- Law Cases
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jan. 1, 2013) — On Friday, December 28, 2012, Atty. Van Irion of Knoxville, who is also founder of the Liberty Legal Foundation, filed a Motion for a New Trial with the Monroe County, TN Criminal Court on behalf of his client, Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III.
Fitzpatrick was found guilty of “tampering with government records” after an all-day trial on December 3 during which Irion was forbidden by Judge Walter C. Kurtz to present a defense for his client. However, prosecutor Paul D. Rush was able to call witnesses and present evidence, including a video of Fitzpatrick picking up the papers in question from a courtroom on December 7, 2011 which Rush described as “purloined.”
Kurtz sentenced Fitzpatrick to 11 months, 29 days in jail, suspended to 20 days in the Monroe County jail, community service, and probation. The provisions of the sentence were suspended pending Irion’s request for a new trial.
Rush is allegedly under investigation himself as part of a probe announced by the office of Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper, Jr., although Cooper’s office will not confirm or deny that an investigation is in progress. One of the agencies named as a participant in the investigation violated state law by failing to respond for almost three months to an Open Records request made by this writer. The law mandates a seven-day response period.
In the eight-page motion, Irion cites errors he believes were committed by the court on several counts. Irion stated that Fitzpatrick had been told by an FBI agent that he needed to acquire “specific information” in order for the agency to launch an investigation into reported corruption (page 4), including jury tampering. Over more than three years, Fitzpatrick has related systemic corruption within the Monroe County Criminal Court and the Tenth Judicial District of Tennessee as a whole.
State legislators have acknowledged that grand jury foremen serve for many years at the behest of the judge rather than being changed out with the other jurors, which jeopardizes their objectivity. After attempting to pass a proposal to overhaul the Court of the Judiciary, the board which had disciplined judges, a new entity was ultimately formed which differed little from its predecessor. The Post & Email was told by a reliable source that threats from the governor’s office to the Tennessee Senate leadership caused the attempt to rein in out-of-control judges to fail.
Based on the court’s failure to allow a defense to be presented, it appears that Kurtz’s court violated Article I, Section 9 of the Tennessee constitution, which states:
That in all criminal prosecutions, the accused hath the right to be heard by himself and his counsel; to demand the nature and cause of the accusation against him, and to have a copy thereof, to meet the witnesses face to face, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and in prosecutions by indictment or presentment, a speedy public trial, by an impartial jury of the county in which the crime shall have been committed, and shall not be compelled to give evidence against himself.
On December 12, Irion was told by the court reporter he had hired that the cost of the transcript would be $950. The transcript was necessary in order for the Motion for a New Trial to be filed by the deadline of January 2, 2013. Kurtz is expected to rule by January 9 on whether or not to grant a new trial.
A website established to support Fitzpatrick’s legal defense is managed directly by Irion’s office.
The Motion can be read in full here: Motion for New Trial
Tags: "Monroe County Criminal Court", Atty. Van Irion, criminal prosecutions, Grand Juries, grand jury foreman, Judge Walter C. Kurtz, Liberty Legal Foundation, Paul D. Rush, Tennessee, Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr., Tennessee constitution, Tenth Judicial District, Walter Francis Fitzpatrick III (Ret.)