Three men have waived their right to a jury trial on charges that they obstructed the investigation into the unsolved death of Washington lawyer Robert Wone.
The fate of defendants Joseph Price, Dylan Ward, and Victor Zaborsky will now be in the hands of the judge presiding over the case, D.C. Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz. A bench trial is expected to begin Monday, and lawyers said it would likely last perhaps half as long as the month or so that a jury trial would have.
Jury selection was scheduled to begin today. The three are charged with obstruction, conspiracy, and evidence tampering in connection with Wone's death at a house where the three defendants lived. Price and Zaborsky are domestic partners.
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In a hearing this afternoon, Thomas Connolly of Wiltshire & Grannis, who represents Zaborsky, said he and his client had discussed the possibility of a bench trial for about a year. David Schertler of Schertler & Onorato, who represents Ward, said in court that “a variety of factors” contributed to the defendants’ final decision, though he did not identify the factors in court and declined to do so after the hearing.
Prosecutors did not object to the proposal for a bench trial. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Glenn Kirschner and T. Patrick Martin are handling the case.
Leibovitz pressed the defendants and their lawyers about whether media attention was a major factor in the decision. Any potential taint from the coverage could be lessened by time or by thorough juror screening, she suggested, but Connolly said the attention was not a major factor.
Each of the defendants answered a series of questions from Leibovitz to ensure they understood the extent of what they were giving up, and they each signed a waiver form. Price, a former Arent Fox partner, is represented by Bernard Grimm of Cozen O’Connor.
Leibovitz did not rule on several outstanding disputes about the admissibility of certain evidence, leaving the issues to be handled during the trial.