D.C. police filmed statement by defendant charged in coverup of lawyer's killing
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Sitting in a small, windowless room, Joseph R. Price, one of the men charged with covering up the killing of Washington lawyer Robert Wone, repeatedly tells detectives that neither he nor his two housemates were involved in the slaying, as seen on a police video that was played at the three men's trial Monday.
The interview took place in the middle of the night at the violent crimes branch of the D.C. police department, just a few hours after officers and paramedics had been called to 1509 Swann St. NW late on Aug. 2, 2006.
On the tape, Price, wearing a blue dress shirt with half of it tucked into his dark pants, is sitting in a corner next to a desk between two detectives. At times he sips on a bottle of soda and checks his BlackBerry.
In court Monday, Detective Sgt. Daniel Wagner told D.C. Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz that police do not routinely videotape witnesses while they make statements. But he said that during questioning, police thought Price's "story wasn't adding up," so they did.
Prosecutors have charged Price, 39, and housemates Dylan M. Ward, 40, and Victor J. Zaborsky, 44, with tampering with evidence, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. They face a maximum of 38 years in prison if found guilty on all counts. Testimony in the trial began last week.
In the 34-minute taped interview, Price tells detectives how Wone arrived at the men's million-dollar townhouse shortly after 10:30 p.m. Aug. 2, 2006, after working late at his job as general counsel at Radio Free Asia. He went there to avoid commuting home to Oakton, Price said.
The men stood in the kitchen, Price says on the tape, talking and drinking wine. Shortly before 11 p.m., everyone decided to go to sleep. Wone, 32, who was staying in a guest room on the second floor, said he was going to take a shower. Price and Zaborsky went to their third-floor bedroom. Price later watched a show on Spike TV, turning off the TV about 11:10 p.m.
Minutes after turning off the TV and falling asleep, Price says, he woke up after hearing the chime triggered on the back door. Minutes later, he and Zaborsky heard loud grunts coming from the second floor. The two men went downstairs, where they saw Wone's body on a pullout bed. A knife was on Wone's stomach, and there was blood. Wone had been stabbed three times in the chest.
Price says he moved the knife and lifted Wone's T-shirt. "There was a lot of blood on his chest," Price tells the detectives.
The house's alarm did not go off because the men never set it at night when they're home, Price says.
After finding Wone's body, Price says, he told Zaborsky to call 911. Records show Zaborsky made the call about 11:49 p.m. Ward, Price said, remained in his bedroom. "I don't think he heard the chime," Price said.
Price repeatedly tells detectives that the three men are innocent and that Zaborsky asked the 911 operator what time it was when he made the call, a move prosecutors found suspicious.