate a little:

    I still don’t agree with the judge’s verdicts, but I understand how she arrived at them. I really thought they would all be found guilty of all charges, but it seems to me that this judge has a much more stringent definition of “beyond a reasonable doubt” than I do. (Yes, that surprises me–I’m pretty left wing, and she was a Bush appointee. That’s what I get for making too many assumptions.)

    That being said, the actual opinion really surprised me. I was expecting either a 10-20 page decision clearly delineating why she was issuing “guilty” verdicts, or a 1-2 page decision that said “not guilty” on all charges. I did NOT expect a 30+ page decision saying that she thought one or more of the defendants was guilty, but she was still finding them all “not guilty”.

    Her opinion has essentially tarred all three defendants for the rest of their lives. I think she did this VERY deliberately. She’s pretty much nixed any possible lawsuit by the defendants (such as malicious prosecution, defamation or character, or whatever else they can come up with), she’s set the stage for Joe Price to be disbarred, and she’s signaled the the civil lawyers that they should absolutely proceed with their suit. As “not guilty” verdicts go, they don’t get much harsher than this.

    Finally, the VERY early indications are that a media feeding frenzy is starting up. I think it’s a bit odd that this is happening AFTER the verdict, but given the judge’s opinion, it makes some sense–the story now has a compelling hook, namely that the judge thinks one of these three got away with murder. I doubt it’ll last very long, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens if the camera crews stick around for a few days.

    • Jeana on 06/29/2010 at 11:35 PM

      Hello Bill Orange and others – I’ve been a ‘lurker’ on this site for only a few weeks. I haven’t yet taken the time to read the Order, however, from what I’ve been able to glean from today’s postings, the prosecution won on the facts but lost on the law. While the verdict is terribly disappointing from a ‘justice for Robert’ standpoint, it is most interesting for the Judge’s opinions as to what the evidence, although not sufficient under the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard to compel conviction, shows. That’s good news for the civil case. I agree with other posters that choosing a bench trial was the defense’s best strategy – a lay jury may well have convicted on some charges against one or more of the defendants on this evidence.

      That said, however, I’ve long believed that the main purpose of bringing these indictments was to set the defendants against each other in the hopes that one or more would seek a favorable plea bargain in exchange for truthful testimony against the other(s). The prosecution never had a strong case and it wasn’t aided by the botched police work. I think some of us – I know this is true for me – got caught up in all the information that was coming out at trial that was not previously known from main stream media reports, and it began to sound stronger than it was. But looking back, I recall the Judge’s frustration with the prosecutors at the very start of the trial – and that frustration was echoed in the questions she posed during their closing argument.

      This is an amazing website, not only for the info it provides, but for the quality of (most of) the comments.

      Jeana

    • BadShoes on 06/29/2010 at 11:58 PM

      BillO-

      “Her opinion has essentially tarred all three defendants for the rest of their lives.”

      Exactly. The point about nixing any possible lawsuit wasn’t too shabby, either.

    • Bill Orange on 06/30/2010 at 1:41 AM

      Please. If she really wanted to cover the government’s ass, she would’ve just found them guilty.

      • tassojunior on 06/30/2010 at 1:42 AM

        But only two words matter of what she said.

        • Lee on 06/30/2010 at 7:00 AM

          Do you find it difficult to stay on topic?

  15. thinktheyRguilty on 06/29/2010 at 11:04 PM

    There was no intruder. They know who killed Robert Wone and it’s more than likely that one of the three murdered him. Scary to think about it, but you’ve got a killer out there…walking on the streets… Hope they live with guilt for the rest of their lives and may that haunt them for life.

    • Carolina on 06/30/2010 at 12:17 AM

      I don’t think they’ve lost much sleep thus far, and unless Kathy Wone’s lawsuit forces them to work 12 hour warehouse shifts, I doubt they’ll lose any now or in the future.

  16. curiousdc on 06/29/2010 at 11:07 PM

    Check out the Fox5 coverage available on their site and do note the smirks on the defendant’s faces. Simply disgusting.

