“Sitting On The Sideline”

And Ready To Suit Up  (UPDATED)

Attorneys representing the Estate of Robert Wone in the $20million wrongful death civil suit have wasted no time in the week since the criminal verdict.  They appear ready to take the field.  In the July 5 issue of the National Law Journal [sub. req’d.], Mike Scarcella writes on the next steps and legal teams standing by to tackle the case, “Civil fight looms for defendants in Wone case.” 

“Legally speaking, Judge Lynn Leibovitz’ not-guilty verdicts are irrelevant to the civil case. Even her opinion deeming it “very probable” that Price, Zaborsky and Ward know more than they’ve told police about Wone’s death has no formal effect on the civil proceedings. 

But several plaintiffs’ lawyers noted Leibovitz’ statement that the government simply failed to convince her beyond a reasonable doubt offers encouragement that the Wone family lawyers can meet the lower burden of proof in the civil arena. And they can use the criminal prosecution as a road map. 

Lawyers from Covington & Burling and Regan, Zambri & Long, the two Washington firms representing the Wone estate pro bono, wasted no time in expressing their eagerness to kick-start the civil litigation. 

“We’ve been sitting on the sideline for two years,” said Patrick Regan, a name partner at Regan Zambri. “We are happy at long last that we can move this forward.” 

We don’t have the clearance to republish the entire article (yet), but excerpts follow.   It seems that the article is now on the law.com free site.  It follows.

 

Civil Fight Looms for Defendants in Case of Murdered D.C. Lawyer

Acquittal doesn’t end legal battle in Wone saga

Jeff Jeffrey and Mike Scarcella, The National Law Journal   July 07, 2010

After a five-week criminal trial that examined one of Washington, D.C.’s most vexing unsolved homicides, the three housemates charged with covering up the murder of Washington attorney Robert Wone walked out of court as free men. But their legal wrangling is far from over.

Victor Zaborsky, Dylan Ward and former Arent Fox litigation partner Joseph Price were acquitted June 29 in the District of Columbia Superior Court on charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy and, in Price’s case, tampering with evidence. All three men still face a $20 million wrongful death suit that was filed on the heels of the criminal case in late 2008.

The civil suit, which has been on hold during the criminal prosecution, will keep the meter running on their legal bills. Several criminal defense lawyers in Washington estimated defending against the criminal charges cost them between $2 million and $3 million in fees.

Legally speaking, Judge Lynn Leibovitz’s not-guilty verdicts are irrelevant to the civil case. Even her opinion deeming it “very probable” that Price, Zaborsky and Ward know more than they’ve told police about Wone’s death has no formal effect on the civil proceedings. But several plaintiffs lawyers noted Leibovitz’s statement that the government simply failed to convince her beyond a reasonable doubt offers encouragement that the Wone family lawyers can meet the lower burden of proof in the civil arena. And they can use the criminal prosecution as a road map.

Lawyers from Covington & Burling and Regan, Zambri & Long, the two Washington firms representing the Wone estate pro bono, wasted no time in expressing their eagerness to kick-start the civil litigation.

“We’ve been sitting on the sideline for two years,” said Patrick Regan, a name partner at Regan Zambri. “We are happy at long last that we can move this forward.”

For their part, the defendants and their criminal lawyers were careful not to greet the acquittals with public exuberance. “There were losers all the way around and on multiple levels, with obviously the worst being Robert himself,” said Price’s lawyer, Cozen O’Connor partner Bernard Grimm. “You don’t go out on the courthouse steps and claim victory. It’s not jubilation. It’s relief.”

A HIGH-POWERED DEFENSE

The Wone murder has baffled law enforcement from the start. On Aug. 2, 2006, Wone stayed at the Northwest Washington house shared by Price, his domestic partner Zaborsky and Ward, who form what the three men have called a “polyamorous family.” Wone had worked late at his new job as general counsel for Radio Free Asia and had made plans to spend the night at their Dupont Circle house.

Within an hour or so after arriving at the house, Wone was stabbed three times in the chest. Although Price, Zaborsky and Ward have always maintained that an unknown intruder killed Wone, investigators found no evidence of a break-in, and no property was missing from the house. Two years went by before criminal charges were filed in the case, and even then no one was charged with murder. The three men were indicted on tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice and conspiracy.

Price, Zaborsky and Ward faced up to 38 years in prison each if convicted on all counts. In the weeks after the murder, they hired criminal defense lawyers.

Price initially hired solo practitioner Kathleen Voelker, a former Arent Fox partner, but later switched to Grimm, a well-known Washington attorney who has gained a national reputation for his cable TV legal commentary. Zaborsky retained Thomas Connolly, who chairs the litigation practice at Wiltshire & Grannis, and partner Amy Richardson. Ward tapped David Schertler of Schertler & Onorato, a former homicide chief in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, and Robert Spagnoletti, also a Schertler & Onorato partner and a former D.C. attorney general.

Several defense attorneys estimated that, even if the lawyers have been working for Price, Zaborsky and Ward at a reduced price, they are likely charging between $350 and $500 an hour. Their tab has been running through the four-year police investigation, the pretrial discovery and preparation process and the five-week trial. Moreover, the $2 million to $3 million estimate on fees does not include additional expenses such as forensic experts, including Henry Lee, who also testified in the O.J. Simpson trial.

