The Anatomy of a Court-Martial, Part II

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by Sharon Rondeau

The War Office was authorized by Congress in 1789 and operated the Army and Navy and was commanded by the President and Commander-in-Chief

(Sept. 29, 2010) — The interview which follows is the second in a series relating the story of “the most reviewed court-martial in the history of the United States,” that of Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III, and its significance to all Americans today.  Here Cdr. Fitzpatrick describes in more detail how the court-martial was fabricated by four officers  who colluded to remove him from military service and provides proof that his military defense counsel knew about and participated in the conspiracy.

The Post & Email published an introductory article on the  court-martial, which occurred in October 1989, in which Fitzpatrick stated that he “was pronounced guilty in writing before anything else happened.”

This date is significant in military history, as Lt. Commander Fitzpatrick has informed The Post & Email:

Two hundred twenty-one years ago today, on September 29, 1789, the final day of its very first session, the United States Congress passed “An act to recognize and adapt to the Constitution of the United States, the establishment of the troops raised under the resolves of the United States in Congress assembled” officially creating the military of the United States. To the men already serving on the frontier under orders of the Continental Congress, the change probably meant little.

Although the Constitution of the United States charged Congress with raising and regulating military forces, newly-elected House and Senate members delayed acting on this provision. Busy organizing the federal government and debating the location of the new Federal City, Congress neglected dealing with the issue of military forces until prodded by President and Commander in Chief George Washington.

This is the day, in 1789, Congress accepted the British War Articles into operation after the Constitution became the law of the land.

Those rules for the military government have never been reconciled with the Constitution.  Ever! And it has been 221 years!


MRS. RONDEAU: Why do you believe you were court-martialed in 1989?

CDR. FITZPATRICK: They were doing bad things left and right, and I kept coming in and saying, “Excuse me, but there’s a problem here, there’s a problem there…”  So Bitoff recognized the kind of officer I would have been if I had gotten to a place like the Pentagon.  Most of my career up to that point, by my own choice, had been serving at sea.  I loved going out to sea.

So he made this whole thing up.  It was a construction from its beginning.  It was a manipulation, and this is what the military can do with this system of government; it can do whatever it wants.  The criminal aspect to this thing is breathtaking.

This morning I read that Lt. Col. Lakin had a hearing yesterday whereby Lakin came in with some kind of a response, which is that he’s offering another defense…something about “duty” and “obligation.”   The article was at WorldNetDaily this morning by someone named Brian Fitzpatrick.  Col. Lind threw these two arguments out as well, and now Jensen is saying, “Well, now we’re toast. We don’t have any other defense.  We’ll just get ready for the appeal.”

MRS. RONDEAU: But you’ve said that there is no appeal with a court-martial.

CDR. FITZPATRICK: In my case, look at the number of things which require this court-martial of Walt Fitzpatrick to be done again, overturned completely.  They’d never get another chance at redoing the court-martial because they’ve destroyed evidence.  They’ve destroyed documents and things that would have stopped them from court-martialing me back in 1989 and 1990.  But this case is still on the books, undisturbed.  Any example that I can give you about the sanctity or the integrity of a review process is to look at this case.  Look at the things that they’ve reviewed – and as I said, it’s the most reviewed court-martial in the history of our country – and they still haven’t undone it.  It’s still on the books.  I’m still walking around with this attainder on my back.  For them to admit to any one of these criminal acts that have been conducted blows this whole thing wide open, and I think now’s the time to do so.

MRS. RONDEAU: If the truth never came out about what was done to you, then this could be happening to many others.

CDR. FITZPATRICK: And all Paul Jensen is doing is milking this cash cow.  He has no reason at this point to claim ignorance.  As I’m going back through these documents and rereading them, right now is the time that this court-martial needs to be undressed and exposed in its nakedness to everybody out there.  There’s no more question at this point about how the system works or what they did in my case.  In the past, I’ve had to deal with reporters questioning my credibility, but as the years have passed and more information has come out, there is no more questioning here.  So the attack has to be aggressive; it has to be vigorous; it has to be relentless now because of what they’re about to do to Lt. Col. Lakin.

The good news is that we can do all those things without any fear of retort.  There is no retort.

I think you saw what Tim Zeller said in the interview with Kit Lange:  “You think what we did to Fitzpatrick was bad; well, you haven’t seen anything yet, lady; let me tell you some stories.”  That’s where we’re at.

Editor’s Note: A link to a radio discussion summarized by Kit Lange is here.  Cdr. Fitzpatrick reports that the names “Kit Lange” and “Kit Jarrell” refer to the same person.