  17. Southern Lurker on 06/29/2010 at 11:27 PM

    From VZ’s video (the four plus minute one):

    “I could not tell you five things about him,” – Robert – and yet they went out and took Kathy W. a gift basket after her hip surgery. Well, there is one thing right there. I’m sure he can find two, three, four and five pretty easily.

    VZ says if I were Dylan (being so close to the room of Robert) I would have stayed put too. Pretty damning. He’s saying that Dylan was probably scared out of his mind. Watching Dylan’s own video, he clearly is not.

  18. CDinDC (Boycott BP) on 06/29/2010 at 11:31 PM

    May I offer a fashion tip to Dylan? Those sunglasses. Unless he is intentionally trying to look like Casey Anthony, he should get smaller, darker frames.

  19. deepsouth on 06/29/2010 at 11:33 PM

    A question for our legal minds – does the release of the interrogation tapes suggest anything about the likelihood, or affect the possibility, of murder charges being brought in future?

    Again, thanks to the editors and this wonderful community of commentators. I hope the Wone family can feel how much they are being thought of tonight. And as my grandpa would say to the defendants, be sure your sins will find you out!

  20. susan on 06/29/2010 at 11:37 PM

    Just want to say thanks to the editors for their reporting and for their community service in the creation of this blog. It is nice to have this forum and know that here we can see the postings of a majority of good, honest, decent people who care so deeply about justice and are disheartened by this verdict.

    To me, it is heartening to know that you exist and you post here and will probably continue to post here as we continue to hope for justice for the Wone family in the civil trial. The creepy posts with the circular harangues are just that. Your collective voice is greater and kind of like a balm at this time. Thanks.

  21. interested observer on 06/29/2010 at 11:38 PM

    FWIW, I am a civil lawyer in CA, and a longtime lurker and admirer of this site.

    A few thing struck me about Judge L’s opinion. The most important, concerned the blood evidence. I thought that I had read somewhere before that the police had done some sort of blood trace on the drains and were unable to find evidence of blood drainage. The Judge’s opinion reconfirmed this point. Consequently, I feel the prosecution made a major error in pursuing the low amount of blood in the room. (The opinion also seemed to give credence to experts who testified that much of the blood drainange/leakage would have been internal as opposed to external.)

    Counterfactually, I cannot seem to get over the fact that all of the Defendants appeared freshly showered.

    Second, I honestly don’t believe that Victor Z was guilty of obstruction of justice. He appears to me to be some sort of patsy, believing and broadcasting what other people told him.

    Third, I had always thought that Dylan Ward was the most likely culprit, due to his predilection for Asian men, or as we call it in the gay world, the fact that he was a rice queen. However, watching the three snippets of videos available from the suspect interrogations posted online today, that belief has hardened. Of the three, he is the only one who exhibits excessive defensive actions during the videos, namely, I believe in my gut that he is lying and has something to hide. (Pace, excessive hand motion while talking/defending.) I am surprised to be typing this, but I did not observe it in the snippets (and yes they are only snippets) posted of Joe Price and Victor Z.

    Fourth and finally, I understand (from the civil side only) that jurors often make decisions based upon their guts – and that is completely valid under our legal system. I believe that the Defendants were very, very smart to request a bench trial. Judge L obviously took her duties as a fact finder very seriously and, I believe, bent over backwards to reason with her head and not her heart (gut.) This is a very good call on the defense teams’ part.

    While I honestly believe – based upon my gut – that Dylan Ward killed Robert Wone, I cannot disagree with the verdict of Judge L.

    • Southern Lurker on 06/30/2010 at 8:12 AM

      Your impressions are similar to mine after watching the interrogation videos. Dylan seems to lie so badly and unconvincingly. Joe Price I believed. I believed, I mean to say, that he did not murder Robert but was probably covering for whoever was.

