Prosecutor says Michael Price, brother of defendant, may have been Wone's killer
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Prosecutors have spent weeks building a case that three friends and housemates conspired to cover up evidence in the 2006 slaying of a Washington lawyer. On Tuesday, they said the younger brother of one of those men "may have been" the killer.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Kirschner also said the government does not have enough evidence to charge the brother -- or anyone else -- with the fatal stabbing of Robert Wone.
"I can't prove it beyond a reasonable doubt," Kirschner said in D.C. Superior Court.
Wone, 32, general counsel for Radio Free Asia, was killed Aug. 2, 2006, while spending the night at a friend's townhouse near Dupont Circle to avoid the commute home to Oakton after a late night at the office.
The housemates -- Joseph R. Price, 39, Victor J. Zaborsky, 44, and Dylan M. Ward, 40 -- told authorities an intruder entered the home at 1509 Swann St. NW through an unlocked back door and killed Wone, who was stabbed three times in the chest as he slept in a guest room.
But prosecutors allege that the trio, who have said they are in a three-way committed relationship, know who killed Wone and are covering for the killer or killers. Each is charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence.
In court Tuesday, Kirschner persuaded Judge Lynn Leibovitz to consider evidence that Price's younger brother, Michael C. Price, could have been the killer. If he was, Kirschner said, it would show that the defendants "had motive to cover up the true circumstances of this murder."
Michael Price is not charged with any crimes in the case.
Kirschner said prosecutors will present evidence that Michael Price, who has a history of substance abuse problems, had a key to the home and knew the code to the alarm system. They said that on the night of the killing, he missed a phlebotomy class he had been attending regularly.
Prosecutors also plan to present evidence of a confrontation between Michael Price and a homicide detective on the day of Wone's funeral. Price allegedly, in a profanity-laced rage, accused police of focusing on his brother instead of searching for the killer.
Prosecutors contend that the outburst shows Michael Price's "consciousness of guilt" -- a legal standard of evidence used to show how a person's actions after a crime reveal that person's involvement in the crime. Attorneys for the housemates argue that Price was simply standing up for his brother.
In addition, prosecutors said, several months after the killing, flat-screen TVs and other items were stolen from the townhouse, and the roommates suspected Michael Price. Prosecutors said the men initially delayed reporting the burglary to police primarily because Joseph Price insisted on protecting his brother -- a sign, prosecutors say, that the housemates protect those close to them.
But Kirschner acknowledged that authorities could not directly link Michael Price to the killing.
"Do you have any evidence whatsoever that would put him at the crime scene that night?" asked Leibovitz, who will decide the case without a jury.
"No," Kirschner said.
Kirschner also said Michael Price had an alibi. Michael Price's partner, Kirschner said, says Price was with him that evening.
Joseph Price's attorney, Bernie S. Grimm, argued that the judge should not consider evidence regarding Michael Price. "There is no evidence that Michael Price was even in the District of Columbia," he said.