A partner at a prominent Washington, D.C., law firm and his domestic partner pleaded not guilty today to obstruction of justice charges in connection with the two-year-old unsolved murder of a friend who was found dead in their Dupont Circle townhouse.
Joseph Price, a partner at Arent Fox, who is now on administrative leave from the firm, and Victor Zaborsky, were arraigned and released without bail today, on the condition they wear ankle bracelets, according to people at the hearing. Dylan Ward, their former housemate, was arrested three weeks ago in Florida and is expected to appear in court in Washington, D.C., next week, said his lawyer David Shertler.
According to court records, police believe Price, Zaborsky and Ward, who had lived together, altered crime scene evidence and lied to police on the night of the Aug. 2, 2006, stabbing death of Robert Wone. No one has been charged with killing Wone and all three men have denied involvement in his death and the alleged cover-up.
"I firmly believe in the innocence of these three men," said Shertler. "We are going to fight the charges and prove their innocence."
Lawyers for Price and Zaborsky, Bernard Grimm and Thomas Connolly, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Wone's body, stabbed three times in the chest, was found in bed in the guest room of the house, according to a police affidavit filed with Ward's arrest warrant.
Wone was "restrained, incapacitated, sexually assaulted, and murdered," the affidavit stated. "There exists overwhelming evidence" that Price, Zaborsky and Ward planted evidence, altered the crime scene and lied to police about Wone's death, according to the court papers.
The three men have said they believe an intruder broke into the house and killed Wone while they slept, according to court records. The men have hired prominent Washington attorneys to represent them.
Wone, 33, and Price, 37, met as undergraduates at William and Mary College and remained close friends. Wone had recently become general counsel at Radio Free Asia. He planned to work late on the night of his death and had arranged to spend the night at Price's house, which was near his new office.
Price and Zaborsky are domestic partners. At the time of the murder, Price was also involved in a sexual relationship with Ward, according to police documents. The affidavit states that Wone was straight, happily married and had no sexual involvement with any of the three men.
Investigators were immediately suspicious of Price, Ward and Zaborsky, the affidavit says. The men allegedly appeared calm and barely spoke to paramedics when they first arrived, according to the police report. Their behavior, one paramedic told police, made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.
Wone's body was lying in bed in a room "remarkably neat and free of disorder" and it appeared his body had been "stabbed, showered, redressed, and placed in the bed," one paramedic observed.
According to the police affidavit, the medical examiner found that Wone had recent needle marks on his neck, chest, foot and hand. He had no defensive wounds and the stab wounds were clean and "perfect," with no defects, implying that Wone was unconscious and unable to resist when he was killed, according to the police report.
The affidavit says that toxicology tests on Wone's body were negative, but that investigators did not test for various incapacitating and paralytic drugs.
A bloody knife, found on the nightstand next to Wone, which Price allegedly told police he had moved from Wone's body, was inconsistent with Wone's wounds, police say. They believe the murder weapon was more likely a knife that was allegedly missing from the kitchen.
Paramedics found little blood near Wone's body and said it appeared that someone had cleaned the area around his stab wounds and wiped down his body with a towel. The medical examiner also found evidence that Wone may have been suffocated. A police dog that detects blood later searched the house and "alerted" at the dryer and at a drain in the house's backyard, according to the affidavit.
The report says it is more likely that Wone's blood was smeared onto the knife found next to his body with a towel.
Shertler said the affidavit was "filled with a lot of speculation and innuendo."