    • plumskiter on 06/30/2010 at 9:56 AM

      i concur with your thoughts about Dylan’s culpability, based on the tape snippets. my opinion is bolstered by joe shooting dylan a “shut up” stare when they were together on the couch. i can imagine joe – the lawyer – telling dylan – before the cops arrived – to just keep his mouth shut. and i can imagine joe shooting dylan the “shut up stare” when dylan seemed to be violating joe’s instructions. as a lawyer who has taken well prepped witnesses to depositions, only to see them go completely against my clear instructions to not volunteer information, I have given more than a few of those “shut up” stares myself.

  22. cinnamon on 06/29/2010 at 11:39 PM

    WTF are you talking about?

    • cinnamon on 06/29/2010 at 11:42 PM

      My comment didn’t post where it should have. I’m sorry if this looks like a response to interested observers comment. It wasn’t.

      • interested observer on 06/29/2010 at 11:50 PM

        no worries, all feedback is good. lol.

        cheers

  23. BadShoes on 06/29/2010 at 11:45 PM

    IMHO, Judge Liebovitz’ decision is easily the most concise and best written account of the complex facts of this case yet, definitely better and clearer than the submissions of either the prosecution or the defense. Her findings of fact were reasonable, and the basis for her finding was usually made clear, intelligent and well-reasoned.

    I had trouble with several findings of fact, and, IMHO, the judge missed some evidence. On the whole, it unlikely that any of this would have changed the verdicts.

    Fundamentally, however, we differ on what would be a “reasonable inference” that one could draw from the defendant’s observed behavior. Mr. Jaffe of the Washingtonian, and several commenters on this blog, have made the point that there was little direct evidence. One or two commenters made disparaging comments about “Sherlock Holmes-style armchair sleuthing.” Well, as far as Judge Liebovitz’ decision was concerned, they were right and I was wrong.

    Judge Liebovitz has found the defendants not guilty. Mr. Ward, we hear, left court smiling, which may turn out to be premature. Because the text of Judge Liebovitz’ decision, while it has no legal weight, will become the de facto answer to the question: “Who killed Robert Wone?” From now one, anyone doing due diligence or even the merely curious will read the Judge’s finding, and form an opinion about the case–not an opinion based on reasonable doubt, but an opinion based on “what probably happened.”

    If Judge Liebovitz had convicted the defendants, they would likely have appealed. Because the Judge acquitted, the defendants cannot appeal or change the Judge’s decision. Her decision is public, and it will stand forever.

    • interested observer on 06/30/2010 at 12:23 AM

      very true. it’s a sad result for Mrs. Wone, but it is clearly not a finding of innocence. i also think that the possibility of a second/murder trial is not as far-fetched as one might believe.

    • des on 06/30/2010 at 9:20 AM

      i understand and agree with all you are saying. i also understand that our judicial system is set up in way that tries to avoid having innocent people being punished for crimes they didn’t commit and is therefore very complex in it’s laws and procedures.
      however in this particular case i just feel (and this is just my feeling. i understand how our judicial system works) it was a mental exercise for the judge at the end of the day.

      she obviously knows or feels strongly that they are (all three to some degree) guilty but because of the language of our laws and a non-precise measurement of what constitutes “reasonable doubt”, she chose not to try to mete out “justice” but instead follow our “laws”. not sure if i am making myself clear. basically i want to say that since she knows they are guilty, i would have preferred that she find they should be punished.

  24. Corcoran on 06/29/2010 at 11:45 PM

    So, a number of blog newbies are trying to revive yesteryear’s blog-uments that the initial police response is to blame for today’s verdict? Ugh.

    I agree that mistakes were made later in the forensics work. But if I had been one of the initial responders or detectives that night, I would have been asking the exact same questions. (And I’m been out for 20 years in DC, so please don’t label me as a homophobe, or self-hating homosexual, or whatever.) Every one of the first-responders were very disturbed and alarmed by the crime scene and the actions of the defendants. I would have been equally suspicious that some sort of sexual experiment or drug accident had occured. I think even members of the MPD gay and lesbian liaison unit would have been equally suspicious. Consider the immediate scene — 3 gay housemates freshly showered and in various states of undress with a dead straight overnight houseguest laid out on a neat ‘n tidy sofabed?

