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Sexual assault may be dropped in Wone murder case

The lead prosecutor in the Robert Wone murder case startled courtroom
 spectators last



The lead prosecutor in the Robert Wone murder case startled courtroom
 spectators last week when he said the government would likely drop its theory that Wone was immobilized by a paralytic drug and
 sexually assaulted before being stabbed to death in the Dupont Circle
 home of three gay men.

The disclosure by Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Kirschner at 
a D.C. Superior Court hearing March 12 drew visible sighs of relief from 
defendants Joseph Price, Victor Zaborsky and Dylan Ward. Price gave a
 thumbs-up signal to his attorney, Bernard Grimm.

“This appears to be a major victory for the defense,” said D.C.
 attorney Dale Sanders, who practices criminal law in the District.

Sanders said that by withdrawing its earlier contention that Wone was
 sexually assaulted and drugged, prosecutors would make it easier for
 the defense to promote their own contention that an unidentified 
intruder killed Wone after entering the home of the three gay men 
through a rear door.

The men have been indicted on charges of obstruction of justice,
 conspiracy to obstruct justice, and evidence tampering in connection
 with the August 2006 murder. Authorities have yet to charge anyone 
with the murder itself. The trial is scheduled to begin May 10.

Kirschner told D.C. Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz that 
prosecutors were still considering introducing other evidence at trial 
considered highly controversial: a collection of S&M sex toys seized by 
police from Ward’s bedroom, which prosecutors have said was located
 across the hall from where Wone was found stabbed in a second-floor
 guest bedroom.

Wone, a prominent Washington attorney, was friends with the three men 
and spending the night at their home after working late in his
 downtown office, the men and members of Wone’s family have said. Wone
 was married to a woman, and his family members said he was straight.

Leibovitz said she had yet to see sufficient evidence presented by 
prosecutors to justify the introduction of the “devices” at trial. She 
noted that defense attorneys presented arguments as to why such 
evidence was not relevant to the case and how it would be prejudicial to the jury.

She directed prosecutors to file a motion before April 2 explaining 
their rationale for introducing such evidence and said she would rule
 on its admissibility at that time.

Leibovitz denied a motion by the defense asking the court to order
 prosecutors to release more details surrounding their evidence and 
theories in the case, saying the government has complied with all
 “discovery” requirements for informing the defense of its evidence.

Last week’s hearing followed a court motion filed by prosecutors in
 February seeking permission to introduce evidence at trial that Price,
 Zaborsky and Ward engaged in possible criminal conduct not 
identified in the charges pending against them. Some of the alleged
 conduct cited in the court filing pertained to the use of S&M-related
 restraining devices as well as devices used to administer electrical
 shocks to a person’s genitals.

“Are you planning to tell the jury that he was sexually assaulted, 
restrained,” that sex toys were used on him and he was injected with 
something? Leibovitz asked Kirschner.

“We’re moving away from the sexual assault proof,” Kirschner replied. But he said prosecutors still planned to offer some evidence that
 “restraints” were found in Ward’s bedroom.

In response to another assertion made by prosecutors in their February
 court filing — that “the killer is someone known to and being
 protected” by Price, Zaborsky and Ward — Leibovitz asked Kirschner,
” Do you plan to say one or all of these men killed Wone?”

“Not directly,” Kirschner replied.

He said prosecutors also plan to present evidence from the autopsy of
 needle marks on Wone’s body, including marks he noted the government’s
 medical experts would show were not made by emergency medical 
technicians who arrived at the scene and tried to revive Wone.

Kirschner disclosed at the hearing that he had submitted a letter to 
the defense earlier in the day, which he also filed with the court,
 saying that the government obtained new information from medical 
experts that appeared to raise doubts over whether Wone had been
 sexually assaulted or immobilized by a paralytic drug.

Authorities first raised that theory 
in a lengthy criminal complaint filed at the time police brought
 criminal charges against the three men for obstruction of justice and
 evidence tampering.

The complaint cited an autopsy finding showing that Wone suffered
 three surgical-like, clean stab wounds in the chest and abdomen that 
could only have occurred if he were lying completely still. The
 complaint, and subsequent arguments by prosecutors, claimed that a 
person being stabbed would be expected to recoil in pain or move in a
 defensive way, causing the wounds to be jagged or distorted.

