Video of defendant Victor Zaborsky's questioning played at Robert Wone trial
Thursday, May 27, 2010
One of the men who were at their Dupont Circle townhouse when lawyer Robert Wone was killed offered a slightly different version than his two housemates of the events on the night in 2006 when the men say an intruder entered their house and stabbed Wone to death.
In an interview with detectives hours after the killing, a videotape of which was shown during the trial Wednesday, Victor J. Zaborsky, 44, one of the housemates charged with conspiracy for allegedly covering up the circumstances of the killing, said he and his partner, Joseph R. Price, 39, were asleep in their third-floor bedroom when they heard screams coming from the floor below shortly after 11 p. m.
"I woke up to screams, and Joe and I jumped out of bed. We heard another loud scream, and we ran down the stairs," Zaborsky said in the videotape.
When the two men got to the second floor, Zaborsky said, he started screaming after they saw Wone lying on the bed. Price told him Wone had been stabbed, he said, and "I was hysterical."
Zaborsky said Price told him to call 911.
It was during this time, Zaborsky said, that he heard the burglar-alarm chime on the back door go off. "When I screamed, I thought I heard the door chime, but I didn't see anybody," he said.
Zaborsky's narrative differed slightly from Price's. In a separate police video interview shown in court Monday, Price told another detective that he woke up to the door chime while Zaborsky was asleep. Price then said he and Zaborsky heard loud grunts coming from downstairs and then they got out of bed, went downstairs and discovered Wone's body.
In the video, Zaborsky appeared much more agitated than Price and the other housemate, Dylan M. Ward, 40, did in their separate interviews. Zaborsky's voice trembled, and at times he rubbed his forehead.
The three men are charged with tampering with evidence, conspiracy and obstruction of justice in connection with Wone's killing on Aug. 2, 2006. They face a maximum of 38 years in prison if found guilty on all counts. The men say an intruder must have climbed over their nine-foot fence, came into their house in the 1500 block of Swann Street NW through an unlocked back door and stabbed Wone three times in the chest as he slept.
Wone and Price, longtime friends, had arranged for Wone to sleep at the house after he worked late that evening on his job as general counsel for Radio Free Asia. Wone lived in Oakton with his wife, Katherine.
Zaborsky detailed how he had flown in from Denver that day, joined Price at a gym, and returned to the house for a grilled steak dinner and a bottle of wine with Price and Ward. As the evening wore on, he told detectives, he watered plants outside, brushed his teeth, took a Sudafed to help him sleep and got into bed to watch "Project Runway" until Price joined him in the bedroom to watch the show.
Zaborsky said he did not know Wone was staying over at the house until he saw Ward making up the pullout bed in the room next to Ward's. After he and Price found Wone dead, Zaborsky said, he did not see Ward emerge from his bedroom until Zaborsky called the 911 operator calling for help.
Detective Dan Lewis, like the other detectives who interviewed the men early on the morning after Wone's death, appeared skeptical of Zaborsky's story. "It would be easier for me to believe Robert did that to himself, than an intruder coming in," Lewis said.
In a separate interview filmed about an hour later, Detective Bryan Kasul confronted Zaborsky and demanded the truth. At times, Kasul moved closer to Zaborsky, who was visibly shaken. Kasul then warned Zaborsky of his fate if he didn't cooperate.
"You do not want to go to jail. You will not last in D.C. jail. Those boys will eat you alive," Kasul said.
As the tape played, Zaborsky wiped away tears, as he did when prosecutors played his 911 call last week, and often avoided looking at the screen.
Later, a frustrated Judge Lynn Leibovitz, who at the defendants' request will decide the case without a jury, scolded the three-person prosecution team. The judge said prosecutors failed to disclose to her and defense attorneys which comments made by the defendants during their police questioning the prosecutors had planned to introduce as evidence. They should have done so before the trial started, she said.
"I don't have the patience for this right now," she said. "Somebody is going to stay up tonight, and it won't be me or the defense, and I want line by line what you plan to offer. You are not going to decide your trial strategy now, two weeks into the trial."