    Does anyone honestly believe that if an uber-gay inspector(Rip Taylor as Colombo?) or a straight-but-not-narrow inspector(P-FLAG poster mother?) had been conducting the investigation that we would have seen a different verdict today? Hah. The MPD tried every bad-cop, good-cop, indifferent-cop, sympathetic-cop, Cagney/Lacey, approach and the defendants’ stories never changed.

    • interested observer on 06/30/2010 at 12:36 AM

      i suppose i qualify as one of the blog newbies. however, i honestly believe that the police investigation ruined this trial. i was truely shocked to read the interview transcripts. i was truly shocked by Det. Norris’s comments/views. I don’t believe that he was playing the role of “bad-cop;” I believe those are his real views. The major support that the Defendants have relied upon – as I understand it – is from the homophobic behavior of the police department. That behavior provided the defendants a peg to hang their proverbial hats upon.

      Also, the incompetence of the police investigation was astounding. I simply cannot get over the fact that the police/FBI lost/accidentally erased the contents of Robert Wone’s blackberry.

      Additionally, as has been noted ad nauseum, the failure to maintain sufficient blood samples will prevent – I honestly believe – finding the true cause of whatever paralytic agent was introduced into Robert’s system that paralyzed/prevented Robert from responding to the stab wounds.

      I have posted elsewhere that I believe that Dylan Ward murdered Robert Wone. Unfortunately, the police incompetence has – at least temporarily – precluded finding the truth.

      The nice thing about this site is that many gays are standing up for/defending Robert Wone. However, the police were homophobic, and I believe their attitudes/actions harmed justice for Robert Wone.

      • interested observer on 06/30/2010 at 12:40 AM

        Meant to address one other point. Yes, I do believe that a gay police officer would have been attuned to the behavioral nuances amongst gay defendants. A gay police officer would have helped this case.

        • MacK on 06/30/2010 at 6:41 AM

          Speaking as a straight male lawyer – I cannot agree that a “gay police officer would have been attuned to the behavioral nuances amongst [these] gay defendants.” An officer with a similar lifestyle might, but my experience of the gay community is that this threesome was a pretty unusual group and I think the assumption that a gay officer would have done better is in its own way somewhat homophobic stereotyping …

          I would add that criminals are for the most part very different from the majority of people, gay or straight, and police often have difficulty in understanding their behaviors.

  25. YournormalJoe on 06/29/2010 at 11:47 PM

    Though the judicial system has issued acquittal, the guilt in these three’s minds will haunt them forever.

    I hope the three will live life together forever because separate they will live a lonely, sexless, companionless life. Anyone with Google will run far, far away from them. Rightfully so.

    To Joe, Victor and Dylan, your not welcome in DC, move somewhere else…we’re ALL onto the games all three of you play. You may have fooled the judicial system but you haven’t fooled the residents of Washington, DC.

    Your minds will never be free.

  26. notssosure on 06/29/2010 at 11:47 PM

    Just curious: do you think if three heterosexual males were in the same situation and a woman had been murdered that the three men would have walked free? I have my doubts. The cry to get the killer(s) off the streets would be so great…

  27. Benny C. on 06/29/2010 at 11:50 PM

    This is no Justice…My heart and condolences go out to the Wone family. For some reason, I knew from day one this Judge Lynn Leibovtiz was on the side of the defendants. IF THE HOUSEMATES WERE ASIAN AND ROBERT WONE WAS WHITE, THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN TORTURED BY THE dc police/detective and then they would have been prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole!!!
    That is American Justice!!! So what do you learn from this whole ordeal?!?!
    1. Never Ever sleep over a GAY friends’house WHOM you went to college with a decade ago!!!!! A lot happens in 10 years!!!!!

