AIPAC reached a deal with lawyers for its former Iran analyst, Keith Weissman, to pay for his defense against Espionage Act charges.
"AIPAC is fully paying for Keith Weissman's defense through appeal if necessary," a source close to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee told JTA on Saturday. Sources close to the defense confirmed the deal. Spokesmen for Arent Fox, the law firm representing Weissman, could not be reached over the weekend for comment.
No such deal has yet been achieved with Abbe Lowell, the lawyer for Steve Rosen, AIPAC's former foreign policy chief who faces trial along with Weissman on charges that they dealt in classified information.
Arent Fox accepted a deeply discounted package, sources close to the defense said - as little as half of what its lawyers said was owed them. Critically, however, Weissman retains his right to sue AIPAC if he is acquitted or if charges are dismissed.
Parallel negotiations between Lowell and AIPAC have apparently been complicated by Lowell's recent move from the law firm of Chadbourne Parke to McDermott Will and Emery.
The case, alleging that Rosen and Weissman dealt in classified information about Iran, first came to light in August 2004, when FBI agents raided AIPAC offices. AIPAC at first strongly supported Rosen and Weissman, but fired them in March 2005, cutting off fees for their defense a few months later; it subsequently made a number of offers to resume payment contingent upon the defendants' giving up their right to sue AIPAC.
The federal judge in the case, T.S. Ellis III, last week rejected the defense's dismissal motion that argued that government pressure on AIPAC to fire the two men was unconstitutional. Ellis ruled that the men's constitutional right to a legal defense had been met because their lawyers continued to serve despite the non-payment of fees.
However, Ellis accepted the defense's claim that the government had pressured AIPAC, something the pro-Israel lobby has always denied; Ellis blasted the pressure as "obnoxious." He also affirmed that AIPAC had a contractual obligation to advance legal fees for the defendants.
Rosen and Weissman were indicted in August 2005; a firm trial date has yet to be set.