Federal prosecutors in Washington this week outlined a theory in the unsolved murder of lawyer Robert Wone, accusing the three men charged in the case of trying to cover up conduct that began with sex and ended in homicide.
Prosecutors said a court filing in D.C. Superior Court, published Feb. 15, that the murder investigation remains open. There is not enough evidence to say whether any one of the three defendants, Joseph Price, Victor Zaborsky and Dylan Ward, fatally stabbed Wone in August 2004, prosecutors said in the 13-page document (.pdf).
Zaborsky, Ward and Price, a former Arent Fox litigation partner in Washington, are charged with obstruction of justice, conspiracy and evidence tampering. Trial is scheduled for May.
The government’s filing gives notice to the defense attorneys that the prosecution, led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Kirschner, may try to prove uncharged crimes beyond what is alleged in the indictment. The government has alleged Wone was restrained and sexually assaulted, but has not charged anyone with those acts. Prosecutors say argument and evidence regarding the restraint, assault and murder of Wone is admissible.
Lawyers for the three defendants, who lived together in a rowhouse close to Dupont Circle in Northwest Washington, have argued in court and in filings that the government has no evidence to prove Wone was restrained and sexually assaulted.
It’s expected that the defense will challenge the government’s effort to introduce evidence tied to uncharged conduct and other crimes. Defense attorneys Thomas Connolly, Bernard Grimm and David Schertler were not immediately reached for comment this afternoon.
The evidence in the case, Kirschner argued in court papers, “overwhelming indicates” the killer is someone who is not only known to the defendants but who is also being protected by them.
“Given the sophistication of the defendants’ cover-up of the murder of Robert Wone, the evidence obtained to date does not yet establish beyond a reasonable doubt who actually killed Robert Wone,” Kirschner wrote. “Although the government investigation into the murder continues, there is ample evidence demonstrating the killer is someone known to the defendants, and not, as the defendants told the police, an unknown, unseen, phantom intruder” who entered the rowhouse without force and didn’t steal anything.
The injuries on Wone’s body, Kirschner wrote, are “extremely unusual and quite telling.” The prosecutor noted the lack of blood on the bed where Wone’s body was found and the three incisions into his chest. Wone, whose body allegedly showed no sign of a defensive wound, was “entirely unable” to fend off his attacker, the prosecutor said in court papers.
The prosecution said it may try to introduce evidence allegedly found in Ward’s bedroom. That evidence includes body harnesses, arm and leg restraints, wrist restraints, black hoods, blindfolds, neck collars and mouth gags. The government may also try to introduce photos “showing that some of this bondage and pain-inducing equipment was used by and on defendant Price.”
Also in Monday’s filing, the prosecution suggested that it might introduce evidence of “dominance, degradation, enslavement, electro-torture, etc.” Kirschner noted sex devices and books about bondage.
“One could argue that the ultimate in dominating another human being is the taking of that person’s life,” Kirschner wrote in the government’s filing. “There can be no doubt that Mr. Wone was dominated in the worst possible way: he was killed.”
In several footnotes, the government noted that it is not a crime to own any of the sex devices found in the Price and Zaborsky rowhouse or to have an interest in torture.
“Nor does the government contend that consenting adults who choose to engage in these practices are involved in misconduct of any kind, assuming no one is killed in the process,” Kirschner wrote.