What Today Means

06/29/2010
By Doug

And Why This Doesn’t End With Today’s Decision

It can be easy to lose sight of the reason so many of us have returned, repeatedly, to the unanswered questions of Robert Wone’s murder on August 2nd, 2006.

It can be hard to keep clear sight – through the tangle of facts, allegations, evidence and challenges – of what is known, and what is mere allegation.

It can be easy to point fingers, accuse, and lose temper when confronted with facts or ideas that don’t fit preconceived notions or carefully considered opinions.

It can be hard to keep our ears open and minds clear when given new ideas that challenge our beliefs.  It’s easy to believe the worst in people.  It’s hard to extend the benefit of doubt.

This community has undertaken a 19-month journey: from the 2008 indictment of Dylan Ward to the closing arguments of two extraordinary legal teams, both engaged in a legal joust to prove the rightness of their case. It has been exhausting for all involved – the Wone family, the Swann Street family, and for all who have come here.

Yet the truth is that this does not end today.  Yes, there will be decisions and findings of fact by Judge Leibovitz as to the charges brought against Joseph Price, Victor Zaborsky and Dylan Ward.

But that’s not the end.

If any guilty verdicts are returned, there will be appeals.  Simultaneously the wrongful death civil suit brought by Kathy Wone will begin soon – a trial where much of what was not ruled relevant in this case will be admissible.

And there is the hammer of prison.  If any of the Swann Street housemates are found guilty, they will be facing serious prison time.  There’s nothing like the promise of two decades in jail to loosen tongues.

No murder charges have yet been brought – but that could change, depending on verdicts, knowledge, and the willingness of anyone to come forward to admit the truth and get right with Robert.

Know this: we are not going anywhere, and will continue to provide a place for all those who seek justice for Robert to come, engage, discuss, disagree…and perhaps, contribute to the answer of who murdered Robert Wone.

And to everyone who comes here, regardless of your support for defense or prosecution, we can all agree one of the best tributes to Robert Wone is a contribution to the Robert Wone Memorial Trust Fund.

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224 Responses to “ What Today Means ”

  1. William on 06/29/2010 at 12:38 PM

    Waiving a jury trial was key. The judge found that “there was not an intruder,” “Michael Price is not the murderer” and “JP very likely altered the knife” – which means she knows one or more of them is the murderer. The problem has always been which combination of the three did it. A jury would have found a way to find them all guilty.

    • weaver on 06/29/2010 at 12:54 PM

      I guess that was the key, unfortunately.

      It is so obvious they all lied. I hope the judge realizes she has sent a message to all murderers that you can get away with murder if you conspire and obstruct justice.

      To be honest she makes me sick.

  2. christy love on 06/29/2010 at 12:40 PM

    Also, a heads up to the editors…Maybe I shouldn’t even post this, but you better watch your backs. I know how I am, and if I was in their position, I would seek revenge. I also wouldn’t do it right away, I’d wait a few years and then an unfortunate accident would bequeath one of you.

    • Cecily on 06/29/2010 at 12:44 PM

      Maybe we should report you to the police this sounds like you are threatening the editors.

      • christy love on 06/29/2010 at 12:46 PM

        Do what you must, just telling them to be cafeful. Everyone is not all sweet and dandy like all of you.

      • notruth on 06/29/2010 at 1:07 PM

        IMO it is more likely that one of the readers here will try to take justice into their own hands.

        • KiKi on 06/29/2010 at 1:08 PM

          I doubt it – it is a lot easier to hide behind an anonymous name and post hateful things than to actually do something.

    • cinnamon on 06/29/2010 at 12:45 PM

      christy love. this say a whole lot more about your then i needed to know.

      • christy love on 06/29/2010 at 12:52 PM

        Maybe too much info, but this case is real and real people are involved. Dissecting every part of theirs etc…I know, I would want revenge, even if I was in the wrong, I can’t be the only one thinking like this. Joe et al, are not good people. How many times have we read that this case would have fallen by the wayside if not for this blog? I’ll shut up now, but I speak a possible, unmentionable truth.

        • weaver on 06/29/2010 at 1:03 PM

          Maybe Joe et al should watch their backs.

          THEY did the unimaginable, and EVERYONE knows it.

          There will be sneers, gossip, disgust and rejection. Most of all, they will be under a microscope if anything hinky happens to anyone associated with this case. They still have a civil trial to face, and all their dirty secrets will be aired again from multiple rooftops. It’s not about this blog, it’s about the truth that is out there for all to see.

