Charges in Wone slaying based on sexual orientation, defense attorneys say

Robert Wone was found dead in a Northwest D.C. townhouse in August 2006. The three defendants who were charged with conspiring to cover up his death were found not guilty on June 29, 2010. No one has been arrested in his slaying.
By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Police and prosecutors charged three men with conspiracy in the Robert Wone homicide case because of their sexual orientation and their nontraditional relationship with one another and not based on any evidence, defense attorneys argued on the opening day of the trial.

The three main defense attorneys spent 90 minutes Monday telling a D.C. Superior Court judge that federal prosecutors have wrongly charged their clients with covering up Wone's 2006 fatal stabbing.

Instead, they told the judge, an unknown intruder climbed a seven-foot fence and came through the back door of the trio's Dupont Circle townhouse the evening of Aug. 2, 2006, when Wone, 32, was staying there, and stabbed him to death as he slept in a guest room. The attorneys argued that their clients had nothing to do with Wone's killing and have cooperated with police.

Joseph R. Price, 39, Victor J. Zaborsky, 44, and Dylan M. Ward, 39, were charged in 2008 with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence. They face a maximum of 38 years in prison if found guilty on all counts. No one has been charged with killing Wone.

Wone, a Washington lawyer who worked as general counsel for Radio Free Asia, was a college friend of Price's, and Price allowed Wone to spend the night after a long day at work so he wouldn't have to return to Oakton.

Defense attorneys said the three men, who are gay, are in a committed, three-way relationship and refer to themselves as a "family." It was that relationship that made police and prosecutors suspect they were involved in Wone's slaying, the attorney said.

"The police got mired and infatuated in a theory based on ignorance. Why is a straight man coming to the house of a gay man?" Price's attorney, Bernie Grimm, told Judge Lynn Leibovitz. Last week, the defendants opted against a jury trial, leaving Leibovitz as the sole arbiter of their fate.

The attorneys outlined for the judge how Price and Wone had been friends since their undergraduate college days at the College of William and Mary, how Price organized Wone's 30th birthday party at his home, and how the men, along with Wone and his wife, Katherine, had often socialized together.

"There is no reason Mr. Price would hurt his friend or let somebody hurt him and cover that up," Grimm said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Kirschner said the case has nothing to do with lifestyle. He argued that the men not only know who killed Wone but are also covering up for the killer and that their loyalty to one another has kept them quiet. "They consider themselves a tight, cohesive family. Sadly, Robert Wone was not a member of that family," Kirschner said.

The men were the only ones in the house at the time of the stabbing, and there was no sign of a break-in.

"In the short term, these men have gotten away with it. The murder has not been solved," Kirschner said.

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