Prosecutors said a paralytic drug must have been administered to
 Wone to render him immobile, but they acknowledged that the autopsy 
and subsequent chemical tests could not find traces of such a drug in 
Wone’s body. They argued that the type of anesthesia-like drug in
 question usually dissipates quickly and cannot be detected in tests.

But defense attorneys say in their own court filings that they
 would present expert witnesses to show that such drugs are detectable
 in tests, and the government’s inability to detect such a drug shows 
it was never administered.

According to prosecutors, the sexual assault theory was based on 
another finding in the autopsy that traces of Wone’s semen were 
found inside his rectum. The defense later argued that its own experts 
would show that the semen had no sperm cells, indicating it was 
secreted naturally by the body after Wone died, as muscles relax during 
the post mortem processes.

Sanders said that although the apparent decision by prosecutors to put aside their earlier sexual assault and paralytic drug theory is a blow to the prosecutors’ case, other evidence obtained against the three men remains significant and strong.

He noted, among other things, that investigators found traces of blood in the lint trap of the men’s clothes dryer and in a drain outside the house; findings by evidence technicians that someone cleaned the crime scene by attempting to wipe blood spattered near the body; and that the bloody kitchen knife that the men said they found near Wone’s body bore fibers from a towel, indicating to evidence experts that Wone’s blood was wiped onto knife blade by someone, with another knife likely used to kill Wone.

Authorities also have said Wone appeared to have been dead a significant period of time before Zaborsky called 911 to report a stabbing; and rescue workers reported finding very little blood on Wone’s chest and body, indicating that someone cleaned the body before police and rescue workers were called, according to the police affidavit.

“They won this battle, but the war doesn’t look good for them,” Sanders said. “You can’t lose track of the big picture, which doesn’t look good for these guys.”


Rehoboth Beach

Selling Rehoboth: Lee Ann Wilkinson wins prestigious real estate award

Longtime agent on beach prices, her LGBTQ allyship, and more



Lee Ann Wilkinson doesn’t see real estate prices coming down anytime soon at the beach. (Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

Longtime Delaware real estate leader Lee Ann Wilkinson of Berkshire Hathaway recently celebrated a major industry award after being named No. 1 in total sales volume for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Network. Wilkinson, a Blade contributor, centers much of her work in the coastal communities of Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. We caught up with her to discuss her long career in real estate, her LGBTQ allyship, and more.

Washington Blade: I learned your parents were in real estate, and you began working with them early on in your career. Did you initially intend to follow in their footsteps? 

Lee Ann Wilkinson: Not really. I majored in art. When I got out of college I couldn’t really find a job. So, my parents said, “You need to come work for us.”

Blade: I understand that as an art history major turned writer. Speaking of that: I know you have written some pieces for the Blade, about real estate trends, and the like. How do you pick your topics for these articles? 

Wilkinson:  People always want to know about real estate. Whether buying a first home, second home, a home to invest or retire in. It amazes even me how much interest there is. And it’s not just people looking to buy a $7 million home on beachfront property. It’s people looking to get something in budget for their family.

Blade: I know you have a lot of work in Rehoboth, the Delaware Valley’s historically gay beachside community. Was there ever a time you were NOT selling property to – I guess it was fair to say 40 years ago – mostly gay men? 

Wilkinson: Ha, I grew up coming down for the summer until my family moved here full-time from Norristown, outside of Philly. We had businesses and family in Rehoboth. I think Rehoboth has always been gay-friendly. We never thought about it. My grandfather had a house in Rehoboth before I was born. The gay population was always welcome.

Blade: Do you have a connection to the LGBTQ community beyond real estate? 

Wilkinson: Absolutely. One of my closest friends is a guy I went to college with at the University of Delaware, Joey. You know, Joey was maybe my first gay friend. In fact, we all went to the Easter Sunrise Service on the beach in Rehoboth. We have gay family members, so I have never thought that much about it being anything different.

Blade: I know you recently won a prestigious award with Berkshire Hathaway and were surprised to come in first place. Why?

Wilkinson: For the past 20 years or so we have been in the top 10. We started doing these national things with Berkshire Hathaway. To get in the top 10 was amazing to me especially going up against states like Florida, New Jersey, not to mention San Francisco or Bay Area agents. I just never thought we’d get to the number one spot. My only issue is — where to go now?

Blade: Where do you make your primary residence? Is that Lewes? Do you see the president on occasion? 

Wilkinson: I haven’t seen him at the beach. But he’s on the bike trail a lot. He pops up having breakfast. He goes to Mass at St. Edmond’s in Rehoboth on Saturday evening. But I’m often too busy with work on weekends to catch sight of him.

