Motion Denied

Judge rejects defense's request to dismiss two charges in Wone trial

A D.C. Superior Court judge rejected a motion to dismiss two charges against the three gay men facing charges in the death of Robert Wone, the 32-year-old attorney found stabbed to death on Aug. 2, 2006.

Judge Lynn Leibovitz said on Friday, Jan. 15, that she found the defense team’s request to dismiss conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges as “meritless.” The defense cited a lack of evidence in making the request.

Attorneys representing prominent gay attorney Joseph Price, Price’s partner Victor Zaborsky, and their former roommate Dylan Ward, filed the motion for the dismissal in November.

They argued that even if all of the 17 allegations for which the men have been indicted were true, including claims that they tampered with evidence, “the government has failed to allege actionable obstruction of justice or conspiracy to obstruct justice,” and the charges should therefore be dismissed.

Wone, Price’s college friend, was killed inside Price’s Swann Street home while all three defendants were inside. No one has been charged with murder in the case, and the defendants say an intruder killed Wone.

During the Friday status hearing, Leibovitz scheduled Feb. 5 for the prosecution to submit a “complete discovery” of its testing of evidence. She said that would provide the defense with enough time to respond before the trial begins in the spring.

The Jan. 15 hearing was Leibovitz’s first handling of the case since taking over from Judge Frederick Weisberg due to scheduling concerns. Attendees at the status hearing included Wone’s family, as well as the four local gay men who have maintained an analytical blog on Wone’s death, titled “Who Murdered Robert Wone?” (whomurderedrobertwone.com).

Reacting to the new judge shortly after the hearing, David Greer, one of the bloggers, said Leibovitz is “no nonsense.”

“She is extraordinarily well prepared,” Greer said. “She is on top of her game without being threatening. With Weisberg, I wouldn’t necessarily say he dillydallied, but you get the opposite with Leibovitz. She just absolutely came to make a decision today.”

In addition to Leibovitz’s decision to reject the defense’s motion to dismiss charges, the four friends who have maintained the Wone blog over the past 14 months say they found great meaning in the way the defense entered and exited the courtroom. Specifically that Ward and Zaborsky kept a distance from Price while entering and leaving. 

“In a lot of ways it comes down to reading tea leaves,” Craig Brownstein says. “You try and read what you can in these things — without reading too much into it — but it really seemed to stick out to the four of us.

“We’re just trying to war-game the possible permutations that if there is a growing alliance between Ward and Zaborsky, maybe we saw the first indications of it on Friday, of those two trying to separate themselves from Price.”

The next hearing in the Wone case is scheduled for March 12. Trial is set to begin May 10, 2010.  

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