    2. Common Sense!! Insinuation!! Street Smarts!! THEY ARE ALL EXCELLENT SURVIVAL SKILLS!! IF YOU HAVE THEM!!!!

    3. IF YOU ARE A MAJORITY AND you HAVE FOUR YEARS OF COLLEGE, YOU CAN DO WHAT THE F**k YOU WANT AND YOU’LL GET AWAY WITH IT…AS LONG AS YOU GET A JUDGE THAT LOOKS CLOSE TO YOU!!!

    4. IF YOU ARE A MINORITY AND YOU PUT YOURSELF IN A BAD SITUATION, THEN YOU ARE SCREWED!!! BOTH PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY!!!

    THERE YOU HAVE IT!!! TAKE THESE ADVICE TO THE BANK!!! MAKE SURE YOU RUN THERE!!! DON’T WALK!!!!!

  28. onreflection on 06/30/2010 at 12:15 AM

    The judge was smart, but not wise. There was enough here to find beyond a reaosonable doubt. She let what even she knows was a terrible thing happen today.

  29. Bea on 06/30/2010 at 12:27 AM

    Tasso, agree that for the defendants, the acquittal allows them to walk free. Huge, not making out that it’s anything but. Yet I believe that the Judge did what she did out of a sense of honor and her interpretation of the facts in view of the law, and as much as I disagree with the conclusion, I do find the ‘dicta’ quite useful (and there were ‘findings’ which are not technically ‘dicta’). While I’m sure the Wone family isn’t able to get through the wall of feelings associated with the acquittal, the findings in the opinion do all but gut any chance the defendants had of claiming malicious prosecution. Too, in the ‘regular’ day-to-day, she’s gutted their ability to claim that they were vilified by the prosecutors (your disagreement is understood) or that they “were proved correct” in their claims of innocence. “Not guilty,” yes; “innocent,” no. I appreciate that she went to the extra effort – something she by no means didn’t have to do.

    • Bea on 06/30/2010 at 12:28 AM

      This post got lost from Tasso’s post – don’t know how.

      • tassojunior on 06/30/2010 at 12:36 AM

        Weird how you and I get lost in threads. She’s no defendant’s judge for sure. Certainly she meant to protect the prosecutor. Malicious prosecution probably depends on another murderer being eventually found IMHO. Possession of a dead body is suspicious if not conclusive.

        On the blood evidence did you mean Wone’s blood tests?

        • Bea on 06/30/2010 at 12:50 AM

          I’m lost now too about the blood evidence reference – my point was likely related to how the MPD screwed up the blood evidence with Ashley’s Reagent. Of course I think that was likely a true gift to the defendants in that Joe was already trying to find a way to explain away the Luminol testing that showed blood all around (“wiping up blood” during a “freak out” – if he didn’t wipe up blood, why say this to your friend, especially if not mentioned to cops?). But I suspect you and I discussing evidence won’t lead to much.

  30. Themis on 06/30/2010 at 12:27 AM

    I have never taken a position on factual guilt because I just don’t think it is a wise thing for defense attorneys to do in most circumstances for any number of reasons.

    What the judge did was courageous and in keeping with the best traditions of our adversarial system of justice: she presumed the defendants were innocence, held the government to its burden of proof and found that proof wanting. Her verdict doesn’t speak to truth but to procedural fairness, which is what the founding fathers valued. For very good historical reasons.

    As for the civil suit, it would not be surprising if one or all confess judgment or otherwise fail to defend the suit given the breadth of civil discovery. Time will tell. Quite frankly, it is what I might advise based upon the facts known to the public.

    Finally, for those who believe that the judge’s decision is an aberration, it is worth noting that Weisberg suggested that the prosecution had some problems before he rotated off the case.

    • tassojunior on 06/30/2010 at 12:36 AM

      Weisberg was showing no signs of being this nice to the prosecution.

  31. AnnaZed on 06/30/2010 at 1:51 AM

    We don’t give our criminals much punishment, but we sure give ‘em plenty of publicity. ~Will Rogers

    Good night all

    • Gretchen on 06/30/2010 at 4:16 AM

      Well said Will Rogers- and AnnaZed

      Please everyone…Stay away from the defendants-personally & professionally.