All that money brought the defendants their freedom but not a full exoneration. The judge said that, even if Price, Zaborsky and Ward did not commit the murder, they likely know enough about the circumstances to help the police but are keeping that information secret. She called the theory that an intruder killed Wone “implausible.” She characterized Price in particular as “consistently arrogant, unconcerned, flippant, aggressive, self-centered and dismissive” in his interaction with the police.

Regardless, said Robert Trout of Trout Cacheris, who represented former Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., on corruption charges, “This appears to have been a textbook illustration of the significance of burden of proof and reasonable doubt. The defense astutely realized that, understood the judge would be conscientious in applying the proper legal standards and so waived a jury trial. Good move.”

THE CIVIL BATTLE

Now that the criminal case is behind them, the three men have the $20 million civil case to look forward to. The D.C. Superior Court suit alleges wrongful death, negligence, spoliation of evidence and conspiracy. It’s set for a status hearing in September.

Because Wone was an associate at Covington & Burling before joining Radio Free Asia, the firm agreed to represent his widow, Katherine Wone, and his estate pro bono. Partner Eric Holder Jr. represented Katherine Wone until he became U.S. attorney general. The case then moved to partner Benjamin Razi, who handles complex civil and criminal litigation. Regan was added to the team last year because he is an expert in wrongful death suits.

Although Leibovitz’s 38-page opinion is not admissible in the civil suit, it does provide a possible outline for obtaining a judgment against Price, Zaborsky and Ward under the lower civil standard of a preponderence of the evidence. Moreover, much of the evidence needed in the civil case has already been collected by virtue of the criminal case.

“The criminal case … is helpful in terms of developing a trial and discovery strategy as well as which themes and messages to highlight,” said William Lightfoot of Washington’s Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot, who has handled wrongful death cases. “It’s almost like a dress rehearsal for the civil case.”

Lawyers defending Price, Zaborsky and Ward in the civil suit did not return calls or declined to comment. Price is represented by Craig Roswell, who chairs the litigation practice at Baltimore’s Niles, Barton & Wilmer. Zaborsky has retained Frank Daily, who has his own firm in Hunt Valley, Md. Court records show Schertler & Onorato is continuing to represent Ward in the civil matter.

Unlike the defendants, Regan said Katherine Wone has no intention of waiving her right to a jury trial. He said the plaintiffs are gearing up for depositions of Price, Zaborsky and Ward.

The three men, who did not testify in the criminal case, could try to plead the Fifth Amendment to avoid the depositions on the ground that they might implicate themselves in the ongoing murder investigation. Whether that would fly with the civil judge, given their acquittals on related charges, is unclear, one defense lawyer said.

What seems clear is the weight of legal fees burdening the three men. Several plaintiffs attorneys noted that, depending on how the insurance policy for the Dupont Circle house was written, it may cover at least part of the civil defense, if not the potential damages.

“We expect there will be problems collecting for Kathy,” Regan said. “But that’s a problem down the road.”

 

Mike Scarcella and Jeff Jeffery have our sincere thanks for his continued coverage of the case. 

-posted by Craig

100 comments for ““Sitting On The Sideline”

  1. EricFormerlyNewbie
    07/07/2010 at 10:20 AM
    • Grrr
      07/07/2010 at 10:48 PM

      Well, well, well.

      It seems that Covington is stepping up to the plate only after they trashed his career by making it known that he was not partner material. I am not blaming them by saying that an option they gave them was working late for Radio Free Whatever and ending up dead, but as chain of events seem to go in this case, they must be thinking “what if?”

      Law firms are inherently poisonous places to work. This instant result is no surprise.

      Partners, tell us how important it is to your young career to be so crushed?

      • chilaw79
        07/07/2010 at 10:58 PM

        There is no shame in not making partner at Covington (or any other big DC law firm). DC is filled with successful lawyers who did not make partner at Covington. Making partner often is a function of an individual lawyer’s area of specialization, the economy, and a host of other factors.

        At any rate, there is no suggestion that Robert Wone did not remain on good terms with people at Covington. Covington did step up to the plate to represent Robert’s Estate in the wrongful death action on a pro bono basis.

        My experience is that lawyers who are not considered partnership material at Covington still value the experience they gained there and the legal issues to which they gain exposure.

        • Grrr
          07/07/2010 at 11:04 PM

          NICE

        • Bill Orange
          07/07/2010 at 11:07 PM

          Is “not partner material” a legalese way of saying “not an asshole”? I really don’t understand what’s meant by the phrase, and my only comparison is to, well, Joe Price. “Not partner material” sounds a bit derogatory to me, as opposed to more neutral statements like “not a good fit” or “not the skill set we’re looking for right now”. The former sounds a lot like saying, “He’s a lousy violinist,” while the latter is more along the lines of, “He’s a great violinist, but the job opening is for a cellist.”

          • chilaw79
            07/07/2010 at 11:23 PM

            Bill,

            It could be any of those. It is very difficult to make partner at Covington. I can name ten people off the top of my head who are current partners at major DC firms who were not going to make partner at Covington. All of them are top-notch people, personable, intelligent, and well-known in their areas of expertise. They have gone on to successful legal careers and I think Robert Wone would have done so as well.

            The big law firm partnership process is based on numerous factors. Some of it is just luck–good and bad. Some people decide they do not want to put up with bureaucracy, long hours, and incessant travel, and decide to do something else with their lives. Others just happen to be in areas where a major rainmaker leaves or the firm simply decides not to pursue.

