The U.S. Attorney's office has asked D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge H. Carl Moultrie I to determine the details of an agreement accused murderer Bernard C. Welch says his lawyer made to accept his legal fees out of profits from a book that will detail Welch's life of crime, according to an informed source.
The U.S. Attorney's office declined comment on the matter yesterday, but Moultrie called a special hearing on the matter two days ago, a day after the arrangement was disclosed by Welch in an interview with The Washington Post.
Welch said that his lawyer, Sol Z. Rosen, had agreed to accept his legal fees from the proceeds of a book that will be written by a New York author. The Code of Professioanl Responsibility, which all lawyers in the District must follow, prohibits such arrangements, because the manner in which a defendant is represented by his lawyer at trial could be influenced. Welch, facing a charge of murdering physician Michael Halberstam, is scheduled to go on trial today.
Moultrie asked the participants at the hearing -- including Welch, Rosen, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexia Morrison -- not to discuss the matter with the press. A court transcriber and the judge declined to make a transcript available to a reporter. However, an informed source said the matter is important because of the possibility a higher court could reverse any potential conviction of Welch if it found he was denied a fair trial because of Rosen's connection with the book.
There also was discussion as to whether Rosen could take the case as a court-appointed attorney paid with public funds, which would preclude him from earning outside funds resulting from the Welch criminal case.
Welch denied at the hearing that he had disclosed the fee arrangement with Rosen, the source said. Because the Internal Revenue Service has placed millions of dollars of claims on Welch's assets and income, the arrangement was made to permit Rosen to obtain his legal fees from a trust fund set up for Welch's infant children, which would be paid any roualties on book sales. This also depends on the IRS not claiming the royalties as back taxes.