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Guilty plea in campaign finance case

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The son of City Councilwoman Agnes L. Welch pleaded guilty in District Court yesterday to three misdemeanors related to campaign finance reports he filed on her behalf.

William A. Welch Jr., a professional accountant, pleaded guilty to two counts of failure to file campaign finance reports and one count of perjury, which stemmed from an affidavit he had filed swearing that the campaign reports were true and accurate.

William Welch was sentenced to a year in jail for each count, but the time was suspended in favor of two years of unsupervised probation. He was fined $5,000, which he paid yesterday.

Judge Keith E. Mathews denied William Welch's request for probation before judgment on the perjury charge, noting a previous assault conviction.

"We found no evidence to suggest that money was stolen or misappropriated," said Steven Trostle, assistant state prosecutor. "It was just sloppy bookkeeping."

While on probation, William Welch cannot serve as a campaign treasurer or chairman but may participate in other political activities, Trostle said.

Prosecutors found no wrongdoing on the part of Agnes Welch, a 20-year Baltimore council veteran, Trostle said. She and her son did not respond to messages seeking comment.

"It was a matter of him being too busy, and he just filed the same report," said David B. Irwin, his attorney. "It wasn't a matter of being deceptive."

Agnes Welch had two accounts: Friends of Agnes Welch and Committee for Agnes Welch. Balances for the two, totaling almost $44,000, didn't change for several years, failing to reflect any bank fees, interest, contributions or expenses, state campaign records show.

William Welch prepared reports for both accounts, but was charged only in connection with the Friends of Agnes Welch account because he served as its chairman. Prosecutors were alerted to the identical reports by Mitchell Klein, head organizer for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which backed Welch's primary opponent.

William Welch has run into campaign-related trouble before. He pleaded guilty and received probation for discharging a firearm and assault charges after a woman said he shot at her when she demanded the $40 he promised her for working the polls in the 1999 primary.

In another case, he received probation before judgment after he was charged with paying Election Day poll workers in September 1999. The practice has since been legalized.

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