‘Theoretical’ coronavirus risk cited as judge denies Va. murder suspect’s release

A Loudoun County, Virginia, judge denied a defense motion to grant pretrial release to the man charged with the 2018 armed murder of an Aldie woman and her adult son, saying the risk of Brian Welsh contracting COVID-19 in jail is “theoretical and speculative.”

As WTOP first reported Monday, defense attorney Thomas Walsh requested electronic monitoring for Welsh: “The unprecedented and extraordinarily dangerous nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has become apparent.”

Welsh was indicted in October 2019 on two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of use of a gun in the commission of felony, in the deaths of Mala Manwani, 65, and Rishi Manwani, 32.

Earlier this month, Loudoun County prosecutors — as a speedy trial deadline approached — joined the defense in asking Welsh be released with GPS monitoring until his October trial.

In a Wednesday order, Circuit Court Judge James Fisher denied the defense request.

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  • “The new circumstances are merely a conclusory series of statements taken from the public domain concerning the COVID-19 virus and its theoretical application to incarcerated persons,” Fisher wrote.

    “Any allegations concerning the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center are likewise conclusory, theoretical and speculative and without any corroborating source of information.”

    As of Sunday, Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran said there were no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in the state’s correctional facilities.

    Welsh’s attorney had argued “other local jurisdictions have taken a liberal approach to bail and the release of those facing charges in light of the pandemic that is occurring.”

    Fisher’s ruling said he could revisit the issue of bond if the defense refiled a motion with corroborating facts concerning conditions at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center, its health services and virus containment protocols.

    Fisher would want to hear testimony from the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and the county attorney on the risks of confinement in general, and on Welsh’s confinement, in particular.

    The coronavirus issue is the latest in a turbulent case.

    Loudoun County prosecutors earlier acknowledged requesting bond and electronic monitoring for a defendant charged with two murders was “unusual,” but the alternative would have been to dismiss the charges against Welsh and reindict him.

    Initially, prosecutors dropped murder charges, when bullets recovered from the victims didn’t match Welsh’s gun.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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