          That is their reality and nothing will change it.

          • christy love on 06/29/2010 at 1:54 PM

            So true! Maybe some friend will invite them over for a sleep-over.

  3. VA Librarian on 06/29/2010 at 12:40 PM

    Sickening. Absolutely sickening.

  4. CDinDC (Boycott BP) on 06/29/2010 at 12:40 PM

    My heart goes out to the Wone family and friends.

    Rest in peace, Robert.

  5. emg on 06/29/2010 at 12:40 PM

    If Rend Smith twitter reported accurately, the Judge made 2 statements:

    1- There was no intruder
    2- Michael was not the murderer.
    3- Joe likely tampered with the knife.

    Thus, one one the 3 was the murderer, and the other 2 know it. It would seem the Judge believes therefore that Joe is the murderer.
    Based on that, and a sterile crime scene, an abundance of circumstantial evidence points to obstruction and conspiracy.

    In retrospect the three got their money’s worth. Going with a judge on such a complex case, was the right move. A jury would have found them guilty on all counts.

    I am truly shocked and once again disappointed in the system. It rarely is about getting to the truth or justice. Its finding the loopholes.

    • KiKi on 06/29/2010 at 12:45 PM

      Those “loopholes” are there to protect you. Our system is not about finding truth – it was never intended to be that way. It is an adversarial system designed to protect the innocent at all costs. There are many systems that are truth seeking, such as in the UK, if you prefer that system that is fine.

      But if you believe in the tenants that this country is based upon than you must accept those loopholes as important constitutional protections.

      • JohnAdams on 06/29/2010 at 12:51 PM

        Those “loopholes” are there to protect the wealthy. Imagine, for a second, what the verdict would have been with an identical fact pattern with an impoverished defendant represented by a court-appointed attorney.

        • KiKi on 06/29/2010 at 1:03 PM

          I represent indigent defendants everyday and I use those “loopholes” everyday to make sure their rights are not violated. Those cases do not have blogs devoted to them and newspaper stories written about them. The police do the same shotty investigation, the victims families are left without justice. But society does not know or care. In this case, the general public got to see how things really work – and as much as I would love this lesson to be taught via an indigent defendant – I have to take what is being reported. In this case 3 rich white dudes and a rich victim.

          The point remains – interrogation techniques, “scientific” evidence, media involvement, prejudicial ideas – were all put out there for the public to see. Maybe that is hop we affect change for across the board.

          • leo on 06/29/2010 at 2:10 PM

            It’s “shoddy.” I know I’m being a pedant but just in case you prepare written pleadings in your cases.

      • Cecily on 06/29/2010 at 12:52 PM

        Talk to domestic violence victims and you will see differently. Ask how safe they feel when they have a restraining order against somebody if they were even able to get one. Not until the victim is dead does the law step in and arrest the person who should have been in jail already.

      • greg on 06/29/2010 at 1:17 PM

        You mean continental Europe. The UK has an adversarial, common law system — and indeed invented the jury trial — and these are among the things we kept after the revolution!

  6. ccf on 06/29/2010 at 12:42 PM
  7. BenFranklin on 06/29/2010 at 12:45 PM

    Our justice system works!

    Let’s make sure the MPD never gets by with kind of malicious, incompetent casework ever again!

    We may never know who murdered Wone because of MPD’s blunders.

    Everyone must move on with their lives as we continue to seek justice for Robert Wone by reforming the MPD!

    • leo on 06/29/2010 at 12:51 PM

      It’s noteworthy that Kirschner said not once but twice and even thrice that he is so grateful to the MPD, the Secret Service, the detectives at VCB, the FBI…I don’t think so. He would not answer questions, just thanked everyone for all their hard work and hoped for more evidence to proceed with a homicide case at some point. Joe et al. can’t really breathe easy. Murder charges are always hanging over their heads. Joe’s attorney said on the Fox TV cam that Joe is bankrupt, has lost his home, his family, and his job, and now must try to rebuild his life.

      • She did it on 06/29/2010 at 1:06 PM

        joe may be bankrupt, homeless, without job, without family BUT he is and always was very smart and very ambitious — i have no doubt that mercedes mercedes mercedes is in his sight and within his reach. as this trial did not kill him, he will rise. i wonder if either his husband or boyfriend will be around for his next chapter of life? if i were victor’s mother, i might speak up with thoughts on this.