            Often, the people who leave are much happier.

            I have no idea why Robert Wone went from Covington to Radio Free Asia. However, it is clear to me that Covington held him in high regard. I did not have the privilege of knowing Robert, but I do know many DC law firm partners who started at Covington, but did not make partner there. I also know retired staff personnel from Covington. I have never heard anyone speak ill of the firm.

            • Grrr
              07/08/2010 at 12:22 AM

              Okay, Radio Free Whatever, is better than collections. You got me.

              • AnnaZed
                07/08/2010 at 12:42 AM

                The place that Robert chose to work, leaving Covington, is Radio Free Asia you asshole. His wife said that he decided that he would rather do something with his life that had meaning to him, like work for a respected entity dedicated to the free exchange of ideas in areas of the world where that privilege (like the one we are exercising right here this minute on this blog) is restricted. It was an honorable thing to do and he took a serious blow to his income to do it. Joe (Robert’s “friend,” that soul of human empathy that never seems to have allowed an opportunity to insult those near and dear to him to pass unexploited) is the only one who called Robert “not partner material.”

                • Carolina
                  07/08/2010 at 7:21 AM

                  Grr likes to poke at the soft spots. Something most of us get over by the time we can vote.

                • galoon
                  07/08/2010 at 8:19 AM

                  Well said, AnnaZed.

          • chilaw79
            07/07/2010 at 11:28 PM

            To put it in musical terms, most people who do not make partner at Covington are outstanding musicians. They only accept Juilliard and Peabody Conservatory type talent in the first place. At the time they are coming up from the ranks, there may be no first chair positions at Covington so Covington helps find another orchestra where their talents can shine.

        • Carolina
          07/07/2010 at 11:40 PM

          Didn’t Joe make snide remarks about this?

        • bigfatmike
          07/08/2010 at 1:04 AM

          I am speaking a little out of turn here, but I do not believe my remarks will be very controversial. In any case, if I say some thing beyond the pale, there are lots of individuals on this site who will set the record straight.

          Some firms recruit with the idea that ‘we do not hire an associate unless we believe that person will make partner.’

          Other firms are known recruit far more associates than they could ever make partner. For these firms, the associate pool becomes a profit center. The reasons that students accept employment at these firms are probably as many and varied as the students who make that choice. But one career strategy is that after a few years the associate has outstanding experience and hopefully lots of employment opportunities.

          I do not have statistics to support this, but I would guess that many, perhaps most, partners do not make partner at their first firm.

          I would also guess that it is best to judge a lawyer’s skills on the basis of recent legal expereience.

          If you insist on judging a lawyer of the basis of where he or she did not make partner, then you should consider this. There is one thing we know about every partner at every firm all across the country. They are a partner at that one firm. They are not a partner at all the rest. Knowing the firms where a lawyer did not make partner does not tell you very much.

      • 07/07/2010 at 11:37 PM

        A little bitter, huh, Grrrr? It was Joe who said that Robert was not “partner material” in his second interrogation at Anacostia. You’re making it sound as if it was Covington who “made it known” and “trashed his career,” when it was actually Joe who said Robert was “not partner material” to the detective. Covington, according to Joe, told Robert they liked his work and said he could continue working there. Given that Robert chose to take another job and leave Covington, I think we should be grateful to Covington (and the other pro bono firm) for not only offering to represent Kathy in the civil suit but to have assigned excellent attorneys who are working really hard on it. Just think of what would be now if the Wone family were on their own now, after the acquittals.

        • Grrr
          07/07/2010 at 11:57 PM

          Gosh, we all know what “partner material,” means. Why is this concept being so qualified?

          • Jo
            07/08/2010 at 2:00 AM

            Perhaps “not partner material” means not fitting in with the old boys’ network or not willing to kiss a**.

            • bigfatmike
              07/08/2010 at 2:43 AM

              Strong legal skills may be necessary but is simply not sufficient for partnership at many firms.

              An under appreciated fact is that making partner has many similarities with pledging a fraternity, a fraternity where the spouse or girl friend is as carefully evaluated as the pledge.

              • Clio
                07/08/2010 at 8:48 AM

                So, at Arent Fox, Ma’am passed the smell test, but they didn’t know about “Sparkly Cat” at that time? Huh?

                • bigfatmike
                  07/08/2010 at 1:08 PM

                  So what does Emily Post suggest in regard to introducing your beloved wife and your hot girl friend to your boss? There must be a proper way to do this. What are the seating arrangements at firm dinners and events? Inquiring minds want to know.

                  • Bill 2
                    07/08/2010 at 1:28 PM

                    “Mr. Fox, this man wearing the horns of a cuckold is my partner Victor and between us is my lover Dylan. Dylan and I keep Victor around to water the plants and to douse barbecue fires on the patio.”

                    • bigfatmike
                      07/08/2010 at 5:55 PM

                      merciless just merciless.

            • susan
              07/08/2010 at 2:16 PM

              “Partner material”? Other than J. Price, does anyone really speak that way? It sounds so pretentious. And what a cold statement to make at anytime, let alone the night of the murder.

              Radio Free Asia, Europe, etc. is very prestigious and Mr. Wone had his whole Life ahead of him for more great adventures.

