Anatomy of a Court-Martial: Ghost Witnesses Testify

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by Sharon Rondeau

The USS MARS was built in San Diego, CA in 1962 and launched in 1963. It was removed from service in 1998.

(Oct. 18, 2010) — In this fifth segment of our series on the court-martial of LCDR Fitzpatrick, he reveals two “ghost” witnesses from his court-martial and states that the charges against him were completely falsified.  The previous four segments can be found here, here, here and here.

MRS. RONDEAU: In our last segment, you had touched upon why there might have been a conspiracy to end your Navy career.  Could you expound on that?

CDR. FITZPATRICK: If Admiral Bitoff didn’t like me personally, that could have been a motive.  I don’t know what I don’t know.  The rest of the staff didn’t like me; that much I can tell you, and if this was some kind of way for them to take out their vengeance on me, that’s certainly possible.  I had my swordfights with the staff, and Zeller certainly knew that.  These guys were full of glee that I was being court-martialed and that they were behind it.  It was payback.

MRS. RONDEAU: When you say “the staff,” does that mean the people on board the ship, or the chain of command?

CDR. FITZPATRICK: Imagine in your mind a Boy Scout troop, and you have a scoutmaster. In the Boy Scout troop, instead of it being a troop of patrols, you have a group of ships. There were 14 ships in the group of ships known as Combat Logistics Group 1. Admiral Bitoff had a staff of people who oversaw the operation and administration of those 14 ships. John Bitoff had an engineer on his staff, staff which worked with engineers on all 14 ships, and that one engineer would come back and report to Admiral Bitoff about all things engineering. That’s what those “N” codes are for: it means you’re on the Navy staff. Bitoff had a staff Judge Advocate, Tim Zeller. Bitoff had on his staff a supply officer who reported to Admiral Bitoff all things that the supply officers on the 14 ships were doing. He had a staff of people who reported to him every day, and they stayed with the admiral. They were his staff. It was his personal group of people who helped him run the 14 ships.

MRS. RONDEAU: So if they had a vendetta against you, that could have been a motive for the court-martial?

CDR. FITZPATRICK: Sure. And they certainly had reasons to do that; I had been complaining about their performance for some time. I believe it was a combination of at least two things: (1) the fact that I had ticked off people on that staff, and (2) that Bitoff saw me as a threat should I promote to higher command. I did not recognize these things in the day, but I recognize them now. I didn’t believe that officers could do this kind of thing to me; I trusted these men. That was misplaced trust, and now today, it’s not a problem for me to point to admirals and generals and say, “These people are actually criminals.” I’m a Naval Academy graduate, where there were five basic responses: “Yes, sir,” “No, sir,” “Aye, aye, sir,” “I’ll find out, sir,” “No excuse, sir.” I still remember that from 40 years ago. I didn’t believe this was possible. Call it naive, call it whatever you want, but I trusted these men.

MRS. RONDEAU: If all of this was planned, the cover-up is massive.

CDR. FITZPATRICK: The cover-up is to this day. That forgery is still in the files. We haven’t talked about that yet, but I can tell you about how the forgery has been examined and re-examined. There’s no question about the forgery. I have presented myself for a handwriting examination, and the handwriting examiner, Mr. Dudink, who was commissioned by the U.S. Navy to conduct the handwriting samples, came in. I sat for the examination, and he said, “Yes, it’s a forgery, Walt,” and I said, “Well, thank you for confirming what I already know.” He did it independently, and he did it twice. He did two sets of handwriting examples, Zeller’s and mine. The one person who did not present a handwriting sample is Kevin Anderson.

It has been held as a document which senior officials are representing as still an authentic writing when they know that it’s not. That’s a criminal act, and it goes all the way to the top. This cover-up is to this day, and it goes directly to the heart of Lt. Col. Lakin’s court-martial. Today, in this time, it’s 21 years later, and it’s the same period in time in Lakin’s court-martial. The same kinds of things are going on behind closed doors, and he’s not being told about it. These things are being kept secret from him, and if he does find out, he won’t find out for years and years and years.

MRS. RONDEAU: He could be thinking that if Obama is not eligible to serve, then he (Lakin) is innocent of any wrongdoing and his fellow officers would never do anything to hurt him.

