Bernard C. Welch, convicted slayer of Washington cardiologist Michael Halberstam, has accused defense attorney Sol Z. Rosen of spending too much time pushing the literary and film rights to Welch's life story and not enough time properly preparing Welch's defense against the murder charge.
In a formal complaint of ineffective assistance of counsel, Welch also contended that he had to lie in response to questioning from Superior Court Chief Judge H. Carl Moultrie I during pretrial court proceedings under what he perceived as a threat that Rosen might be replaced as defense attorney.
Welch's accusations against Rosen were contained in a one-page, handwritten complaint filed Tuesday with the D.C. Bar counsel, which was released after Rosen waived confidentiality in the matter. Rosen also said that he intended to withdraw today as Welch's counsel, and welcomed an investigation.
"I guess he wants second bite at the apple," Rosen said in an interview. "I find the charges without merit. I have nothing to hide. I did nothing imporper."
Welch was convicted on April 10 by a D.C. Superior Court jury of fatally shooting Halberstam at the noted cardiologist's Northwest Washington home last Dec. 5. Welch also was convicted of burglary and larceny charges and a count of carrying a pistol without a license.
D.C. Bar Counsel Fred Grabowsky said yesterday that his office is investigating Welch's complaints and will seek a response from Rosen. The bar counsel's office investigates complaints against lawyers. If a complaint is found to have merit, the office can refer it for disciplinary action.
Welch's allegations include a complaint that Rosen failed to properly investigate his case and spent most of his time pushing Welch's book and movie rights instead of conferring with Welch about his defense.
Welch asserted in the complaint that Rosen "told me my life story was worth seven figures and the money would be put in trust for my children. He is the one who has been pushing my life story for his own gain."
"I never told him that," Rosen told a reporter. "He was the one who suggested the trust fund for his children."
Welch also alleged in his complaint that he "had to get on the stand and lie in front of Moultrie when my trial was going to start" or he would lose Rosen as his defense attorney, leaving him with another lawyer who would know "nothing about my case."
Welch's statement apparently referred to a pretrail hearing held before Moultrie, according to an informed source, in which Welch was asked whether any arrangement existed to pay Rosen's legal fees from the proceeds of a proposed book on Welch's life. Such an arrangement, if made with the lawyer's knowledge, might violate the Code of Professional Responsibility, the disciplinary rules that lawyers in Washington must follow.
Although Moultrie sealed the transcript of that hearing and neither Rosen nor the U.S. attorney's office has commented in the past on the proceedings, Rosen said yesterday that Welch had "never lied about anything" and had "misunderstood the questions" posed to him by Moultrie.
D.C. Bar Counsel Grabowsky said his office had subpoenaed and obtained a "contract purporting to pay Rosen $50,000 out of the funds obtained through trust arrangements from the sale of book publications." Rosen's signature does not appear on the document, Grabowsky said, and Rosen denied signing such a contract.
Moultrie eventually declared Welch an indigent and authorized Rosen to represent him and be paid with public funds under the condition that if Welch ever made any money, he woudl reimburse the government.However, Welch and his common-law wife, Linda Susan Hamiltion, face $24 million in tax liens filed by the Internal Revenue Service, as well as an $81 million civil lawsuit filed by Elliot Jones, Halberstam's widow.
Welch's complaint also alleged that Rosen failed to hire an investigator to secure witnesses on his behalf and devoted little time to Welch's defense. "He has only spoke (sic) to me for five minutes about my crime," he asserted in him complaint. "All the visits were about promoting a book or movie rights where he would be compensated for his legal fees."
Rosen contends that Welch's claim of one five-minute meeting about the case is "bull----" and that he visited Welch between six and 12 times in his D.C. Jail cell.
"We had a very good relationship during the trail," Rosen said. "In fact he thanked me at the end of the trail for doing a good job."