              Ironic too, since it is clear who it turns out is soooo NOT “partner material.” More like “Penske Material.” And there’s a Facebook page ready to take new members.

              http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5711318572

              • susan
                07/08/2010 at 2:22 PM

                P.S. Go Covington!!! I had a friend who worked there and it is a GREAT firm! And clearly R. Wone was terrific there, and made some great connections/alliances and friends, such as Mr. Holder, etc.

                Was it posted here (or anywhere on the planet) that Arent Fox was backing J. Price in his civil suit?

                • Craig
                  07/08/2010 at 4:08 PM

                  Susan – I’d be surprised if A-Fox is in any way backing Price, et al in the civil suit.

                  C79 – Doesn’t nunc pro tunc here refer to the footnote on page 1 and the typo in the original signing date?

                  • chilaw79
                    07/08/2010 at 4:23 PM

                    Yes, but I just like the sounds of the words. It sounds like something from a Marx Brothers movie (even though I know the court is fixing some stupid mistake).

                  • susan
                    07/08/2010 at 7:14 PM

                    Craig,

                    That was my attempt at hyperbole and sarcasm, hence the “or anywhere on the planet” line. But I was in a rush typing and so
                    clarity probably fell by the wayside.

                    I’m sure Arent Fox is a fine firm and I’m also pretty sure they wouldn’t go near JP and the gang and/or this case, in general, with a 10-foot pole.

                  • Liam
                    07/08/2010 at 8:41 PM

                    I couldn’t imagine A-Fox would in any way, shape or form back him in a civil suit. They have no obligation to him. In fact, I’m sure they were more than eager to get rid of him when the charges were filed.

                    They would want nothing to do with a person involved in a lawsuit that could negatively affect their image and their bottom line.

                    And, I’m really curious as to what type of partner he was at the firm. What I mean is, law firm’s have different ways of bringing a person in to the partnership. For example, many new “partners” are no more than glorified associates. They don’t begin to share in the profits until they have been a “partner” for several years.

                    Finally, regarding Price’s arrogant comment that Mr. Wone was “not partnership material”,give me a break. Price was a freakin’ trademark litigator. I could train a monkey to do trademark litigation in about 5 minutes. Here goes. Is there likelihood of confusion? Yes? Then your trademark is no good.

                    That f’in nerve of that arrogant jerk diminishing his supposed friend with that comment.

                    I have no doubt Mr. Wone was twice the attorney Price could have ever hoped to be.

                    PS Apologies to other trademark litigators who I may have offended.

          • chilaw79
            07/08/2010 at 9:01 AM

            Because of your snide remarks denigrating a firm doing pro bono work for a former colleague, when it was Joe Price who criticized Robert during a police interview after his murder.

            This is coming out of the mouth of Joe Price who presents one persona to Arent Fox and another to his “tres chic” friends while posting photos on his office computer in an act of narcissism.

          • Banshee
            07/08/2010 at 11:26 AM

            What a naive and narrow view of the practice of law and the term “partnership material.”

            “Partnershiop material” can be a derogatory term w/r/t the mind set/character of certain associates.

            You must realize that a large firm partnership track is only one of many career routes available to top graduates of top schools leading to “success.” In fact, many see it (read current associate surveys) as a dreadful choice in terms of quality of life, level and quality of legal work available to associates, meaningfulness of work.

            Mirabile dictu: Some successful associates, courted for partnership by a firm, actually choose to go elsewhere/do something else – better, faster, smarter. True.

      • bigfatmike
        07/08/2010 at 1:40 AM

        ‘working late for Radio Free Whatever and ending up dead’

        Even if Wone had remained at Covington, he might very well have worked late some night and asked to stay with his presumed friends on Swann Street.

        • Nelly
          07/08/2010 at 10:39 PM

          Probably not. The firm, like all big law firms, would have covered the cost of taking a taxi back home late at night.

          • Liam
            07/08/2010 at 11:08 PM

            I don’t mean to be contentious here, but I don’t think it was a cost issue, but a convenience issue. Mr. Wone surely was able to afford a cab back home on his own dime. I believe that he didn’t feel like schleping out to Oakton via cab at 10:30 at night and back again to DC via Metro at 6 or 7 am the next morning.

          • bigfatmike
            07/08/2010 at 11:40 PM

            Good point.

            But wasn’t transportation only part of the decision to stay in DC?

            Wasn’t part of the decision also based on appointments early the next day?

            Presumably a large law firm might have funded a hotel room under the circumstances.

            But given the choice between a stay in a hotel and a stay with old college friends, isn’t the choice to stay with old friends at least arguably a possibility?

            I admit I have a view on these things. I do not really see how one can blame the place of work for the chain of events that lead to this tragedy. I don’t think the future is determined or anything like that.

            But I do believe that so long as the Wone family remained in the DC area, one way or another Robert Wone would have found his way to that house and the trouple regardless of where he worked.

            Would anyone like to point out that I have not the slightest evidence for that belief – that this is wildest of wild conjecture. And I thought I had trained myself to be evidence based and faith free – oh well, maybe I will try again tomorrow.

            • Liam
              07/09/2010 at 12:21 AM

              I agree. I don’t think you can possibly blame the place of work for the chain of events that led to this tragedy.

              On a related philosophical note, I’ve wondered whether life is generally predestined or predetermined; or whether each individual different decision we make in life sends us down a different one of numerous paths that our lives could possibly take. I kind of think that although life is not predestined, individuals tend to direct themselves in a general direction that ultimately leads them to the same place, regardless of various different decisions they make in life.