      • EricFormerlyNewbie on 06/29/2010 at 1:07 PM

        Is Joe’s attorney somehow trying to garner sympathy for his client? preposterous. the verdict may be proper based on the evidence, but clearly even the judge thinks the 3 defendants committed the murder. I don’t think playing the sympathy card was the way to go here.

      • David M on 06/29/2010 at 1:21 PM

        At least that bastard has a life to rebuild. More than he and his cronies left Robert Wone!

  8. Steven on 06/29/2010 at 12:46 PM

    I’m so disappointed. What a shock. Where is the justice?

  9. Bill Orange on 06/29/2010 at 12:54 PM

    I don’t agree with the verdicts, but I can totally understand how the judge arrived at them. I think it’s a little odd that she would more or less say that she thought the defendants were all guilty, but that the prosecution didn’t meet its burden of proof. Even though that’s the same conclusion that many of the more skeptical posters on here have arrived at, I was a little surprised that the judge would actually say it in open court.

    Credit where credit is due: I thought Joe Price had overplayed his hand, but I think his supreme confidence in his abilities is again justified. I also didn’t think much of the defense teams, but they’ve obviously earned their fees here. The prosecution did about as well as it could with the case it had–I think that some of the missteps during the trial were balanced out by the superb opposition-to-summary-judgement brief.

    The folks who really botched this were the people at the MPD. Had the crime scene been processed correctly, I don’t think we’d have gotten to this point. Either the defendants would have been exonerated early on (unlikely, I think), or the case against them would’ve been MUCH more solid.

    In any case, the verdicts haven’t really changed my opinion on the defendants’ guilt, particularly in light of the judge’s statements. The civil trial will likely go forward, and perhaps we will see some measure of justice from that.

    • Pete McLeanVa on 06/29/2010 at 1:30 PM

      Bill, Ditto. Will the civil trial be held in Fairfax County or in the DC courts. Are civil suits always heard by a jury or can a defendant waive this right? If the troupe are found guilty in the civil, in your opinion, will the Wone family be able to collect? Would a judgement force the defendant’s to move to the Florida homestead?

      • Bill 2 on 06/29/2010 at 1:50 PM

        If they plan to use the Florida house as a place to keep away from a judgement for the Wone family, they’ll need to get down there to establish their homestead rights.

        • Pete McLeanVa on 06/29/2010 at 1:57 PM

          Where is the venue for the civil action?

          • leo on 06/29/2010 at 2:16 PM

            It was filed in DC Superior Court. Robert lived in Virginia. Unless someone wants to remove it to Federal court based on diversity, it’s going to stay in DC where it was filed.

  10. Leonard on 06/29/2010 at 12:55 PM

    It’s the right verdict. The judge didn’t have evidence either of tampering or conspiracy that was beyond doubt. She could infer all sorts of things and she made her suspicions plain. But suspicion is not proof. The only point for a possible conspiracy finding would have been the 11:43 consistency. But while that shows some coordination it doesn’t show absolutely that all three deliberately covered up and colluded with the intent of obstructing the investigation. I commend the judge for her exsanguinous analysis and verdict. The courts are about the law, not suspicion or emotion and should be so.

  11. deduce on 06/29/2010 at 1:00 PM

    MPD screwed this up from beginning to end — Guilty, guilty, guilty.

  12. addicted lurker on 06/29/2010 at 1:01 PM

    I don’t know how one finds “no intruder” and then “no conspiracy” from the men who told the intruder story.

    I also find “reasonable doubt” to be quite slippery and subjective. It is not always so high and protective a bar in a US court — witness that we’re #1 in global incarceration rates, the Innocence Project and more — so I’m not going to drumbeat for the wonderfulness of our criminal justice system.

    I’m disappointed in this verdict. And not a lawyer. But I have to wonder, no matter how smart and astute the judge, if our societal expectations of who does what kind of crime created a wider gap of “reasonableness” for these defendants than it would have for others. And if a jury, not all of whom would have shared the privileged status of these defendants, wouldn’t have applied a different — indeed, more reasonable — commonsense standard.

    • weaver on 06/29/2010 at 1:07 PM

      “I don’t know how one finds “no intruder” and then “no conspiracy” from the men who told the intruder story.”

      Exactly.

      I can’t figure her out.

