The Scarlet Letter

06/30/2010
By Doug

M Is For Murder

For any associated with this case, there can’t be much joy today.

I Read The News Today Oh, Boy...

For supporters of the defendants, relief at their friend’s acquittal may well be tempered by Judge Leibovitz’ stern findings that it’s “very probable” at least one of them knows more than he is saying.

For supporters of the Wone family, it’s just the reverse.  “Cold comfort”, as Leibovitz termed it, knowing that freeing a man who may be guilty was needed to “…maintaining our criminal justice system as the fair and just system we wish it to be.”

Judging by the heat of a number of comments yesterday, it’s clear many of you are unhappy, angered, or confused, regardless of which side you come down on.

Some have blamed Leibovitz, some blame the MPD and others blame Glenn Kirschner.  Some point the finger at homophobia; others, the editors of this website.  And some few seemingly just want to pick fights.

But it is a new day, and there are new realities all must face. 

The defendants have been found not guilty of obstruction, conspiracy and evidence tampering.  They now face a civil lawsuit that brings with it a jury, a much lower standard of proof, a much wider net of evidence, the pressure to take the stand on their own behalf, and the ominously powerful legal machine of Covington & Burling.

Their families know their efforts helped keep their sons from prison, but it has come at a very high cost.  It’s likely the Zaborskys – not people of great means to start – will never fully recover financially, and the Ward family – of greater means – will still suffer.

The prosecution did not prove its case to the judge, despite their best efforts.  It’s hard to know how much fallout there will be for Kirschner, Martin and Carlson Lieber, but it’s certain this defeat must have hit the team hard.  They know a lot of people were counting on them.

The Wone family will likely never see anyone sent to prison in connection with Robert’s murder.  That must be a hard truth to acknowledge for them, but it’s a truth all the same.  Barring a major break it seems unlikely new criminal charges will be brought.  And while the costs of the civil suit may haunt the defendants until their dying day, this must seem far from justice.

Judge Lynn Leibovitz has made perhaps the most important decision so far of her judicial career, and it can’t be a popular one. 

Barring quibbles about what she found as fact – for example, her finding that “His Blackberry reflected a final email transmission at 11:08 p.m.” seems curious, given that we can’t recall the “unsent” text messages coming into evidence as being sent – although this may have been a stipulation – her ruling seems solid and brave. 

Yet bravery is rarely rewarded in politics, and it’s hard to see any ‘law-and-order’ politician nominating her for higher bench.  The irony is that Leibovitz made spectacles of sentencing grafitti artist BORF and a seventy year-old Code Pink protester to the max, but could not get herself over the moral/evidentiary hump in the Wone case. 

But through all of this, one other fact seems relevant.  Leibovitz all-but-accusation that the defendants are guilty of some crime in connection with Robert’s murder will never be expunged.   Not guilty in this case is clearly not innocent.

They begin the next phase of their lives branded with a Scarlet Letter about their necks.  It’s not an A for Adultery, but is it M for Murder and L for Liar?

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500 Responses to “ The Scarlet Letter ”

  1. lurker on 07/01/2010 at 12:32 PM

    I am posting today here, because from the time of the verdict, I haven’t been able to acces your site–I would say that speaks volumes for the service you have provided 9and will continue to provide, I hope!).

    I’m sure this has been covered already, and I have much reading to do to see the analysis from the learned regulars, but my uneducated take is as follows:

    The prosecution did not meet the bar of proving THESE CHARGES beyond the standard of reasonable doubt.

    However, the judge’s comments seem to indicate (to my uneducated mind) not only that in her opinion, these may have been the wrong charges in a sense, that she felt that they were not entirely truthful and forthcoming, that there was some tampering, and that no intruder UNKNOWN TO THE DEFENDANTS committed the underlying (uncharged) crime.

    I would think there might be nuggets of gold in the decision for further civil (and possibly future criminal–let’s hope) action.

    They were found not guilty, but they weren’t declared innocent.

    And overall, the decision reads to me as if the wrong charges were brought against (some of) the right people, and the evidence (while perhaps there to support some of the unaddressed charges) did not support the charges that were able to be brought.

    This is not a homophobia issue.

    It is a murder.

    I will go and read may favorites (Bea, BillO, Carolina, Chilaw, CCinDC, Kate, and many many more) to see how this has been parsed.

    But my opinion remains that there is subtle potential support here that will prove more than helpful in the civil case.

  2. elisabethvon on 07/01/2010 at 4:02 PM

    Read the posts and wanted to ask this question since I could not find the answer.
    Are the three defendants still living in the DC area and are they currently employed?
    Also, one of the defense lawyers said his client was almost bankrupt, does anyone know what happened to the proceeds of the sale of the townhouse?
    I assume that this defense lawyer was not working pro bono so maybe all the proceeds went to the laywers.
    Also, does whoever purchased the townhouse know that a murdered occured there? I ask this because in CA realtors are required to state this and houses of this sort are a hard sell.
    This is a real tragedy for the Wone family and also the legal community since Mr. Wone did much pro bono legal work.
    Hope his family can find some closure and move on with their lives.
    Thanks for reading and any response is appreciated.
    Elisabethvon

    • CDinDC (Boycott BP) on 07/01/2010 at 4:08 PM

      Elisabethvon,
      Here’s a few answers…..

      Prior to the trial, the 3 defendants were living in the Northern Virginia aera.

      It was confirmed that Victor was employed. Price/Ward unknown.

      Price and Zaborsky bought a 700K home in Florida after 1509 Swann was sold.

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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