      • Eagle
        07/08/2010 at 9:18 AM

        It was Joe Price who characterized Robert Wone as “not partner material”.
        I have not heard that characterization from any person connected with Covington.
        Who knows what was going on there. In fact, Robert was now financially able to move on to what he really wanted to do. He was therefore a personal success.
        Please do not use Joe Price, who specializes in denigrating his friends as a credible source.
        He is a two-timer. Ask Sara Morgan (his friend) . Remember what he had to say about her (his friend). He introduced her to the police as a grossly overweight woman- thus discrediting and denigrating her to the police and the whole wide world.
        Anything to make Joe look good.

        • CDinDC (Boycott BP)
          07/08/2010 at 8:54 PM

          Exactly, Eagle. I didn’t see your post until I posted the same comment.

          Joe needed to diminish Robert’s abilities to make his recent partnership promotion bigger and better.

          • Nelly
            07/08/2010 at 10:42 PM

            Sarah was pretty heavy, but I guess the point is that any normal person, talking to police, would not have found the need to put down his friend/tenant AND his friend who had just been murdered in his home. These statements show what an arrogant and weird person Joe is.

        • Bill 2
          07/08/2010 at 11:52 PM

          Sarah Morgan needs to be reminded about the way Joe Price thinks of her. She needs to hear that tape a few more times until she wonders why in hell she’s protecting anyone in that household. I firmly believe she left the house on August 2nd because she knew her presence wasn’t wanted that night.

          • AnnaZed
            07/09/2010 at 2:00 AM

            She also needs someone to point out to her that in the narrative as put forth by her so called “friends” that not one single momentary thought was given or expressed for her safety, no one asked her whereabouts (though Joe claims that he thought the chimes were her returning home) and even her beloved Victor under this version of things was far too “afraid to go downstairs” for his own safety to give her a moment’s concern.

      • CDinDC (Boycott BP)
        07/08/2010 at 8:51 PM

        If I recall correctly, it was Joe that said Robert wasn’t partnership material.

  2. slwapo
    07/07/2010 at 11:12 AM

    If the defendants lose the civil case, who gets first dibs on any income that they have – the defense attorneys or Kathy?

    • Daphne
      07/07/2010 at 12:29 PM

      Covington is representing KW pro bono. She’ll get the $$

      • chilaw79
        07/07/2010 at 12:41 PM

        Covington is the plaintiff’s counsel. They are working pro bono. If the issue is who gets paid first, the defense counsel or Robert’s estate, the answer is that the defense counsel are going to be paid as the matter is litigated and the estate is paid only if the case is settled or won. If the defendants have insurance, the insurance company is not going to go bankrupt paying defense counsel. Whether the insurance will actually cover the amount awarded is a separate question. To the extent the insurance is insufficient, the Estate will have a judgment against any defendant who is found liable.

        • Kate
          07/07/2010 at 1:20 PM

          Thanks for the thorough explanation, Chilaw.

          The costs of this are quite mind-boggling.

          The good news here on the home front – we’ve re-evaluated our own insurance and have decided we need more. A lot more.

          Lessons learned.

          Regards,
          Kate

  3. Rich
    07/07/2010 at 12:28 PM

    Dear Susan and Kate:

    Home from the Sleep Study. No more typos.

    Off of Lunesta today. Yippee.

    Fine drug, but, they were concerned about Sleep Walking.

    (Liability issues. Kinda like Patrick Kennedy story running into the capital at 3am. It was Ambien. Didn’t really happen that way, but, a good enough story to get him out of trouble.)

    Had a funny discussion with the Sleep Doc to get off of Lunesta.

    Told her I was concerned about, “Murdering an Overnight House Guest and Didn’t Want the Risks.”

    She was confused. 🙂

    • Kate
      07/07/2010 at 1:09 PM

      Hi Rich,

      Glad to hear about no more Lunesta – it seems to have quite a few side effects. Sleepwalking – not good! And highly addictive, as well?

      Stay cool and sweet dreams tonight,
      Kate

  4. Laura
    07/07/2010 at 12:55 PM

    Why did the prosecution agree to forego a jury trial? I haven’t seen a discussion of that anywhere.

    • chilaw79
      07/07/2010 at 1:03 PM

      I have not seen an explanation for the prosecution’s decision not to insist on a jury trial. One rationale might be that a judge might allow more evidence in if the case is being heard as a bench trial. Also, it may have given the prosecution a bit more flexibility on hearsay. The defense seemed to present a lot of motions to restrict the evidence that could be presented.

      The prosecution might have believed the judge would be pro-prosecution since the judge used to be a prosecutor.

      Another possibility is that the prosecutor just got sandbagged on this issue.

      • Clio
        07/07/2010 at 1:26 PM

        And, the previous Judge Weisberg was so pro-defense and seemingly disorganized that the efficient Bush appointee — Lynn Leibowitz — seemed to be more amenable to the government.

    • slwapo
      07/07/2010 at 1:48 PM

      I wonder about that too. Maybe they didn’t want the same result as the OJ trial, where it was a jury trial?