Blade: Having been in the industry 40 years, how do you find ways to get excited about your work? 

Wilkinson: I really am passionate about it. I really love a challenge. That’s part of the appeal for this job. I always like matching people with things. I really liked getting people the right bathing suits years ago. Selling, it’s just something I’m good at. I would get customers walking outta’ the store with three or four bathing suits when they only wanted one. 

Blade: Are you considering retiring in the next few years? Or will you always be associated with the industry on some level. Maybe as a mentor or silent partner? 

Wilkinson: Oh, no, I’ll always be involved. Three of my four daughters work for me. I am not retiring anytime soon. And if I did, they would be here to continue it on, and I am sure I’d weigh in.

Blade: So, this is very much a family legacy?

Wilkinson: Yeah. My parents are 87 and 91 now. Some 20 years ago mom predicted we’d see an increase in prices, people moving here, etc. I don’t know how she predicted it but mom is right.

Blade: Any current trends you’re noticing? 

Wilkinson: This cycle of people moving here, and prices increasing, and all the building happening. People think the prices are going to come down, but I don’t see that happening.

Blade: Tell me about that. Are the new building ventures changing the faces of Rehoboth and Lewes? After not visiting the Jersey Shore for over a decade I’ve been going the past few summers to my cousin’s place in Cape May. It’s a trailer on a nicely maintained campground and it’s what she can afford. And, there’s so much building happening there.

Wilkinson: Right? It’s about finding a second home you can afford. And, in terms of building projects, the good thing about Rehoboth and Lewes is they are strict on what you can and can’t build downtown. They aren’t going to tear down homes to build multi-family condos, not yet anyway. In Spring Lake, you are seeing townhomes. So, building is happening and we have some condos, but it’s great to not see “overbuilding” happening in these historically smaller cities.

To learn more about Ms. Wilkinson, or property in Sussex County, DE be sure to look for articles she publishes in the Blade and visit the Lee Ann Wilkinson Group website.

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Blum named director of new LGBTQ program at Carr Center

Program to expand research, training on safeguarding human rights



Diego Garcia Blum

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

Congratulations to Diego Garcia Blum on his new position as director, Global LGBTQI+ Human Rights Program, at the Harvard, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. This new program will expand research and training on safeguarding the human rights of LGBTQI+ people worldwide. It will address the escalating crisis of violence and discrimination against LGBTQI+ individuals globally. The vision is to establish the Carr Center as a key international nexus for LGBTQI+ human rights policy, training, ideas, and dialogue

 “The heart of this program is empowering and supporting the brave LGBTQI+ activists working in challenging and often perilous environments,” Garcia Blum said. “Through our training and high-impact research, we aim to supercharge their efforts.”

Prior to this, he has had a varied and impressive career. Recently he served as a Social Change Fellow at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership. He worked with the Human Rights Campaign, serving on its Board of Governors. Prior to that, he worked as a nuclear engineer at Orano, a French company. It is described as a global leader in nuclear fuel cycle products and services, from mining to dismantling, conversion, enrichment, recycling, logistics and engineering. He has won many awards for his work and education. The Innovation CORE award at Orano; The Dean Joseph Weil Leadership Award, University of Florida; Most Outstanding Master in Public Policy Student – Ellen Raphael Award, Harvard Kennedy School. 

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District of Columbia

Meet Jay Jones: Howard’s first trans student body president

‘Be the advocate that the child in you needed most’



Jay Jones (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Jay Jones was born to a conservative Christian family where she said being gay was not socially acceptable. This year, she was named Howard University Student Association’s first transgender president. 

When Jones was younger, she enjoyed activities that are traditionally “feminine.” She said she has always had a higher-pitched voice, talked with her hands and preferred playing inside with Barbie dolls. 

Jones came out as gay in eighth grade to her sister who said, “Girl, I been knew.” 

“I think that was very much a turning point year for me because it was a year where I kind of knew how I was feeling,” Jones explained. “There were emotions I felt ever since I was younger, but I never could put verbiage or language to it,” she said.  

That same year, Jones was elected as the first student body president of her middle school. She said that is where her leadership journey began and that year was pivotal in her life. 

When Jones won her first campaign as HUSA vice president, she was feeling unsure about her gender identity after she was asked which pronouns she wanted to use. 

