- Law Cases
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jul. 25, 2013) — The U.S. Navy has knowingly covered up the crime of forgery of a military record for the last 23 years.
Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III was court-martialed in 1990 for a crime he did not commit. Several officers, including his commanding admiral, John Bitoff, declared him “guilty” before a hearing took place; a confession letter containing false statements was crafted by his defense attorney, who forged Fitzpatrick’s name to the document; and an NCIS investigation located the record of court-martial years afterward in the back of a closet once belonging to a Marine Corps major.
Fitzpatrick was accused of having misused funds from the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) fund of the U.S.S. Mars for entertainment equipment rather than its intended purpose of sending official escorts to the family of Capt. William Nordeen, who was killed in a terrorist attack in Greece on June 28, 1988. Capt. Nordeen’s brother, Michael, was commander of Fitzpatrick’s ship at the time.
Courts-martial do not employ a grand jury to issue an indictment against an accused, and they do not utilize a jury of one’s peers to determine innocence or guilt during the trial phase. The system was adopted from the British mode of military discipline and has never been altered by Congress to include protections guaranteed to American citizens by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The Fifth Amendment declares that “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger;…” and therefore exempts military service members from the benefit of a grand jury review of the evidence before being charged.
Fitzpatrick has previously explained that his court-martial, which is the most reviewed in U.S. history, “has exposed more about how a military discipline system works. Whenever you have a situation where no juries are allowed, especially when you have the military operating that system, you are operating a government that is not found in our United States Constitution.”
Bitoff appointed himself accuser and judge over Fitzpatrick’s court-martial, which violates UCMJ rules. If the accuser is an officer in the accused’s chain of command, an unrelated officer is expected to conduct the proceedings. Bitoff commissioned his own staff officers to “investigate” and report on the charges against Fitzpatrick, which ultimately ended his Navy career.
Over the past 23 years, Fitzpatrick has brought the forgery, which he deems a “criminal instrument,” to the attention of the FBI, the NCIS, and his elected representatives, who refused to act. One, former Rep. Norman Dicks, pressured a regional newspaper not to run a story on the cover-up of Fitzpatrick’s forged signature and an NCIS memo which admitted that if the forgery were proven, it would “make the Navy look really bad.”
Fitzpatrick believes that his court-martial is the quintessential example of how the military “justice” system is unconstitutional, prone to rampant abuse by officers who wish to scapegoat, make an example of, or ruin the career of an individual in their command. Courts-martial which have garnered some media focus on the military discipline process include those of Sgt. Lawrence Gordon Hutchins, III; Lt. Michael Behenna; SSgt. Ray Girouard; Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin, and the remaining members of the “Pendleton 8.”
Fitzpatrick summarized the process by which he was declared guilty in secret, highlighting the lack of oversight and constitutional protections afforded anyone serving in the Armed Services:
Issues regarding the discipline and punishment of our military personnel are purely functions of command. There is nothing judicial about them.
The case I bring to your attention is a case study in just exactly how that command function is exercised in secret, hidden from public view.
I make available to you a study in how the command function of discipline and punishment is exercised in the moment.
Rear Admiral (one-star) John W. Bitoff, then commander of a surface warfare group headquartered in the San Francisco Bay area, ordered an investigation into the USS MARS (AFS -1) Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) account.
Bitoff assigned his own staff attorney to conduct the preliminary investigation.
Lieutenant (0-3) Timothy W. Zeller, Bitoff’s staff JAG, commenced his assigned duty on 18 September 1989.
In their arrangement Bitoff and Zeller enjoyed an attorney-client relationship, an agency relationship that exists still today. When one man speaks, both men speak. When one man acts, both men act.
Zeller began the draft of his first written report on 2 October 1989.
Zeller briefed Admiral Bitoff on 12 October 1989. Zeller’s report was still in draft. Bitoff reviewed Zeller’s report wherein Zeller pronounced “guilt.” Bitoff approved Zeller’s work thereupon joining in a conclusion regarding “guilt.”
Bitoff ordered the commencement of the court-martial process after Bitoff had concluded that “LCDR Fitzpatrick is guilty.”
In making his command decision Bitoff left no doubt regarding what Bitoff’s eventual and final decision was going to be. “LCDR FITZPATRICK is guilty.”
Attached is Admiral Bitoff’s approved report in final form. Zeller’s report was signed out and made official under Bitoff’s command authority and under Bitoff’s unlawful command influence.
[Lt. Zeller's memo to Adm. John Bitoff can be found here: ZELLER'S TO BITOFF INVESTIGATION REPORT - 23 OCTOBER 1989]
At the same time that Fitzpatrick was filing complaints with the NCIS in Silverdale, WA about the forgery, a program designed by then-U.S. Attorney John McKay and the U.S. Navy for civilian police departments and the military to share information was in the process of development and was later duplicated in other areas of the country. The implementation of the program may have led to the firing of eight U.S. attorneys for which former President George W. Bush was excoriated in 2004.
