Former employees, AIPAC spar over legal costs [pg.6]

By NATHAN GUTTMAN
December 22, 2005 00:45
2 minute read.

 
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The pro-Israel lobby AIPAC and two of its former employees who were charged with passing classified information to Israeli diplomats are in a bitter dispute over who should pay for the legal costs of the case. AIPAC is offering Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman $1.625 million to cover the legal fees, but the defense team is refusing to put a cap on the costs, which it estimates will reach $4m. Meanwhile, the lawyers representing Rosen and Weissman are not getting paid for their legal services. Last month, attorney Abbe Lowell, who is representing Rosen, wrote a letter to AIPAC's legal adviser that said: "AIPAC's decision to discontinue payments for legal costs threatens the outcome of the case." Informed sources said the defense team would have to scale back its defense and not put more attorneys on the case if they were not paid soon. AIPAC's offer of $1.625m. comes with a provision that would forbid Rosen and Weissman from suing AIPAC in the future. "Several months ago AIPAC made a very generous package offer to Rosen and Weissman to cover past and future costs of their defense," AIPAC spokesman Patrick Dorton said. "Both of the dismissed employees rejected AIPAC's offer on the grounds that they wanted to preserve their ability to sue AIPAC." Rosen and Weissman refused to waive their right to further action against AIPAC, expressing their disappointment about the way they were treated by their former employer. The Jerusalem Post has learned that Rosen and Weissman are not ruling out the possibility of filing a civil lawsuit against AIPAC, claiming the organization defamed them by accusing them of misconduct and thus infringed on their chances of being employed in the future. Another legal avenue being considered is suing AIPAC for not providing its workers with appropriate legal guidance on how to deal with classified information, informed sources said. Rosen's and Weissman's trial is set to begin April 25 at the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia. They are charged with communicating classified defense information they had received from former Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin to Israeli diplomats and journalists. At the time, Rosen was the policy director for AIPAC and Weissman served as its Iran specialist. According to the AIPAC bylaw, the lobby is obliged to cover the legal fees incurred due to actions of its employees while working for the organization. When the case broke out, AIPAC hired Abbe Lowell to represent Rosen and John Nassikas to represent Weissman, and signed a document declaring the organization would cover the legal costs. But the two defendants were fired from AIPAC last spring and the payments to their lawyers ended at that time. According to sources close to the defense, AIPAC had not paid advances to the law firms representing their former employees and the bill had already reached more than $1m. Sources close to AIPAC contradicted this claim and said the lobby had already covered a significant amount of the past legal fees. The dispute demonstrates the extent of mistrust between both sides, with AIPAC trying to distance itself from its former staffers, and Rosen and Weissman claiming every action they took was done in accordance with their job requirements and was meant only for the benefit of AIPAC.

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