By Julio Menache
Late Wednesday afternoon in D.C. Superior Court, the defense made its pitch for the judge to immediately acquit three defendants charged with obstruction, conspiracy and evidence tampering in the stabbing death of lawyer Robert Wone. And the prosecution, having rested its case in chief just two hours earlier, argued the trial must go on.
After a midafternoon break while Judge Lynn Leibovitz read the pleadings, Robert Spagnoletti of Washington’s Schertler & Onorato argued for the defense.
Spagnoletti said that the alleged inconsistencies among the defendants’ statements to the police, highlighted by the prosecution, were not enough to show that they lied and that, in fact, the statements had the same “core” elements.
He said there was no evidence to show that the knife found near Wone’s body was planted and plenty of evidence to suggest that an outside intruder had been in the house the night Wone was killed. And he said defendants Joseph Price, Dylan Ward and Victor Zaborsky had no motive to hurt Wone or to cover up his murder.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel Lieber answered back. She pointed to evidence that blood was allegedly cleaned up at the murder scene. She said the defendants had 17 minutes between the time when a neighbor heard a scream from the house and the time they called 911 to launch a conspiracy to obstruct the investigation of Wone’s death.
And Leiber called the defendants’ story “inconsistent with the evidence.” She said, “You can tell it’s false.”
Judge Leibovitz had questions for both attorneys. Among other issues, she asked about the defendants’ alleged intent to hinder the investigation—whether they might have been unaware of certain facts when they spoke to the police as opposed to knowingly lying to law enforcement.
Leibovitz ended the hearing at about 5 pm. She said that she planned to review the pleadings further overnight and that the lawyers could raise further arguments on Thursday if they wished. The case is scheduled to reconvene at 11 a.m. Thursday.