After years of attempting to prove that the document bearing his name was a forgery and the court-martial a sham, on March 3, 2005, Fitzpatrick was visited by NCIS investigator James H. Connolly and three other agents, during which Connolly threatened his life were he to continue his quest for justice. Connolly had a letter in hand signed by L. J. Beyer, Inspector General of the Department of the Navy, who wrote that “NCIS will not initiate an investigation” into Fitzpatrick’s “allegations of wrongdoing” in regard to his court-martial. Beyer concluded the letter by stating, “…you are not to enter the Field Office or communicate with it or any of its personnel, effective immediately. If you do, we will initiate appropriate legal measures against you. It is our intention to have no further contact with you of any kind.”
The letter also claimed that Fitzpatrick had been “discourteous, abusive, and threatening” to NCIS personnel, a claim he soundly denies.
In 2006, Connolly was the interrogator of Sgt. Lawrence Gordon Hutchins, III in Iraq after Hutchins was accused of murdering an Iraqi man. Hutchins’s subsequent conviction was overturned on June 26 by a military appeals court which deemed that Hutchins was improperly denied counseling while undergoing questioning. Hutchins has two young children and has spent more than six years in military prisons since 2007.
The day after Connolly’s unscheduled visit, Fitzpatrick went to the Silverdale, WA field office of the NCIS to report the threats Connolly and his assistants had made. What follows is an untangling of a web of deceit which has followed Fitzpatrick for nearly a quarter of a century which the Navy continues to cover up to this day.
Fitzpatrick describes his father, Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, Jr., who was a Navy medical doctor during World War II, as “a war hero.” He participated in Operation Torch on November 8, 1942, which was deemed “a suicide mission.” For his father’s sake, Fitzpatrick has said, “I want my name back.”
THE POST & EMAIL: What precipitated your receipt of the NCIS letter dated November 30, 2004?
CDR FITZPATRICK: I had been interacting with the NCIS in Bremerton-Silverdale, WA for years and years and years after I moved there. This letter is a reaction to a very dynamic shift in my case that rendered the NCIS extraordinarily vulnerable to their criminal complicity in protecting John Bitoff, the Navy, and all of the other criminal miscreants who were involved in my court-martial.
THE POST & EMAIL: It also ties in to former U.S. Attorney John McKay, correct?
CDR FITZPATRICK: Yes, that is one tangent of it. I didn’t know about it in the day; I only found out about it later.
As you know, from the NCIS memo written 5 September of 1997, before the actual original of the forgery had been discovered, it says, and I’m paraphrasing, “He’s been clamoring about this for ten years.” They said I was a very bad actor, and in the day, I thought that it was (Lt. ) Tim Zeller who had forged my name. I didn’t know who did it, but the document was held by Zeller at one point. I thought it was Zeller, and I kept pressing the NCIS to go do the chain of custody: Where did this document come from, where did it originate, who had it first, who typed it out and hit the “print” button? They never did that.
In 1997, I was working as a retired civilian in northern Virginia, right across the Potomac River from Washington, DC; they call it Crystal City. I was raising Cain about the forgery. So the NCIS field office in Washington, DC out of the Washington Navy Yard picked up the case. I remember the phone call from a special agent named Gerry Nance, one of the Senior Executive Service (SES) guys, which is the senior executive service for the federal government equivalent to admiral or general if you were in the military.
So Gerry Nance called me in my office in Crystal City, which was across the street from the Pentagon, and he said, “This [the forgery] has come back to our attention again.” It was vulgar; it was nasty. He said, “We are going to go and find this document, and when we do find it, we are going to” – and this is not what he said – “we’re going to hang it around your neck, we’re going to court-martial you again, we’re going to slap you into Leavenworth and throw away the key. We have had enough of you. Do you understand? Is this the path you want us to take?” and I said, “Yes, as a matter of fact, it is. Knock yourself out.” And that was the end of that conversation.
Within days of that phone call, I got a letter from the NCIS which tasked Richard Allen, the field agent who was assigned, to go and find the original of the forgery. The memo was from Ernie Simon, who was probably senior to Gerry Nance at the SES/NCIS organization. We’re talking about very senior officials at the NCIS; main office guys. In the letter delivered to Richard Allen, it says, and I’m paraphrasing, “If it is a forgery, it proves everything Fitzpatrick has been saying for the last ten years. It makes the Navy and the Marine Corps look really bad.” And that would include the NCIS, which should have been looking into this as soon as I reported it to them way back when.
In 1997, the NCIS thought that I was the originator of that document and that it bore my true signature. It was the warning that was being issued by Gerry Nance: “WE KNOW YOU SIGNED IT.”
