Lawyers for three defendants in a wrongful death suit stemming from the murder of Washington attorney Robert Wone have asked a judge to ban the attorneys in the case from speaking publicly about the litigation.
The defendants, former Arent Fox partner Joseph Price and two roommates, Victor Zaborsky and Dylan Ward, are accused in D.C. Superior Court of covering up the Wone homicide in August 2006. Price, Zaborsky and Ward lived together in the Northwest Washington home where Wone was fatally stabbed.
Following a month-long bench trial on charges that included conspiracy and obstruction of justice, Price, Zaborsky and Ward were acquitted earlier this year. The authorities have not brought a murder charge in the case. None of the defendants testified in the criminal prosecution, and in the civil arena each of the men has refused to answer interrogatories from the attorneys representing Wone’s widow.
The defense lawyers for the three men said they want a gag order to minimize the risk of tainting the jury pool. The plaintiffs’ attorneys, who include Benjamin Razi, a Covington & Burling partner in Washington, are planning to challenge the defense request for a gag order.
The attorneys base their request in part on a comment that a plaintiffs’ attorney, Patrick Regan, made to reporters last month following a hearing in the civil suit. Regan of Washington’s Regan, Zambri & Long told reporters, at the end of the hearing and outside the courtroom: “Defendants do not assert their Fifth Amendment rights if they are not guilty of something,” Regan said.
The attorneys for Price, Zaborsky and Ward—including Craig Roswell, David Schertler and Frank Daily, respectively—said in a joint filing Oct. 8 that Regan’s comment was “patently incorrect” and that it will only serve to poison the jury pool.
“There was no legitimate purpose for making such a statement,” the defense lawyers said in the filing. The attorneys said the assertion of the defendants’ Fifth Amendment right “should not be used by the plaintiff’s counsel to influence jury selection through the press more than a year before the trial is scheduled to begin.”
In the request for a ban on public comment on the case, the defense lawyers did some homework on Covington & Burling. The defense attorneys said in a footnote that “one would expect” Covington, which maintains a large white-collar criminal defense practice, to take issue with Regan’s remark about the Fifth Amendment.
The lawyers for Price, Zaborsky and Ward include as exhibits the gag orders that Judge Reggie Walton of Washington federal district court issued in the Scooter Libby criminal prosecution and in civil litigation involving security contractor Blackwater. More recently, Walton issued a gag order in the perjury case against baseball star Roger Clemens.