      • Ivan on 06/29/2010 at 1:13 PM

        I understand your thoughts Weaver but early on someone here stated that conspiracy is hard to prove” w/o a snitch or a tape recording or a note. That all three held to the same story all this time does not prove conspiracy no matter how ridiculous the story is.

        • chilaw79 on 06/29/2010 at 1:47 PM

          Judge Leibowitz’ comments about “the math problem,” are in the same vein. Since there is a possibility that one or more of the defendants committed the murder, Judge Leibowitz kept coming back to the “33 1/3%” problem. Each defendant could point to another as the potential murderer, presenting reasonable doubt for the other two.

      • Bill 2 on 06/29/2010 at 1:19 PM

        It’s easy to figure out. She found that the prosecution did not present evidence of a conspiracy. She clearly sent a message that the case was bungled by the incompetence of the DC cops, the FBI, and the Secret Service. They bungled the case. Though she didn’t spell it out, she sees them as a bunch of nincompoops in regard to the murder of Robert Wone.

        She let us know that the killer was sitting right in that court room but the nincompoops of the law enforcement agencies were unable to gather the evidence to bring that killer to trial for murder.

        • Lurker on 06/29/2010 at 1:41 PM

          Not yet, anyway. A murder trial may yet be in the future…perhaps the civil trial will bring out the necessary evidence? We can hope, anyway.

  13. Stonecold on 06/29/2010 at 1:01 PM

    I followed this case from the beginning and was very happy to come across this blog. This is very heartbreaking. I am stunned.

    • PW on 06/29/2010 at 1:10 PM

      it is very heartbreaking. i’m totally blown away and sad.

  14. WillC on 06/29/2010 at 1:02 PM

    Will the not guilty verdict make it easier or harder for the boys to find a 3rd or 4th to play with?

  15. DCTim on 06/29/2010 at 1:03 PM

    I am blown away by this.

  16. Ivan on 06/29/2010 at 1:06 PM

    I can’t help but wonder if the outcome of the civil trial will be any different?

  17. des on 06/29/2010 at 1:09 PM

    as disappointing as this all is, (and not to get all metaphysical here) i truly believe in karma.
    those who have done bad things will get their just reward. and i believe it’s more than what the us justice system could ever do to punish them, whether it’s the psychological stress of living knowing what they have done or whatever exists in the hereafter or something else.
    justice will eventually be done.
    i only hope and pray the wone family finds peace somehow. i can’t imagine their suffering.

    • Stonecold on 06/29/2010 at 1:14 PM

      I am a true believer in KARMA too.

    • CDinDC (Boycott BP) on 06/29/2010 at 1:36 PM

      Vipaka….the result of karma. The act is karma, the result or consequence is vipaka. We create our own heaven and hell.

      “According to the seed that’s sown,
      So is the fruit you reap there from,
      Doer of good will gather good,
      Doer of evil, evil reaps,
      Down is the seed and thou shalt taste
      The fruit thereof.”

  18. greg on 06/29/2010 at 1:10 PM

    The judge made the correct decision. Reading through the legal documents on this site, it was clear to me that the state did not have enough concrete evidence to convict the defendants. We cannot use violence against people (and make no mistake: sending people to jail is an act of state violence) unless guilt is established beyond reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt was everywhere in this case, despite the frankly alarming tenor of many comments made on this site, and the site’s obvious bias in favor of conviction. Thank goodness we have the rule of law, with its in-built skepticism, to weigh the evidence properly and to save us from the frenzy of speculation and the natural desire to punish someone — anyone — when a crime is committed. By all means let the questions and investigations continue, but the judge made the legally correct decision. Although I wish this site had been more tempered and cool headed in its presentation, I do thank the editors for drawing attention to the case and for making so many official documents available to the interested public.

    • David M on 06/29/2010 at 1:17 PM

      Greg, but as is so often the case, legally correct can be manifestly unjust.

    • weaver on 06/29/2010 at 1:20 PM

      Greg, she did not make the right decision.

      “frenzy of speculation”??? The judge herself said NO INTRUDER. You understand what that means, right?

      They are guilty as sin. I hope and pray murder charges will eventually be filed against them. A MAN IS DEAD. Where is your outrage?

      • mw on 06/29/2010 at 1:25 PM

        No intruder means one of them killed Wone.

        But knowing 1 of 3 suspects is the killer doesn’t mean conviction, individually, for all three on the charges in front of the court today (unfortunately).

