Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bernard Welch and Terrorism: The 2004 Verdict that Helped Cut Off Financing for Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Other Terrorist Organizations from U.S.-based Groups

In the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, terrorists were killing Americans in the Middle East. People were suing and winning large judgments against governments, such as Iran and Libya, whose sponsorship of terrorism and terrorist organizations, such as the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Hamas, had previously been ignored. The leaders in foreign lands seemed to have an immunity from the world’s courts, that is until a father and daughter legal team, Lewin and Lewin of Washington, D.C., reviewed the case of Halberstam vs. Hamilton.

In Halberstam vs. Hamilton, a case that went all the way up to the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia in 1983, the court upheld a lower court decision that Linda Hamilton was, indeed, a co-conspirator and in a joint venture with her criminal lover, Bernard C. Welch. Though she was not at the scene of the murder of Dr. Michael Halberstam, it was determined she had knowledge of her partner's illegal activities, helped make those activities possible, and shared in the rewards.

This was the principle that Lewin and Lewin applied to their civil case, in which 17-year-old Brooklyn-born David Boim was murdered by Hamas in Israel, and his parents were suing. In this case, Lewin and Lewin named not only Hamas, but also its American-based support group. There were large donors, banks that held and transferred money around the world, and the financers who managed the funds. The people and organizations that gathered, controlled, and moved the donations claimed the money was going only to Middle East charities. The court found that these organizations had knowledge of what type of outfits the PLO and Hamas were and what the funds would really be used for.

This 2004 case, and the $156 million verdict, was the largest U.S. civil suit awarded that year. It dealt a crippling blow to terrorism supporters in America, drying up funds and support for Hamas and other terrorist organizations. This court decision is still being cited to combat the funding of terrorism. And it all happened because Elliot Jones Halberstam, “as the personal representative of the estate of Michael Halberstam, brought a wrongful death and survival action for damages on behalf of the estate, Michael Halberstam’s two children, and herself,” according to court documents.

The Story Behind This Significant Ghost Burglar Legal Decision

In late 1981, Elliot Jones Halberstam, individually and as administratrix of the Michael Halberstam estate, sued Bernard C. Welch and Linda Hamilton in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. During the trial, Ms. Hamilton testified that her common-law husband, Bernard Welch, had given her $1.1 million in 1978 and 1979, stating it came from his investments in stocks, real estate, and coins. She also testified that she filed income tax returns for everything he gave her and she believed their income came from legitimate sources. The tax filings were her attempt to prove that she had acted legally and was not a party to Welch’s crimes. The plaintiff produced a receipt for a $74,000 payment for gold and silver sold to a California refinery in April 1980 to illustrate the extent of the Welch-Hamilton operation.

On cross-examination, Ms. Hamilton stated all the money she was given by Welch had been spent or attached by the IRS. She said she was unemployed and her Virginia home had been foreclosed and stood vacant. Now she lived in a small rental house and had filed for public assistance but was rejected because she still owned a late-model Mercedes. She also stated that her Duluth, Minnesota, home was also foreclosed by the bank and remained unsold.

At the end of the civil trial, U.S. District Court Judge Aubrey E. Robinson Jr. ruled that the estate of Michael Halberstam should be awarded $5,715,188.05. He said the shooting of Dr. Halberstam was “deliberate, willful, unlawful, and malicious.” Of the $5.7 million, Elliot Halberstam was granted $123,488, the remainder was to go to Dr. Halberstam’s two teenage sons from his first marriage.

Bernard Welch failed to answer the civil charges and a default judgment was entered against him. Linda Hamilton was considered by the court as a “willing partner in his (Welch’s) activities." The court transcript reads that Hamilton “knew full well the purpose of his evening forays and the means by which she and Welch had risen from rags to riches in a relatively short period of time. She closed neither her eyes nor her pocketbook to the reality of the life she and Welch were living.” The judge also noted that after Welch smelted down the gold and silver, Linda typed the transmittal letters for the sales. “The conclusion is inescapable that she…was compliant, but neither dumb nor duped, so long as her personal comfort and fortune were assured. She was a willing partner in his criminal activities…. She had guilty knowledge and knowingly and willingly assisted in Welch’s burglary enterprise.” Hamilton was, therefore, “vicariously liable” for Dr. Halberstam’s murder. Between the IRS, this civil judgment, other judgments and liens, Linda Hamilton now owed almost $13.5 million.

Justice Antonin Scalia Was Among Appeal Court Judges Who Ruled on the Case

Antonin G. Scalia, the longest-serving 
Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, 
was among three judges to rule on the
appeal of this important case.
In 1982, Linda Hamilton appealed this decision, but Bernard Welch did not. He had been sentenced to serve 143 years in prison, so for him the point was moot.

In April 1983, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed the lower court’s decision. The three judges sitting for the civil trial appeal were the Honorable Antonin G. Scalia, who would become an Associate Supreme Court Justice, the Honorable Robert H. Bork, who would be a Reagan nominee for Associate Supreme Court Justice, and the Honorable Patricia M. Wald. In her Opinion for the Court, Chief Judge Wald stated that Linda Hamilton was civilly liable as a “joint venturer and co-conspirator” for the killing, even though she was not present at the crime. The murder of Michael Halberstam was “a natural and foreseeable consequence of the activity Hamilton helped Welch to undertake. It was not necessary that Hamilton knew Welch was committing burglaries. Rather when she assisted him, it was enough that she knew he was involved in some type of personal property crime at night...whether as a fence, burglar, or armed robber made no difference – because violence and killing is a foreseeable risk in any of these enterprises.”

Judge Wald’s opinion was well researched and damning of Linda Hamilton. “Hamilton’s invaluable service to the enterprise as banker, bookkeeper, record keeper, and secretary is substantiated by her own testimony. She performed these services in an unusual way under unusual circumstances for a long period of time and thereby helped launder the loot and direct attention away from Welch…. She gave not only her time and talents but also her name to accomplish that objective.”  The lower court’s ruling was based on the criminal court’s transcript and Linda’s own testimony. It detailed that she knew, or should have known, that over a period of five years, her co-habitatant, Welch, was involved in criminality. Judge Wald rendered an affirmation that everyone believed to be correct. “Hamilton’s continuous participation reflected her intent and desire to make the venture succeed. It was no passing fancy or impetuous act.”

Elliot Jones Halberstam did receive some justice, such as it was. It was not confinement, as it could have been, but the civil judgment, combined with the IRS levy, meant that Linda Hamilton and Bernard Welch would never profit from Dr. Michael Halberstam's murder. It also meant that Linda would have the Internal Revenue Service watching her and seizing any money she earned, a virtual imprisonment from which Linda Hamilton could never hope to escape and would dog her until the end of her life.

When she filed the suit, Elliot Jones Halberstam could not have foretold that the Halberstam vs. Hamilton decision would eventually lead to a ruling that made it harder for terrorist organizations to raise funds in the United States under the guise of “philanthropic” activities, but her late husband, Dr. Michael Halberstam, would have rejoiced at the outcome.

                                                                                  – Jim King and Jack Burch

1 comment:

  1. This is a place in which all of the world's worst nightmares are embodied. A strange, supernatural dimension where factions of living nightmares fight for dominance. stop terrorism