      Be safe & smart about this. It really is pretty clear. Do YOU want to take a chance with these guys???!! Don’t think so…..

  32. tucsonwriter on 06/30/2010 at 2:16 AM

    I find I can’t even read the comments posted on this site anymore. Let’s give up on the homophobic already! Assume incompetence (which has been proven in the Ashley’s Reagent) or whatever you want to assume but homophobic is 20 years ago. Just deal with that – for one. I don’t think the debate on this site has anything to do with homophobia.

    It seems to me to be a genuine debate between innocence and guilt. Some people presume innocence, some presume guilt, and some are devil’s advocates.

    One of my dogs had major issues of the not pleasant sort in my study and I had to call the carpet cleaner. So I brought up this case to him. Specifically talking about the lack of media coverage on the national level. His take – if this had been 3 straight guys who killed a gay guy it would have been all over the national media as a hate crime. Since its 3 gay guys and a straight guy no one wants to touch it because they don’t want to start a homophobia wave against the media.

    So I salute the editors of this site for being brave enough to go where no other media will. This site is still getting labeled…

    And I just want to say from now on when I leave my sweaty gym clothes in a pile on the floor I will think of Robert Wone and his drying rack. I will think of the patience and kindness his parents must have used in raising him to be such a gentle man and such a considerate person. So much goodness was instilled in him. He was not a victim in the usual sense of the word. He was street-wise and smart. He was completely accepting of his friends’ sexual orientation. Something else was at hand. What it is we can only speculate about.

    Frankly I speculated about as much as I could possibly do so in the hopes that Katherine Wone’s attorneys were reading this site. But I am done. The defendant’s are human beings too. I have no idea what actually happened on the night of August 2, 2006 between the hours of 10:30 and 11:54pm.

    I guess I am left wondering if Robert Wone was just too good for this world. In some of the media coverage they tried to classify him as a high powered lawyer – as in the same category as Joe Price. But the truth of the matter was he walked away from all of that when he joined Radio Free Asia. He took a huge cut in pay but he did it because he was committed to service. To making the world a better place. He was out meeting the overnight staff – he died because he wanted to meet the night shift at a radio station. That’s pretty amazing.

  33. slwapo on 06/30/2010 at 2:56 AM

    What was the reason for the prosecution’s agreeing to a bench trial?

  34. Gretchen on 06/30/2010 at 4:25 AM

    Sorry-

    These guys are creeps, and I am not remotely homophobic so give that argument up.

    Just common sense, and the judge would have convicted them if there had been hard evidence-not just common sense. Clearly, she believes they are responsible.

    Would you put your life…or the life of your child or friend in the hands of these men?! Did not think so…

    Good night, then and think about your judgements. FORGET about whether they are gay or straight…evil is not that discriminating.

  35. S Danny on 06/30/2010 at 4:39 AM

    Thanks to the editors and especially to Bea for doing such an incredible job on keeping us all informed. As someone who was once an associate of one of the defendants, this trial has had me twisting and turning from one extreme to the other. I so much wanted to believe in their innocence, or at least his, but there were just too many inconsistencies in the evidence and testimonies. I do feel for the family of Mr. Wone. I can’t begin to understand their frustration. I do hope this case is not allowed to go cold.
    Thanks for all the insightful comments.

  36. Nora on 06/30/2010 at 8:10 AM

    Thank you so much for your work, editors and contributors. WMRW was (is) a one-of-a-kind resource and I’m a happier person for having known you all.

    The verdict definitely was not the one I wanted or expected, but I am glad that no person who may have had a .01% chance of being innocent was sent to prison. I got the impression that the judge thought Dylan Ward may have committed the murder on his own, and I can accept that.

    I am a little disappointed that people have even been arguing w/ trolls like Bill, but that’s part & parcel. Thank you all & take care.

    • Nora on 06/30/2010 at 8:42 AM

      I forgot – Kathy Wone, I am so, so incredibly sorry for your loss.