This morning I sent to you contact information for four people.  John Bitoff is coming back to work today at his job at the San Francisco Unified School District.  It looks as if he took some vacation, but he’ll be back in his chair today at work.  I’ve given you Kevin Anderson’s contact information.  I gave you phone numbers for Tim Zeller.  There’s one more person whose contact information I sent you, Rick Grant, Harold E. “Rick” Grant.  Grant was the Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy at the time.  He was there most of the time that these issues were coming up, and he did more than any other Navy JAG, and they’re known as “T-JAGs,” “The Judge Advocate General.”  So there’s a “The” Judge Advocate General of the Army; one for the Navy, one for the Air Force; they’re all referred to as “T-JAGs.”

MRS. RONDEAU: Is there only one of those per branch of service?

CDR. FITZPATRICK: Yes.  As for the Marine Corps, they are a department of the U.S. Navy, and they have a senior military officer attorney known as the Judge Advocate Marine (JAM), but the Marine Corps attorney is still answerable to the T-JAG of the Navy.  The Coast Guard calls it the “Chief Counsel,” or C-JAG, and I believe it’s a civilian, but it’s the same position.

I’ve also sent you a diagram of how my court-martial worked, and it’s a line-drawing, date-wise, which is a research tool to help you follow the sequence of events.

The conduct here is absolutely off the scale.  I’ve also sent you an organizational chart of the John Bitoff command at the time that I was court-martialed, and that will also give you a visual understanding of who was in what position at what time.  As we get into this, that will be very helpful for you to understand exactly how a court-martial is rigged and who the players are.

MRS. RONDEAU: When were you first notified that you were being court-martialed, and what was your reaction?

CDR. FITZPATRICK: We were going out with our neighbors, who were taking us out to dinner because we were moving away.  I was under orders; I was going to the Naval War College.  I was shining my shoes, getting ready to go, and got a phone call at about 16:13 hours, just past 4:00 p.m. on the afternoon of Friday the 13th of October, 1989.  It was a lightning bolt.  The guy who called me was the assistant chief of staff for Admiral Bidoff named Paul Romanski.

My secret court-martial took place the day before, on Thursday the 12th.  Romanski called me the next day, the 13th, at the end of the day.  So I went into the weekend with it after he told me, “Your orders to the Naval War College have been canceled. We’re looking into these inappropriate expenditures that Tim Zeller has reported to us.”  I’ll never forget that.

MRS. RONDEAU: How does someone get chosen to attend the Naval War College?

CDR. FITZPATRICK: In reading over what you wrote, it’s very difficult for me to talk about myself.  So this is what I want to say:  I could have been the worst officer the United States Navy ever saw.  I could have been a slug, the kind of guy who should not have been promoted, who should have been shown the door as quickly as possible, and still, those things that we’re discussing here are as outrageously unlawful and inappropriate and criminally accountable as they are.  It doesn’t make any difference about my character or my performance of duty as a Naval officer.  And that’s the point:  they did it to me.  I happen to know about what they did because they did it to me, and I looked into it and I found out what they did.  It’s enough to say that I had orders to the Naval War College, and people will know what that means.  You’re in a path.  I was recommended for joint service assignment; these are the kinds of things that demonstrate that I was performing adequately.  I wasn’t being tossed out of the Navy.  I had a straight-A fitness report. “Give this man a command, command of his destiny, command at sea…”

But again, this is not about my performance at sea; it’s about how the military is groomed, how it was culled.  I was ostracized.  I was shown the door because I wasn’t the kind of guy whom John Bitoff thought should be working in the higher reaches of the military government of the United States Navy.

MRS. RONDEAU: So they used the court-martial process available to them to get you out.

CDR. FITZPATRICK: Yes, that’s exactly what it was about.  And I didn’t know in the day.  You talk about the moment I got that call…why, what was going on, how did this happen?  I will never forget the sense of betrayal.  I wrote an email to Dwight Sullivan on which you were copied stating that “Fellow officers did this to me.”  And my life was just turned upside-down.

MRS. RONDEAU: At a court-martial, can you have witnesses who could have attested to your competency and innocence?

CDR. FITZPATRICK: Mike Nordeen, my commanding officer, did testify.  Again, my court-martial was held on the 12th of October of 1989 in a meeting of four people:  John Bitoff, Tim Zeller, Paul Romanski, and a Navy captain named Mike Edwards.  Those four men decided my fate.  They decided that I was guilty and that they were going to remove me from the Naval service.  Everything after that was just for show, trying to make me look like some kind of a bad person and to rig the court-martial.  And then after the 12th of October, you see all of the indications that they did exactly that:  they rigged every part of it.

MRS. RONDEAU: Was Captain Nordeen aware that the decision had already been made before he testified?

CDR. FITZPATRICK: No, nobody knew anything about it except John Bitoff; Bitoff’s executive officer, Michael B. Edwards; Paul Romanski, Tim Zeller, and Kevin Anderson knew.  Mike Nordeen did not know; I did not know; these pronouncements, declarative accusations that are now voiced today could not have been voiced in April of 1989 because the documents were being guarded as national secrets.  We didn’t know about Tim Zeller’s investigation.  The discovery request was done behind closed doors. I didn’t see that until after the court-martial was over, and I should have seen it at the time.  Kevin Anderson should have shown me that, and he did not.

