- Law Cases
by Sharon Rondeau
(Aug. 13, 2012) — The Post & Email has published a series of articles on the court-martial of Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III which he claims was contrived to ultimately terminate him from the U.S. Navy. Although court-martialed in 1990, Fitzpatrick received an honorable discharge in 1994.
Fitzpatrick contends that the military system of discipline does not mete out justice because a grand jury of one’s peers is not utilized to scrutinize the evidence against the person charged. Fitzpatrick told The Post & Email that his court-martial was “rigged from beginning to end” and that he was found guilty before the trial began.
The allegation against Fitzpatrick was that he had stolen money from the U.S.S. Mars’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) fund to buy personal items, which Fitzpatrick denies to this day. He stated that the log of monies spent from the fund disappeared prior to his court-martial and as far as he knows, has never resurfaced.
Fitzpatrick has maintained that a “confession letter” bearing his misspelled name without the generation number “III” which he always uses was signed by someone other than him. He has named Kevin Anderson, who acted as his defense attorney, as the person who forged his name to the document.
None of the principals involved in Fitzpatrick’s court-martial were willing to speak on the record, including Adm. John Bitoff and Kevin Anderson. Last week, we attempted to contact Timothy Zeller by leaving a message at his home. Someone from that number returned our call about an hour later but did not leave a message. When we called the number back, a man answered the phone and told us we had the wrong number. However, Fitzpatrick had received the number for Timothy Zeller from directory assistance just a few days prior and had tried it himself. Fitzpatrick said that Zeller has lived at that address for many years.
Fitzpatrick described Zeller as Bitoff’s “heavy lifting guy” and believes that Bitoff wanted him out of the Navy for political reasons.
Fitzpatrick has related that when the NCIS began to look for his court-martial record, it was not found in a file, but rather, in a closet in the office of a man named Ricky Stutzel. Fitzpatrick said that Stutzel had “checked out” the record of court-martial and “had never returned it.”
According to Feres v. United States, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1950, a military member cannot sue the U.S. government for injuries incurred while serving, although an online poll shows a strong sentiment toward overturning the decision. Fitzpatrick has the option to file a criminal lawsuit regarding the forgery of his name to the confession letter, and there is reportedly no statute of limitations. The NCIS has stated in writing that if the signature on the letter is proven a forgery, the court-martial will be nullified and it will “make the Navy look really, really bad.”
On April 18, 2012, The Post & Email sent a letter with enclosures to Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations for the U.S. Navy, regarding the court-martial of Walter Fitzpatrick. We never received a response.
On July 22, we sent the following email to the media inquiry address for the U.S. Navy:
From: Sharon Rondeau
Sent: Sun 7/22/12 11:45 AM
Good morning, and please accept my condolences on the tragic murder of two members of the U.S. Navy in Colorado on Friday morning as well as another military member.
I run an electronic newspaper, The Post & Email, which covers corruption in government. Over the past two years, I have been communicating with LCDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.), who was court-martialed in 1989. To this day, Fitzpatrick maintains his innocence and claims that a confession letter placed in his file bears a signature that is not his. Indeed, the handwriting is markedly different from Fitzpatrick’s; the generation number “III” which he always uses is missing, and the last name is misspelled.
LCDR Fitzpatrick has sent me in hard copy a voluminous amount of material which raises questions about several former Naval officers involved in the court-martial, which I am told is the “most reviewed” court-martial in U.S. military history. Fitzpatrick had been nominated for the Meritorious Service Medal and was literally on his way to the Navy War College in Providence when he was advised that he was accused of stealing and misusing money from the USS Mars’ MWR fund. The accusations followed the death of another brave man, Capt. William Edward Nordeen, who was killed by a terrorist car-bombing in Athens, Greece, in the line of duty, on June 28, 1988.
Two months ago, I wrote to Admiral Greenert requesting a review of Fitzpatrick’s file but received no response. I have contacted and spoken personally with two of the people named by Fitzpatrick, Adm. John Bitoff and Kevin Anderson, Fitzpatrick’s defense attorney. While both were willing to talk, neither would go on the record. Fitzpatrick has openly accused Anderson of forging his name to the confession document. Others named as accomplices are Capt. Paul Romanski and Tim Zeller.
In my letter to Adm. Greenert, I included a copy of a report from a private handwriting analyst whom Fitzpatrick had hired to analyze the signature on the confession letter in which the analyst said that it was “likely” that Fitzpatrick did not sign the letter.
All of what I say is well-documented here: http://www.thepostemail.com/?s=Fitzpatrick+court-martial+Bitoff+Anderson+Zeller&x=0&y=0
Although the court-martial occurred more than 20 years ago, justice should be served if it was denied.
I would like to request that LCDR Fitzpatrick’s file be reopened for examination. If I need to submit a formal Freedom of Information Act request, please advise to whom it should be directed.
In my view, our country is currently in deep peril as a free nation, and corruption within our government, whether it be within the legislative, judicial, executive or military, needs to be exposed and scourged. Corruption robs the people of their liberties regardless of where it is found.
Thank you very much in advance for your response.
Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
P.O. Box 195
Stafford Springs, CT 06076
We received no response.
This morning, we sent another email to the same address:
Good morning. On July 22, 2012, I sent a request to have the file of the above U.S. Navy retiree reopened to examine whether or not the “confession document” contained in the file has a forged signature. I have not received a response from you.
I have independently contacted the three principals involved in the court-martial: John Bitoff, Timothy Zeller, and Kevin Anderson. None would go on the record, and one would not even admit that he was the person answering his own phone. As a journalist, I must say that after a lengthy review process, the evidence is strongly in LCDR Fitzpatrick’s favor.
Do I have to submit a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the contents of the file?
Since the Navy has never admitted independent scrutiny of the file nor fully investigated the matter itself, I plan on publishing a book about Fitzpatrick’s allegations of the forgery of his signature and the way in which the court-martial was carried out. I already have the NIS memo which stated that if the forgery were to be proven, the whole court-martial would be undone and it would “make the Navy look really, really bad.” I have sent a copy of that memo to Admiral Greenert, whose office also did not respond.
The Post & Email’s purpose is to uncover corruption in government so that the people may know what is being done with their taxpayer dollars.
Thank you very much for your assistance.
Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
Fitzpatrick has told The Post & Email that he had to submit a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the contents of his own court-martial file, which took many months to arrive.
Update, September 3, 2013: After a lengthy interview with Maj. Ricky Stutzel (Ret.), it became clear that it was routine for Stutzel’s office to check out courts-martial files. It also is no longer clear that Fitzpatrick’s court-martial file was found in a “closet,” as Stutzel said there was a common area, but not a closet, where courts-martial records were kept which were under review.