  37. curiousdc on 06/30/2010 at 8:10 AM

    Hey Jack, I’m pretty sure Carolina is partnered-up and gay as are a number of posters on this site.

  38. Hoya Loya on 06/30/2010 at 8:23 AM

    I was shocked that the judge did one of the two things I specifically predicted she would not do — say the defendants were guilty of something but that the prosecution did not make its case. It is an approach that generally is not to my liking — there is no closure for the victim’s friends and family and the defendants are not truly acquitted — a non-acquittal acquittal.

    Upon much reflection on each and carefully reading every comment posted prior to this morning, I have decided she had good reasons for so doing and that in this particular case, it may have been the only option.

    Imagine if the judge had ruled with her gut and then was reversed on the law on appeal, as she surely would have been — that would have been an even more bitter pill for the Wone family, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

    I don’t give the defense any special credit for choosing a bench trial re: this result. Odds are a jury would have been hung and that if it convicted, a judge might have thrown the verdict out on the law anyway. And if this Judge could not find the defendants guilty on these charges, I doubt any other judge would have done so.

    In the end, I stand by everything I said here: http://whomurderedrobertwone.com/2010/05/15/the-op-ed-page/#more-11658.

  39. John on 06/30/2010 at 8:41 AM

    In the best interest of the Wone family, it is probably best to end this blog. Those who feel that the boys are innocent will continue to write crazy things insisting that the boys are free and have done nothing wrong. Why give voice to people who cannot face reality? This is over- let the boys face the public and say that they are “Innocent.”

    • chilaw79 on 06/30/2010 at 9:10 AM

      Let me speak against this sentiment.

      I think it would be a disservice to end this blog. The basic question posed by the blog “Who Murdered Robert Wone?” still has not been answered. The acquittals on obstruction of justice, tampering with evidence, and conspiracy under the beyond a reasonable doubt standard as applied by Judge Leibowitz based on the evidence before her do not come close to answering that question.

      For those who blame the prosecutors and the police or other government officials for the result, the civil case will show what a different set of lawyers can do and what evidence they can develop. A different (and lower) standard of proof will apply. Perhaps the defendants, freed from the charges against them, will speak now (although I am not holding my breath waiting for that to happen). If the defendants do not speak, inferences can be made from continued silence.

      It also is clearly the case that Robert Wone’s death was a homicide. No homicide case should ever be dropped and no one who is guilty of homicide should ever be truly free of the prospect of a jail term.

      Robert Wone, his wife, and his family deserve the opportunity to know who took the life of their husband and son.

      At this point, I do not know who committed the murder, but I would like to find out.

      • Bill Orange on 06/30/2010 at 9:24 AM

        Ditto. I hope the eds will continue this site. I’ll be in this for the long haul. I do not think it’s best for ANYONE involved to simply let the defendants amble into the sunset.

        And please stop calling them “boys”. These are middle-aged men.

  40. CDinDC (Boycott BP) on 06/30/2010 at 8:41 AM

    Oh, Tasso, regarding your “all trash cans in DC have a hinged lid” argument from the other day…….they don’t. Saw one yesterday on S&16. I took a pic. I’ll be happy to send it to the editors and they can send it on to you if you don’t beleive me. :D

  41. Sandra Renee Hicks on 06/30/2010 at 9:12 AM

    Greetings -

    Today’s Washington Post (online) has excerpts of the interrogations of Dylan, Joe and Victor.

  42. Vandy on 06/30/2010 at 9:19 AM

    Could the prosecution appeal the Judge’s decision? If they do, can new evidence be introduced or do they have to rely on the same evidence used in this trial? Just curious.

    • chilaw79 on 06/30/2010 at 9:24 AM

      The basic answer is that the prosecution can not appeal.

    • Daphne on 06/30/2010 at 10:11 AM

      No, jeopardy is attached.

  43. Mark on 06/30/2010 at 9:37 AM

    First, Doug, thank you for this website and the information you provided throughout the trial.