  5. Sandra
    07/07/2010 at 1:02 PM

    I just found this site last week and am still making my way through the archived posts and comments, but I have a few questions about Robert’s mouthguard. This is probably going to sound strange but is there anyway Joe would have known that Robert was wearing a mouthguard unless he was the one who put it in? I was reading posts from 5/21 and at 10:36 someone posted a comment that quoted Joe making reference to the “thing on his teeth,” which to me seemed kind of strange–how did he know there was something on his teeth? Was Robert’s mouth open? Are these mouthguards visible from the outside? …Just curious

    • AnnaZed
      07/07/2010 at 7:53 PM

      Sandra, welcome and thank you for this post, well noticed!

      I have struggled and struggled with this entire mouth-guard business from the very beginning; moving from “Robert must have been preparing for bed ~ his mouth-guard was in” to “the mouth-guard case was by the bed and a quick thinking conspirator slipped it in his mouth for verisimilitude” and then back and forth a few times.

      My boyfriend has one of those mouth-guard things to guard against his grinding his teeth to powder while he’s asleep (he’s not exactly mr. easy-going, ha!) and anyway, no, you can’t really see it without looking closely or if his mouth were to be hanging open. (As an aside I should mention to you “Robert was on the DL fans that putting in the mouth-guard for the night unequivocally means “no sex.” ~ just sayin’)

      As many times as I have read Joe’s statements for some reason this curious remark did not leap out at me as it should have. It is, as you say, a curious observation.

      • Alice
        07/08/2010 at 9:36 AM

        Good point about the mouth-guard meaning no sex. (I don’t think Robert was on the DL, someone would have come forward by now.)

  6. 07/07/2010 at 1:51 PM

    I’ve been obsessed with this case for the past week. My theory is that the death was an unintended consequence of some probably nefarious sex play. So, that theory was bothering me, then I had an aha moment…if that is true, and then a plan was developed to stab RW and make it look like an intruder, why wipe up blood on the floor and walls, etc. ? The report says (and was not used because of the mistakes of the MPD) that blood was detected on the floor, door frame and wall, that had been cleaned up. I also read somewhere that another theory is that each of the defendants did one stab thereby incriminating all of them so that they would all keep quiet to protect themselves.

    And, this is gross, but, were any of the sex objects and the electro thing swabbed and analyzed for RW dna?

    • Bill Orange
      07/07/2010 at 3:00 PM

      I think Joe Price said that Robert Wone’s head was tilted back, and his mouth was open, so he could see the mouth guard. And between not administering CPR and not applying pressure to Robert’s wounds, Joe would have had plenty of time to idly stare into Robert’s mouth.

      • AnnaZed
        07/07/2010 at 8:18 PM

        I hate to ever laugh when I’m on this site, but I occasionally do, and that post Bill O was funny.

        • susan
          07/07/2010 at 8:43 PM

          Bill O. Wasn’t J. Price also busy “wiping away blood because [he was] freaking out” as stated to his friend Tara Ragone? And then apparently leaving R. Wone alone to do the wiping up, etc, and disposing whatever he used to wipe up. Somehow VZ and JP left that out of their timeline to police. I hope their friends and family are reading now they will have the courage to ask them about this. I think it would be awful to have these kinds of questions and tamp them down due to fear of asking and more so, fear of the response.

          • Eagle
            07/10/2010 at 7:57 PM

            If I were a friend or family of VZ and JP, I would do nothing to rile them up.
            I would be scared to death of them- well, scared to avoid death.
            These are not nice people.

    • Carolina
      07/07/2010 at 7:13 PM

      I would suggest a good read through the site. It also has a search feature that is extremely good.

    • susan
      07/07/2010 at 8:24 PM

      Perhaps they were going to go with the theory that JP first reportedly told officer Diane Durham about finding a stabbed Mr. Wone by the back door. I honestly find her story too detailed to have been thoroughly in error but for some reason it never made it into the prosecution’s case.

      Also, the trio was supposedly a trio of neat freaks, so maybe they cleaned up….out of habit, and to preserve that home in the mercedes, etc., neighborhood. And perhaps they also cleaned up to clean up their DNA.

      • Jo
        07/08/2010 at 1:32 AM

        Any idea why Diane Durham was not called as a witness by the Prosecution? Unless they have reason to believe that she would not be a credible witness, why leave such a big inconsistency of JP’s statements out of the trial?

        • susan
          07/08/2010 at 7:57 AM

          Hi Jo,

          No idea. It has been speculated upon on this site, but I haven’t seen any answers (re Durham not testifying).

          • chilaw79
            07/08/2010 at 6:11 PM

            Although the report is supposed to state Durham’s observations at the scene, it is not a first-hand report. It was actually filed by another police officer on her behalf. I do not know why that would be true.

    • Liam
      07/07/2010 at 8:30 PM

      I too have wondered about the clean up and the enigmatic electrostim machine.

      I’ve always felt that, although Mr. Wone’s murder was NOT premeditated, the nefarious sex play (to borrow your apt description) that resulted in his death WAS premeditated. As a result, it seems clear that the three (or a subset thereof) would have been in deep trouble, regardless of the fact that the murder itself wasn’t premeditated. (I’m not a lawyer, but it seems that the penalty for causing someone’s death in connection with the deceased’s INvoluntary participation in some sex game would be almost as severe as premeditated murder.)

      The only way that the consequences to the person(s) causing the death under the scenario above would have been lessened is if Mr. Wone was a voluntary participant in the activities leading to his demise. I don’t believe he was a voluntary participant (but if he were, that would be difficult to prove).

      But I digress.