CDR. FITZPATRICK: He’s still on active duty; he’s working with these people and has reason to trust them. What I’m trying to say here is, “No, you don’t.” My court-martial, the Columbus Day court martial, was held in secret. The documents that go to report that were held in secret. There are documents that are still to this day being held in secret. It goes on behind closed doors. Bitoff should have said, “Excuse me, Captain Edwards, you were on the ship at the time the money was spent, and you were at sea…” Bitoff was a commanding officer of a ship himself and knew better. He knew that his men were working against me as they were. Bitoff knew what I’m telling you, and he still participated in this conspiracy that acted against me. And by the way, we know that Bitoff knew, because he has his great big “B” at the top of some of the memos that were exchanged, and he admitted to keeping documents secret. We still don’t know what’s being kept secret from us. We have what we have, but we don’t know what else is out there. All I have to show you is that one document is missing.

We haven’t talked about Doug Dolan, but maybe we should for a moment, because you’re going to be talking to John Bitoff. I sent you a picture of Doug Dolan, who was our assistant supply officer. He’s a real person, and he was on the ship at the time that all of this happened. This is about a ghost witness.

Put five blank pieces of paper in front of you. Put them next to each other and number them 1-5.

Piece of paper #1 represents Tim Zeller’s 23 October 1989 investigation report. On the front page of that, Zeller reports interviews and “Evidence Examined” in paragraph 5 with sub-letters below it. Paragraph 5-l, for example, says that part of the evidence that Zeller examined is the “Fiscal year 1988 MWR Report” for the MARS. So that’s page #1, the investigation report.

On page #2, put “Article 32.” Page #3 would be “Court-martial.” Page #4 would be “Record of Trial,” and then page #5 is “Letter of Reprimand.” I want to paint a visual picture for this, because this will help you understand.

In Tim Zeller’s report of 23 October 1989, he lists all the people he interviewed except for one: Doug Dolan. If you look on page 1 of his investigation report, he lists the names of people he interviewed, but he does not list Doug Dolan.

Page 1 of Tim Zeller's 23 October 1989 investigative report

Enlarged detail of Tim Zeller's 23 October 1989 investigation report

MRS. RONDEAU: Did he interview him?

CDR. FITZPATRICK: On page 3 of that same investigation report, you will read the paragraph wherein Zeller admits that he interviewed Doug Dolan. But he didn’t put Dolan’s name on the first page, and Dolan is the star witness against me. On page 3 of his report, Zeller writes that Doug Dolan, the assistant supply officer on the USS MARS, told Fitzpatrick twice (and I’m paraphrasing here) about the impropriety of buying electronic equipment.

Page 2 of the investigation report

Page 3 of the investigation report

Detail from page 3 of the investigation report which mentions LCDR Doug Dolan

Then we go to the Article 32. Then we go to the court-martial, the record of court-martial on page 4, then to page 5. Page 5 is my letter of reprimand. In the letter of reprimand, there is a sentence that says, “Admiral Bitoff signed this out to me that you were warned twice about the impropriety of the purchase for the electronic equipment.” On page 1, you find that sentence in Zeller’s investigation report, the sentence, “The warning is attributed to LCDR Doug Dolan.” The sentence appears again all the way over on page 5 in my letter of reprimand. What this means is that Doug Dolan would have had to have been interrogated, and there would have to have been a report of his interview, of which there is none. For that sentence to end up in my letter of reprimand, Doug Dolan would have had to have appeared at my Article 32. He was the government’s star witness. And after the Article 32, being recognized as important as a witness as he was, he would have been testifying at my court-martial as well.

Page 4 of the investigation report

Page 5 of the report

Page 6

MRS. RONDEAU: Of course.

CDR. FITZPATRICK: And then, as a witness in the court-martial, he would have spoken words that would have ended up in the record of trial, the fourth piece of paper, and then the letter of reprimand would have referenced that sentence. The letter of reprimand is based on the record, and it references the record of court-martial (page 5 refers to page 4 directly), and it quotes this sentence which states that I was warned twice about the impropriety of the MWR purchase.