        There were very technical crimes, tough to prove, tough to meet the elements.

        The prosecution put on a good case that just that “something’s rotten here”, but that’s not enough. Inconsistent statements aren’t crimes, demeanors aren’t crimes. What exactly did they do to conspire and obstruct?

        • Lurker on 06/29/2010 at 1:44 PM

          I worried that all the dots weren’t connected sufficiently…but am mindful of the fact that many, many people are convicted of crimes every day on less evidence. So while I hoped for a just outcome, I was not holding my breath. A jury trial would have come out differently.

        • CDinDC (Boycott BP) on 06/29/2010 at 1:58 PM

          This will be their albatross.

      • ccf on 06/29/2010 at 2:19 PM

        “No intuder” does not automatcially point to any one of the three as the murderer, or to a cover-up, although it’s highly likely. And there could be a fourth person as well.

    • ccf on 06/29/2010 at 2:16 PM

      Good points.

      The burden had been high for the conviction and the emotion in us for justice had clouded that fact.

      As I’ve said earlier, to me, the truth is more important than the punishment. Perhaps, and I hope, the civil trial will bring forward the truth.

  19. David M on 06/29/2010 at 1:14 PM

    What an horrendous and horrible tragedy. Three men got away with at least knowing how a murder was committed and one likely with committing it. One more indication of how justice can be purchased with a little bit of money and how little a human life (Robert Wone’s) is worth.

    Disgusted.

  20. keepingalevelhead on 06/29/2010 at 1:16 PM

    If these men are indeed guilty of something they carry that in their heads, and they face the risk that they may one day be on trial for murder. Remember the Michael Skakel case. New evidence may emerge. One may oneday confess. The civil case may yield more evidence. They cannot ever rest easy if they are not innocent. The trial certainly established bizarre and despicable behaivior.

    Robert was a fine person, and we all feel for the Wone family. I hope the civil case will have a different result.

  21. EX Swann on 06/29/2010 at 1:18 PM

    I understand the reasoning behind the Judge’s decision. That being said, good luck re-building that “life” Joe.

    No justice, no peace.

    Let the real sentence begin . . .

    • Pete McLeanVa on 06/29/2010 at 1:45 PM

      Joe, forget the dream of a rusted Mercedes or BMW. I’ll see you around in your leased Yugo.

  22. mw on 06/29/2010 at 1:22 PM

    So how do we donate to the Kathy’s legal expenses in the civil trial?

    • Lurker on 06/29/2010 at 1:45 PM

      I do not think there will be legal expenses. My understanding is that Covington, Robert’s former firm, is handling the matter pro bono.

  23. John on 06/29/2010 at 1:26 PM

    I’m not sure where there is reasonable doubt here.
    The body was clearly tampered with by one or more of them, and the only way their stories would match up is if there was a conspiracy among all of them.
    Certainly a murder charge wasn’t going to stick, but I don’t see them avoiding conspiracy.
    I’ll be interested to hear the judge’s explanation for the verdict, if one was provided.

  24. Rick on 06/29/2010 at 1:36 PM

    I feel empty and mad. If the Judge did use common sense in her decision, I’d guess she has trouble opening a car door! How sad, I really feel let down that our justice system operates as it does…this verdict leaves me with no confidence. And Kiki, I have really enjoyed your informative comments, but I don’t believe these “loop holes” are for all of us. In fact, I don’t want loop holes in our justice system…and I tend to think that our justice system should look for the truth…the truth sets you free!

    • ccf on 06/29/2010 at 2:24 PM

      Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, our justice system is not a truth-finding system but a adversary system.

  25. emg on 06/29/2010 at 1:49 PM

    The lesson is, if you are going to conspire and obstruct, make sure you are really really good at it, leaving no evidence. And make sure you do it where the police are inept, lose evidence, dont’ ask cucial questions within the first 24 hours, and use the wrong blood reagent. You are home free.

    • VA Librarian on 06/29/2010 at 1:53 PM

      And make sure you’ve got a lot of money, because then you can rape and murder someone in your own house and get away with it.

      • Dan on 06/29/2010 at 2:06 PM

        Make sure your in DC too!

  26. Pete McLeanVa on 06/29/2010 at 2:05 PM

    Lawyers, will a civil suit be held in Fairfax County or where the murder occured?

    • leo on 06/29/2010 at 2:23 PM

      The civil suit was filed in DC Superior Court.

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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