      Getting back to the clean up. I didn’t see the report that said that blood spots were actually found on the floor, door frame and wall, but that report is worthless because they screwed up the test.

      The administrators of the test for blood spatter (CSI) at least owe an explanation as to why, even though the test was f’ed up, it still allows then to say that they found blood. I’ve heard no such explanation. Similarly, I’ve heard no explanation as to why applying too much “Ashley’s Reagent” is completely fatal to the test.

      Finally, regarding the electrostim, I’ve read nothing to indicate that DNA tests were performed on it. Maybe DNA tests were performed, and nothing turned up. Maybe the accused cleaned the machine with, e.g., bleach (wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to clean such a machine thoroughly). Maybe no test was ever performed. I chose the latter.

      • Bill 2
        07/07/2010 at 8:54 PM

        Maybe there was more than one electrostim. Perhaps that and/or other sexual toys left with camera equipment, bloody towels, and a bloody playmat.

  7. Bill Orange
    07/07/2010 at 2:58 PM

    “The Wone murder has baffled law enforcement from the start.”

    No, it hasn’t.

    • Carolina
      07/07/2010 at 7:13 PM

      Ha! My exact words, spoken aloud.

      • AnnaZed
        07/07/2010 at 8:19 PM

        Ha! me to, right out loud!

  8. Rich
    07/07/2010 at 3:43 PM

    A theory I often heard as to why there was no jury was because the defense feared a jury would not respond well to a gay case or a three way or the discussion of so much sex related matters. Also they had confidence this judge would stick to the legalities of the case and not make an emotional

    decision

    • Q Mindora
      07/07/2010 at 4:20 PM

      I think that law permits only the defendant in a criminal case to waive trial by jury, since it is the defendant alone who has that constitutional right. The prosecution does not get to make this call.

      • whodoneit
        07/07/2010 at 4:26 PM

        The people (represented by the prosecution) also have a right to a jury trial and also have to waive. Presumably, the prosecution agreed to waive because it only takes one juror holding out to hang a jury. Getting one out of one to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is easier than 12 out of 12.

        • Carolina
          07/07/2010 at 7:14 PM

          You are correct, they must waive, and waive they did.

    • Liam
      07/07/2010 at 8:50 PM

      Okay, I’m confused. If the defendant has the constitutional right to waive trial by jury, then the prosecution should not be able to agree (or disagree) with that waiver, for then it is not a constitutional right.

      And, who said the people have a right to a jury trial? The accused has a right to a trial by a jury of his peers. Not the people.

      So, I’m gonna say (before I look it up on the Web and bypass the gobbledygook here) that I believe that it should be the accused’s right to chose whether they want a trial by jury or not. It should not be the prosecution’s right to approve any waiver of a trial by jury.

      So, now I look it up.

      and the prosecution can’t do crap about it.

      and

      • Liam
        07/07/2010 at 8:57 PM

        The following from Wikipedia: “In United States Federal courts, there is no absolute right to waive a jury trial. Per Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 23(a), only if the prosecution and the court consent may a defendant have a waiver of jury trial. However, most states give the defendant the absolute right to waive a jury trial.”

        Okay, I looked it up. The above is what I found. I was wrong because DC is federal. I agree with the law of most states. That is, “most states give the defendant the absolute fright to waive a jury trial.”

  9. chilaw79
    07/07/2010 at 4:26 PM

    In my idle moments today, I have been thinking about the statute of limitations (the time period in which a law suit must be filed) in DC. My recollection is that the defendants filed some sort of general response in the civil action that neither admitted or denied any of the plaintiff’s allegations. It is not clear whether this response asserted the statute of limitations. The general rule is that if the statute of limitations is not asserted as an affirmative defense, it is waived.

    In the District of Columbia, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death action is one year and the general statute of limitations for tort actions is three years. The District of Columbia does employ a discovery rule that can be used to extend the statute of limitations. Under this rule, the time period for filing a law suit may be deferred until the tort is discovered or should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence.

    The civil complaint alleges that the defendants fraudulently concealed the facts of Robert Wone’s death. The civil action was filed more than one year after Robert’s death, but within three years of his death. The law suit was begun about one month after Kathy Wone obtained more information about the criminal investigation.

    I could see another argument here from the defendants about the statute of limitations now that they have been acquitted on the obstruction of justice, tampering with evidence, and conspiracy charges. The tort/crime boundary is a slippery place.

    • CC Biggs
      07/07/2010 at 6:02 PM

      But highly unlikely when the judge’s writen opinion in the criminal case made clear her finding that it is “very probable” that the defendant(s) concealed material information about the killing.

      • chilaw79
        07/07/2010 at 7:43 PM

        The most similar cases I could find involve situations where a driver provides a false identity or address following an automobile accident. Obviously, Robert Wone was not in a situation where he could provide the details about his attacker. The ongoing police investigation and potential prosecution makes it extraordinarily difficult to conduct a parallel civil investigation. Once initiated, the grand jury proceedings are secret.

        It seems like the correct result to extend the statute of limitations, particularly if criminal conduct was concealed. The only alternative would be to name “John Doe” defendants.

        It still leaves me wondering whether Joe Price and Victor Zaborsky filed an insurance claim following Robert’s murder in their home and what details they provided to the insurance company.

