Wone Trial Nears

Government shifts approach in its case against three gay men in three-year-old murder of a local lawyer

Inside D.C. Superior Court on a cold and rainy Friday afternoon, Kathy Wone’s gaze moved to the floor of the courtroom as two attorneys representing the United States government described what remains of her husband, Robert Wone.

”About three to four milliliters of blood,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Kirschner told Judge Lynn Leibovitz, adding that there are also some of Wone’s tissue samples stored in formaldehyde. According to the government’s toxicologist, neither sample is suitable for toxicology testing.

Three-and-a-half years ago, Robert Wone, a 32-year-old attorney living in Oakton, Va., was found dead from stab wounds inside the Swann Street home of his college friend Joe Price. Price, a prominent local gay attorney, shared the space with his partner, Victor Zaborsky.

No one, including the couple’s then-roommate Dylan Ward, has been charged with Wone’s murder. All three men, who claim an intruder killed Wone, face obstruction of justice charges for tampering with the crime scene. Their trial is set to begin on May 10.

Leibovitz’s main goal at the Friday, March 12, hearing was to wrap up any loose ends without postponing that date. The list includes motions brought forth by both sides to determine what new evidence may be presented at the trial.

Doug Johnson, one of the four local gay men who has been analyzing the Wone case on the blog ”Who Murdered Robert Wone,” attended the hearing and says he was taken by the defense’s interest in whether or not any of Wone’s urine sample remains.

”Why is that important? I don’t know if it would work this far out, but if you’re going to be testing for that one chemical agent, paracetamol-codeine, the most reliable test is urine,” he says.

”I thought it’s interesting that the defense was so keen on knowing if there were any urine samples. Clearly it’s something that’s on their mind.”

But Johnson says the big reveal of Friday’s hearing wasn’t details of what remains, but instead the government’s suggestion that it plans to move away from trying to prove that Wone had been drugged and sexually assaulted before he was killed.

”The prosecution is honing its case down, and what this means is after some years of hoping to try to get something that sticks a little bit more, is that they weren’t able to do it,” Johnson says.

”Now they are honing in on what they consider their strongest and most provable case, and that is conspiracy and evidence tampering.”

While the change in direction might seem like an advantage for the defense, Johnson says the government’s goal to prove that the three gay men know who killed Wone still carries great weight.

”They’re going to bring a case that they feel confident in, and it still carries 25 to 30 years potentially in prison.”

Despite the shift, the government plans on introducing new evidence, including sex toys and restraint devices found in the Swann Street home. Leibovitz responded by setting an April 2 deadline for the government’s motion to introduce new evidence, and added that the defense has argued why those items might be prejudicial to the jury.

The next status hearing in the Wone case is scheduled for April 5.

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