“I said ‘I don’t really know because I don’t feel comfortable using he/him pronouns because I don’t think that expresses who I am as a person,’ but at that time, I don’t think I was to the point where ‘she/her’ was necessary,” she said. 

Outside of student government, she was part of a traditionally all-male organization at Howard, Men of George Washington Carver Incorporated. There, she said she always felt like the sister to all of her brothers. 

“I remember I would cringe sometimes when they would call me brother,” she said. 

Even though she felt like she aligned with she/her pronouns she said she was “scared” of what it could mean for her moving forward. 

She knew that her given pronouns were not a reflection of who she was but wasn’t sure what to do about it. She was talking with Eshe Ukweli, a trans journalism student who asked Jones a simple question that clarified everything. 

“‘If you were to have kids or if your brother or your sister or someone around you was to have kids, what do you imagine them calling you?’ and I realized, it was always ‘mom,’ it was always ‘sister,’ and it was always ‘aunt,’” she said.  

Jones still looks to Ukweli as a mentor who provides her with wisdom and guidance regularly.

“She knows what it’s like to do hormones, she understands what it’s like to be in a place of leadership and to be in a place of transition,” she said. “There is no amount of research, no amount of information, no amount of anything that you can take in, that could ever equate to that.”

In 2023, Jones’s junior year, Howard University was named the No. 1 most inclusive Historically Black College or University for LGBTQ-identifying students by BestColleges. 

Howard has a storied past with the queer community. In the 1970s, Howard hosted the first National Third World Lesbian and Gay Conference, according to a 1979 Hilltop archive. However, multiple articles in the ‘90s highlighted homophobia on Howard’s campus.  

“’There is the feeling … that by coming out there will be a stigma on you,” said bisexual Howard student, Zeal Harris in a 1997 Hilltop interview. 

As a result, multiple LGBTQ advocacy organizations were created on Howard’s campus to combat those stigmas. 

Clubs like The Bisexual, Lesbian, and Gay Organization of Students At Howard (BLAGOSAH) and the Coalition of Activist Students Celebrating The Acceptance of Diversity and Equality (CASCADE) were formed by Howard University students looking to create a safer campus for queer students. 

However, Jones didn’t know much about this community when she was entering Howard. She recognized Howard as the HBCU that produced leaders in the Black community, like Thurgood Marshall, Toni Morrison, and Andrew Young. 

“This university has something about turning people into trailblazers, turning people into award-winning attorneys, turning people into change makers,” she said. “I think that was one of my main reasons why I wanted to come here, I wanted to be a part of a group of people who were going to change the world.”

So, as she entered her junior year at Howard, she set out to begin her journey to changing the world by changing her school.

This school year she ran for HUSA president, the highest governing position on Howard’s campus. She said that this was the hardest campaign she has ever run at Howard and that she warned her team the night before election result announcements that she would start weeping if their names were called. 

“During the midst of that campaign season, I was in an internal kind of battle with members of my family not accepting me, not embracing me, calling me things like ‘embarrassment’ and not understanding the full height of what I was trying to do and who I was becoming,” she said. 

Jones said the experience was mentally draining and a grueling process but that she leaned on her religion to help her see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

“I’m a very devout Christian and for me, I was like, ‘It was nothing but God that got me through, it was nothing but God that got me through this,’” she said. “If people knew what I went through you would be falling on your knees and weeping too.”

Jones said that in high school she had to really work through her relationship with God because she was raised in a church that said gay people were going to hell. So, when she came out as a trans woman she had to re-evaluate the relationship she worked so hard to create with God, again.

She reflected and realized that God didn’t use the perfect people in the Bible but that he works through everyone. 

“So if God can use all of those people, what is there to say that God can’t use the queer? What is it to say that God can’t use trans people,” she said.

After she graduates next year, Jones hopes to work in campaign strategy. She said the ‘lesser of two evils’ conversation isn’t working anymore for Gen-Zers and wants to pioneer new ways for young voters to engage with politics. 

“Really working on engaging and mobilizing young voters on how to understand and utilize their power, especially as it relates to Black and Brown people,” she said. 

When she became vice president of HUSA last year she said she did it for for all the little Black queer children down South who haven’t gotten their chance to dance in the sun yet.

“If there was anyone ever coming in who’s trans, the No. 1 piece of advice that I can give you is, be the role model that the inner child in you needed most, be the advocate that the child in you needed most,” she said “And most importantly, be the woman that the child saw in you but was too scared to be.

Jay Jones (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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