  10. Clio
    07/07/2010 at 8:39 PM

    “Lawyers defending Price, Zaborsky and Ward in the civil suit did not return calls or declined to comment.” I guess that Craig and Frank do not share Bernie’s need to court the fourth estate. This situation does remind me of OJ: the criminal defense lawyers are/were showmen who got the acquittal against all odds, and the civil defense team are/were technicians who will have/had a harder time with the lower bar for culpability.

    • Bill Orange
      07/07/2010 at 11:01 PM

      I think this is going to bite Bernie in the ass in the long run. This was his “Barry Scheck” case. The judge all but said that his client got away with murder. As a defense lawyer, you don’t want juries to think that you’re the guy who helps people get away with murder.

      • Carolina
        07/08/2010 at 7:39 AM

        I don’t know how much of Scheck’s problem was the OJ trial and how much was that no matter what he wore, said or did, he felt like a snake oil salesman.

      • susan
        07/08/2010 at 8:04 AM

        Don’t remember his role in the O.J. case, but it seems like he’s pretty much redeemed himself (in terms of doing meaningful, decent work) with the Innocence Project.

      • Eagle
        07/10/2010 at 8:11 PM

        Unless you are a murdered.

        • Eagle
          07/10/2010 at 8:12 PM

          Excuse please- Unless you are a murderer.

  11. susan
    07/07/2010 at 9:07 PM
    • Clio
      07/08/2010 at 8:41 AM

      Did Keith fall asleep at the switch again? He has Sept. 20 as Brook’s date with the boys. I thought that it was Sept. 10. Dyl, take note for your next encounter with Mr. Alexander at Moultrie.

  12. Danali
    07/08/2010 at 1:09 AM

    After the disappointing conclusion of the conspiracy/tampering trial, it heartens me so very deeply to know that Covington is coming after the Trouple with full force- motivated solely by a desire to seek justice for Kathy and Robert.

    I’m so used to stories of deep-pocketed scumbugs with killer lawyers being able to get away with every kind of vice and venality. Its so nice to see an example where the big guns are coming to the aid of the helpless- and their deserving target is going to be on the receiving end of an absolutely epic ass whupping.

    Here’s to looking forward to seeing Dylan and Joe’s expressions after departing THAT courtroom.

  13. Ivan
    07/08/2010 at 8:18 AM

    I’m at a loss as to what “wrongful death” really means? How can someone be found guilty of wrongful death and why is it tried in a civil court rather than a criminal court.

    • chilaw79
      07/08/2010 at 9:05 AM

      “Wrongful death” is a separate tort (a legal claim premised on an wrong) defined by DC statute. It can apply in all sorts of situations. It simply recognizes that death is different, whether the cause is an accident or an intentional or reckless act.

      You are not found guilty; you are found liable.

      • Ivan
        07/08/2010 at 10:17 AM

        Thanks Chilaw but I still am at a loss. For example, I ask someone over for dinner. I prepare a meal with some sort of red meat. Unfortunately, it is fatty. The guest swallows a chunk of gristle. They begin to gasp – can’t breath. Gristle went down the trachea. I freeze – don’t know what to do. Person dies. Could I then be charged with wrongful death?

        • leo
          07/08/2010 at 10:39 AM

          It’s not a charge, it’s a civil lawsuit. I suppose the spouse of the guest could sue you for wrongful death if he/she could come up with a set of allegations to support your negligence. As you know, in our society, people sue each other all the time over anything.

        • chilaw79
          07/08/2010 at 11:20 AM

          There are dozens of reported cases involving people who choked on food, although most of them are brought against the food manufacturers or retailers for failure to post a choking hazard label on the food. You would not be charged by the police, just sued by the person’s spouse, partner, or parent.

          Wrongful death statutes permit a spouse or other individual to sue for the loss of future financial support. This is one reason why damage awards in wrongful death cases can be large.

          • Ivan
            07/08/2010 at 3:12 PM

            thanks to leo and chilaw.

            • chilaw79
              07/08/2010 at 5:28 PM

              Please make sure your guests cut and chew their food properly.

              • Ivan
                07/09/2010 at 10:33 AM

                Ha-ha-. I don’t cook so no worries here.

  14. Michael
    07/08/2010 at 9:08 AM

    When the editors post a headline like this, the lurkers come out to play.

    I could care less what Covington & Burling thought of Robert as a lawyer. They didn’t murder Robert; someone in 1509 Swann Street did. And now C&B is helping poor Kathy find out who’s responsible, free of charge. MAD PROPS.

    • Rick
      07/08/2010 at 10:45 AM

      Amen…Michael
      None of us know what kind of relationship Robert and C&B shared while Robert worked there. What C&B is doing in the aftermath of Robert’s death is what counts now~!

  15. suburban mom
    07/08/2010 at 5:04 PM

    I have it on good authority that A-Fox is SO over Joe Price.

    • Nelly
      07/08/2010 at 10:46 PM

      Thanks for the good news. I wonder if the same is true for that Alston & Bird partner who was in charge of Joe’s legal defense fund.

  16. swwrestler
    07/27/2010 at 1:31 AM

    Not every insurance case goes to trial. Most are settled out of court. There is a possibility that the defendants could settle this case, and have the terms of the settlement sealed ( not available ) to the public.

    • AnnaZed
      07/27/2010 at 1:41 AM

      How could it happen in this case though when the damages sought by far exceed the entire pay-out of the coverage? Do you think the defendants could scare up the balance? I understand that the Joe Price Defense Fund probably hasn’t raised anything near that amount.

Comments are closed.