So we know that Doug Dolan was mentioned in the report of 23 October 1989, and Doug Dolan would had to have played a part in the Article 32; he had to play a part in the court-martial. His words from the court-martial would appear in the record, which would get his words into page #5, which is my letter of reprimand.

Are you sitting down?


CDR. FITZPATRICK: Tim Zeller did not interview Doug Dolan.

MRS. RONDEAU: He never did?

CDR. FITZPATRICK: No, he did not interview Doug Dolan, which is why Tim Zeller buried the comment attributed to Doug Dolan as he did in the investigation report of 23 October. Doug Dolan did not appear at the Article 32. He did not testify.

MRS. RONDEAU: So he was not the government’s star witness?

CDR. FITZPATRICK: Zeller propped him up as a ghost witness. Doug Dolan did not testify at my court-martial, which means that there is no record of Doug Dolan’s testimony in the court-martial record. That means that if Doug Dolan wasn’t present at the court-martial, then Doug Dolan cannot be present in the record of court-martial. Well, then, how did that sentence make it into my letter of reprimand?

This goes back to Zeller and Bitoff constructing this case against me using Doug Dolan, a real person, as a ghost witness, because no one warned me about the money that we spent for the MWR account, NO ONE. Zeller made the thing up, and Doug Dolan is a ghost witness against me.

MRS. RONDEAU: Is Doug Dolan aware that his name is in the report when he had nothing to do with the court-martial?

Page 1 of Admiral Bitoff's letter of reprimand to LCDR Walter Fitzpatrick

Paragraph 3 which mentions "the impropriety of this purchase"

Page 2 of the letter of reprimand

CDR. FITZPATRICK: I don’t know. I tried to get in touch with Doug a long time ago, but I’ve lost track of him, although it was before I knew what I’ve just told you. The documents that report what I’ve just reported to you have not always been available, or they weren’t available then. I can’t get in touch with Dolan, but it doesn’t make any difference, because Dolan did not testify at the Article 32. Dolan did not testify at the court-martial, which means that Dolan is not present in the record of court-martial. So the only connection that we have here is from page 5 to page 1. Page 1 is authored by Tim Zeller. The sentence that appears in Zeller’s investigation report, in the same report where he reports my guilt, appears in my letter of reprimand. The only place that sentence could have come from is from Tim Zeller, and Tim Zeller’s investigation report was kept secret for years.

They invented a crime and a witness to the crime. There was no criminal conduct that I committed, so they had to invent everything, and they used a ghost witness against me who never, ever testified against me. This is huge. And this, by the way, is part of what the forgery was supposed to cover up. Because a pretty smart attorney like Kevin Anderson would not have missed that.

MRS. RONDEAU: One would not think so.

CDR. FITZPATRICK: And Anderson knew about Tim Zeller’s investigation report of 23 October 1989 in the day; I did not.

There is another ghost witness who was used against me. Who is it?

MRS. RONDEAU: The confession letter?

CDR. FITZPATRICK: Yes. Doug Dolan never warned me. The investigation report is a fraud. It was invented, from beginning to end, Tim Zeller’s investigation report is a fraud, and it goes to specific, purposeful conduct. Zeller didn’t write that report until after he had conferred with John Bitoff. My court-martial took place on the 12th of October. Zeller didn’t write that report for another 11 days. It was only after the Columbus Day court-martial was over that Zeller wrote that report, and he wrote it so that it looked as if I had committed a crime, and it looked as if there might be a witness, and John Bitoff is as involved in that as Tim Zeller. And the report was kept secret, and they rigged the rest of everything else.

Anyone coming to look at this independently would not be aware of what I’ve just told you instantly. I have to tell you about the relationships here because it’s not something that is just known to people, like Doug Dolan. Zeller lied. Doug Dolan is the government’s star witness, but he was never there except in Zeller’s imagination.

MRS. RONDEAU: Is this entire thing just a creative story that they made up and passed off as real?

CDR. FITZPATRICK: Yes, and the only way they could have gotten away with it is by the participation of a guy named Kevin Anderson.

MRS. RONDEAU: …Who was supposed to be your defense attorney?

