The lawyers representing the family of murder victim Robert Wone oppose an outright stay of the civil wrongful death suit while charges are pending against the three men accused of crimes following the homicide.
Wone family lawyers at Covington & Burling filed papers in D.C. Superior Court yesterday calling the stay request too broad. Lawyers for the defendants, including David Schertler of D.C.’s Schertler & Onorato, say allowing the civil and criminal cases to proceed simultaneously violates due process rights.
Arent Fox partner Joseph Price, Victor Zaborsky, and their roommate Dylan Ward, are charged in criminal court with conspiracy, evidence tampering, and obstruction of justice following the August 2006 fatal stabbing of Wone. The civil suit, filed in November, adopts the criminal allegations. Price, Zaborsky, and Ward have pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges; their lawyers refused to admit or deny anything alleged in the civil case. A status hearing in the civil case is set for Feb. 27 before Superior Court Judge Brook Hedge.
Price, Zaborsky, and Ward “now seek to put off the day of reckoning still further, claiming that they cannot even answer Mrs. Wone’s basic questions about her husband’s murder without incriminating themselves,” Covington partner Benjamin Razi, representing the Wone family with associate Stephen Rodger, wrote in a brief filed Wednesday.
The Wone family, Razi said, does not oppose a temporary stay that would push back any deposition of Price, Zaborsky, and Ward. But the family is against any “blanket stay” of discovery. Wone’s widow has retained a forensic expert who should be allowed to review the same forensic evidence that is part of the criminal case, the family contends.
Third-party document subpoenas, Razi said in court papers, are ongoing. The subpoenas target the employers of the defendants: Arent Fox, the International Dairy Foods Association, and A.B. Data. The Covington lawyers are seeking e-mail communication among the defendants. Razi said in yesterday’s filing the production of documents “have yielded important evidence in support of Mrs. Wone’s claims.” Razi wasn’t immediately available for an interview.
Razi drops a footnote at the end of Wednesday’s filing that begins with “one final point.” Schertler, who represents Ward, sent a letter to Razi questioning him about an apparent private investigator in Florida who was allegedly misrepresenting himself as a lawyer for Ward. Schertler suggested the Covington team was up to no good. Razi fired back, calling the statement in the letter a “spurious claim” that was “curiously” filed with the court before it was delivered to Covington.