That document is more important than I had remembered.  This is the kind of thing that has been happening; I go back and revisit to see what these guys were doing, and it’s so clear now.  These documents were kept secret.

Tim Zeller had written a report which declared me guilty, as well as Captain Nordeen.  Zeller named my commanding officer as having been guilty, and in one of the memos that I sent to you, Zeller was trying to get Mike Nordeen court-martialed.  It’s that memo that says, “Hey, Admiral, it’s the ‘Personal-4.’”  It’s what we call a “P-4,” which is a classification of a document that means that it’s a personal correspondence not to be seen by anybody else other than the writer and the recipient.  It’s a correspondence to a senior officer from a junior officer.  “Personal-4 Admiral Bitoff” was for Bitoff’s eyes only.  That memo that Zeller wrote which was pushing for the court-martial of Mike Nordeen was written, as I recall, on the 11th of April 1990, six days after my court-martial was over.  It says to Admiral Bitoff, “Hey, Admiral, this is what the panel members thought at the time; why was Fitzpatrick court-martialed but Nordeen wasn’t? and I think, Admiral, that you need to push very hard to court-martial Capt. Nordeen for the misuse of these monies.”

Editor’s Note: The aforementioned memo appears below, with blank lines and/or spaces substituted for someone’s name.

Again, when you court-martial a senior officer and get away with it, that’s good for the JAG Corps.  It was Zeller trying to get himself promoted.  It was all about Zeller and Bitoff.  At the bottom of that memorandum where you see Tim Zeller trying to push for the court-martial of Mike Nordeen, it’s as explosive as it can be.  Imagine, in the day, if that had been made public.  So Tim Zeller, Admiral Bitoff and Kevin Anderson – these three men – were working together.  They cannot deny it any longer.  The documents give them up, and anything they say about protecting themselves or the system is a lie.  They knew at the time.

John Bitoff put his “B” at the top of it, and at the bottom was Tim Zeller’s signature. Both men put their hand to this document, and it says that it’s going to be destroyed.  It’s never going to see the light of day.  It says, “I don’t believe in keeping records, Admiral.  No copy of this memo exists in my file or on my computer.”  But somebody saw it, and somebody quietly made a copy of it, and they kept it off to the side until such time as they were able to release it safely, and that’s how it survived to this day.

John Bitoff is an animal.  He knew that document was going to be destroyed, or thought that it was going to be destroyed, but it wasn’t.  When he put his initial at the top, that was his permission to go ahead and destroy the document.  “I understand. I agree with you, Tim; I will be your criminal assistant in the destruction of this document.”  That’s huge.  This was 11 April 1990, and we were going through the after-action period (the things you do after the court-martial), and still, documents were being concealed and hidden.  Three months later, the “confession” was forged.  It was created by Kevin Anderson and put into the record because Admiral Bitoff didn’t want any part of this court-martial to be examined by anybody.  And with my “confession” in place, nobody would look at it.

I came in protesting, and they said, “Walt, you admitted to doing what they accused you of doing.”  That was the purpose.  But the document is clearly a forgery, and Kevin Anderson signed it.  John Bitoff was trying to protect himself from any other kind of criminal consequence or professional consequence.  And Tim Zeller willingly did Bitoff’s bidding.  It’s like Batman and Robin.

When you contact these people, you’re going to see the kind of reaction you get from them:  “Don’t go there; don’t do that; move along; this is not a big deal now.  We did this 20 years ago.”  As Zeller tried to say, “This dog won’t hunt.  This thing is all over.”  NCIS says Fitzpatrick is crazy and stay away from him.  And then she comes up and she asks him, “How about those memos, Tim?” and stopped him in his tracks.  Those memos are huge.  I just described one of them to you, which is “Hey, Admiral, since I don’t believe in keeping a record, when questions come up later on, I’m destroying this memo, and there’s no record of that in my computer.”  That is a criminal act which is still prosecutable today because, as I say, there’s no statute that runs here.  The military is maintaining the forgery as an authentic writing to this day, which means that everyone who’s maintaining that document is now engaged in, and complicit in, forgery.  The crime of forgery is still alive today, because everyone who says that it’s an authentic signature has just recommitted the crime.  Because that crime is still alive, it extends the life of everything else you and I are going to talk about, everything, which includes the exchange of memos behind closed doors.

Memo initialed by Admiral John Bitoff at the top and signed by defense counsel Tim Zeller on both pages stating that the document would be destroyed

Page 2 of memo exchanged between Zeller and Bitoff

The last paragraph of the memo reads:

Since I don’t believe in keeping a file to cover this office when decisions are later questioned, there is no copy of this letter in my files or on my computer.

The letter is signed by Tim Zeller, one of Cdr. Fitzpatrick’s accusers, who obtained it on July 20, 2001 as indicated by his signature at the bottom of the page.

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