    I want to raise an uncomfortable subject. In the early stages of the investigation, the media reported human semen (perhaps his own) was found on the body of Mr. Wone. Was that found to be correct? If so, does anyone know if it was it brought out in the trial and what were the conclusions?

  44. MacK on 06/30/2010 at 9:57 AM

    An interesting combination-issue on obstruction, taking the 5th, double jeopardy and the odd-man-out and prisoner dilemma.

    First, it’s important to understand the odd-man out problem. In this situation you have 3 suspects, but only one or two can have committed the crime – let’s say one for the sake of argument. The odd man out problem is that, since one of them is innocent, you cannot convict the two guilty guys. Here effectively the judge is saying two of these guys have committed obstruction of justice – and one did not, but he is probably the murderer.

    So what is the situation here – we have a murder committed by at least one and possibly two of the three – with the non-murderers guilty of at least obstruction and possible accessories after the fact. They had very good lawyers who explained that in this case, if they all “keep stum,” they cannot be forced to talk because of the 5th Amendment and the odd-ma out problem means that they cannot be convicted. The incentive – well each of them has something on the other – each can testify that the other committed a serious crime – either murder or obstruction – anyone of which will send them to prison, which is a very bad place for most people but really bad for a middle class white gay male.

    However, this trial is now over – and that means that for any member of the trouple who is guilty-but acquitted of obstruction – they cannot now be convicted – double jeopardy applies. So that leaves one outstanding charge – murder – and the murderer cannot hold testimony on obstruction over the head of the other one or two – even if he testified they cannot be convicted of it now. In fact it seems that the only real charge that remains to be brought is the actual murder charge.

    Now this brings up an interesting point at the civil case. Each of the three can be called to the stand and cross-examined on what actually happened that night. The question becomes, can those who are not the murderer(s) take the Fifth anymore? When a a subsequent prosecution for acts arising out of the same criminal transaction is barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution, the Fifth Amendment privilege against self incrimination cannot be invoked because there exists no danger that a witness’ response to a question could be self incriminatory. Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299 (1932). If the civil lawyer was to say for example “Mr Price, did Mr. Ward stab Mr. Wone?” it may be that Price cannot refuse to answer – although I suppose he could say that the answer “No” would tend to incriminate him, since it would reduce the number of candidates for the murderer by 1. In any event, it presents an interesting problem – only the murderer strictly can invoke the Fifth if the other potential charges are now barred under double jeopardy.

    This creates an interesting problem for the murderer(s) – how do they ensure the odd-man out’s silence anymore? The smart thing for the odd man out to do would be to talk – otherwise he will never be safe from the murderer(s)

  45. CuriousinVA on 06/30/2010 at 9:59 AM

    I just watched the Interrogation tapes posted on WAPO again this morning. Victor sure does seem relaxed in that clip. You would never know he was describing the gruesome murder of someone he knew who was killed in his guest bedroom. He is no saint by any means.

  46. [...] in the almost exactly three years since he, partner Joe Price and housemate Dylan Ward were acquitted of conspiracy, evidence [...]

Purpose of this Site

On August 2nd, 2006, Washington attorney Robert E. Wone was murdered at 1509 Swann Street. Over two years passed before any criminal charges were filed - and then only conspiracy, obstruction of justice and crime scene tampering charges were brought against the Swann Street housemates, all present in the home on the night of the murder: Joe Price, Dylan Ward and Victor Zaborsky.

On May 17, 2010, a DC Superior Court trial got underway and all three defendants were all acquitted in that bench trial on those pending charges.

Nearly four years later, very little seems clear about what happened that night and who murdered Robert Wone. A cloud of suspicion remains over the Swann Street defendants who have denied any involvement in the murder of their friend or in the alleged cover up.

Judge Lynn Leibovitz found a moral certainty in their collective guilt, but not evidentiary certainty. Civil proceedings in a wrongful death suit filed by Robert's family is the next chapter in this tragic story.

We continue to work together seeking answers to the mystery of Robert Wone's murder and in finding justice for his memory and legacy.

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