CDR. FITZPATRICK: Yes. Matthew Bogosian, who served as prosecutor, was kept at arm’s length. They didn’t need Bogosian as a prosecutor because Admiral Bitoff took his own staff officers as people who were going to populate the panel that found me guilty. Remember those staff officers whom we talked about earlier? That’s where the panel members came from. That was Zeller’s and Bitoff’s consulting firm. They came back and said, “Oh, yeah, hang ‘im.” This whole thing was rigged.

This is the point that I’m trying to make: Zeller, Anderson, Bitoff, and Romanski met on Columbus Day 1989, the 12th of October, and that day they planned to remove me from the United States Navy and they talked about how they were going to do it. It was a charade. Then after that was a bogus report that Zeller wrote 11 days later…it was all nothing but an invention. This is the corner that you have Bitoff in right now. He cannot even pretend…it’s a sentiment that is repeated frequently in the military called “plausible deniability”: “Well, I didn’t know.” “I wasn’t close enough to the matter.” In his conversation with you, Bitoff cannot claim plausible deniability. Now I’ve explained to you why.

The letter of reprimand, which contains the comment about “impropriety,” was signed by John Bitoff. He was required to review the record before he signed out my letter of reprimand. We talked about the issue of acting on the record. John Bitoff had to read the record, or have someone do it, before he wrote his letter of reprimand. If anyone had read the record of trial, he would not have found that sentence in the court-martial record from which they quoted. In other words, the sentence that is in my letter of reprimand has to come from the written record of the court-martial. If someone had read that independently, where would Bitoff have come up with that sentence? It’s not in the record. It’s not there!

Then how could Bitoff put that into his letter of reprimand? Bitoff knows about all this.

There’s one more point that I’d like to make which is a reinforcement of what we’ve just discussed. I told you that a convening authority by Bitoff has to receive the record and read it and understand it before he or she acts on it. My letter of reprimand is action. So going back, there’s a memo dated 11 April of 1990 which is companion to the “Personal for” that says “Admiral, since I don’t believe in keeping records, no copy of this memo will be maintained.” That also is dated 11 April. It’s dated by the previous document which is disposition of the case. The eleventh of April was six days after my court-martial was over. In the sentence which talks about the disposition for LCDR Fitzpatrick, it says, “Already decided.” That was my letter of reprimand. “We’ve already decided, Admiral, that we’re going to give Fitzpatrick a letter of reprimand.” How could he decide that without reading the record, which wasn’t available until the 14th of May? Then in the letter of reprimand, you find Bitoff’s inarguable, purposeful participation in the cover-up of the case by writing out a sentence which never appeared in the record, which Bitoff didn’t need. He had already decided my punishment. He didn’t need to review the record; they had already decided what they were going to do with me back on the 12th of October 1989.

MRS. RONDEAU: Did you leave the Navy right after the court-martial?

CDR. FITZPATRICK: No. I was kicked around like a rusty tin can for a while. Eventually, I had orders to the USS Carl Vinson, and I served there for almost four years. They tried to administratively separate me from the Navy, “they” being Bitoff, Zeller, Edwards and other people. I survived that process and was maintained on active duty until I got to the 20-year mark, where I was forced out on retirement.

MRS. RONDEAU: You were forced out?

CDR. FITZPATRICK: Yes. They wanted to force me out at the 16-year mark without a pension or retirement, and they’re trying to do the same thing now to Col. Lakin. He hasn’t hit the 20-year mark yet. This means that Col. Lakin stands in extraordinary danger right now. All they have to do is say, “You know, we’re convicting you, but we’re going to give you a letter of reprimand; it’s no big deal. And by the way, you have to leave.” No retirement, no benefits, nothing.

MRS. RONDEAU: And his case arose from the Obama eligibility question.

CDR. FITZPATRICK: We don’t even need to get to the question of eligibility because the first concern in Lakin’s court-martial is that the officers who are court-martialing him have to demonstrate to every one of us that they know that Mr. Obama is legitimate. They have to know for themselves that their orders are lawful before they can even turn around and look at Col. Lakin.


Editor’s Note: The Post & Email was able to speak with Adm. John Bitoff (Ret.) today regarding the court-martial of Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III, but he asked that his comments be kept off-the-record.

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