I was also raising Cain with the office of the Judge Advocate General. I had been to the Pentagon office, where John Hutson was the Judge Advocate General of the Navy. He is now Dean Emeritus of the University of New Hampshire School of Law. Don Guter was a Navy Captain (0-6) when I met him in the Pentagon office of then-Navy Judge Advocate General Hutson (a Rear Admiral [0-8]).
Guter, then an executive assistant to Hutson, blocked me from meeting directly with Hutson. Guter rose in rank and position and eventually became Navy TJAG himself. (He is now president and dean of South Texas College of Law.) So the office of the JAG, in a parallel investigation, said, “We’re going to go and find this document, too.” Don Guter called up his friend, who was the Inspector General for the office of the JAG. His name was Rand Pixa, also a Navy captain.
So at this point in time, September-October 1997, there was a full-blown effort by the NCIS and the Inspector General for the office of the Navy JAG to look for the original of the forgery. The two point men on this were Rand Pixa and NCIS Special Agent Richard Allen.
Between September and December 5, no one could find the original record of court-martial. Richard Allen had been told that the original records for the Fitzpatrick court-martial were held at the federal repository in Suitland, MD, so at one point, he left his Washington Navy Yard NCIS office and drove to Suitland, MD to find the original record of court-martial for CDR Fitzpatrick. What he discovered was that it was missing. It wasn’t there, and the last person to have checked it out was a Marine Corps Major named Ricky Stutzel.
Three months later to the day, 5 December 1997, the original of the forgery was discovered. It was Rand Pixa, who was in the JAG offices at the Washington Navy Yard, who had gone into the office that had once been held by Stutzel, and in the closet of what had once been Stutzel’s office, Rand Pixa found all of these boxes…
THE POST & EMAIL: Why did Stutzel check it out?
CDR FITZPATRICK: My case is the most-reviewed case in the history of the U.S. Armed Forces and this country. In 1991, I was very aggressive in trying to prove my innocence and to remain on active duty, so I was ringing every bell that I could.
In 1997, Stutzel was working directly for the JAG of the Navy at the time. One of the people who took over the review of my case was a lieutenant commander named Nanette DeRenzi. When Major Stutzel left as an 04 in the Marine Corps, DeRenzi, as an 04 in the Navy, became the new action officer.
Stutzel took the record because he was responding to a flurry of documentation that I was submitting to them that said a review was needed. So as part of that activity, Stutzel went to the federal records repository in Suitland, MD and checked out the original record of court-martial, stuck it in a cardboard box and left it in his closet with other boxes, and that’s where Capt. Rand Pixa found it on 5 December 1997.
Pixa’s first phone call was to the NCIS agent, who could have been in the same building at the Washington Navy Yard, and said, “Hey, Special Agent Allen, I found the original of the Fitzpatrick court-martial record.”
Richard Allen called me that night and told me they found the original. He came on to the scene through the original record of court-martial that bears my forged and misspelled name. He then became involved in gathering evidence. Investigator that he was, Allen recognized that the forged document matched other documents in the court-martial record. In other words, the same kind of typewriter and printer were used for both. It was the same font, type, style and size. If you took words typed on both, they were identical. If held up to the light, one covered the other perfectly.
Up until the time that the original document was discovered, these men represented it as an authentic writing bearing my true signature. Everyone was trying to find the document so they could track it back to me and then call me back on active duty, court-martial me again and throw me into a military prison for as long as they could keep me.
THE POST & EMAIL: And they could have done that if they had found that you had made it up?
CDR FITZPATRICK: Correct. But they knew. They knew it was a forgery. Special Agent Allen examined the original document and was able to match it to other documents in the court-martial record which had been created, and some of them signed, by Kevin Anderson himself using Kevin Anderson’s own name.
For example, I sent you a copy of my signature in the court-martial records on a document called a “Stipulation.” That is one of the matching documents which NCIS Special Agent Richard Allen found. These are all original records. If you print out the Stipulation – sent because that is what my signature looked like in 1990; these days, I spell my name out more completely: “Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III” - you can see how my signature would have appeared back in that day.
If you hold these two documents together, it’s very clear that one is a forgery. If you take any word from that Stipulation, and then you print out the forged document and match up the word, you will find that the font type, size and style is identical. Both of those documents came off of the same machine.
The court-martial record was in its own little closet cemetery. They wanted this thing buried, and they buried it. I don’t know if it was Nanette DeRenzi who was the next occupant of Maj. Stutzel’s office, but we’re talking about that time frame. There has been a regular procession of military officers who know about what’s going on and the seriousness of it, and they are working aggressively to keep to it quiet, to include Vice Admiral Nanette DeRenzi, TJAG, USN.
THE POST & EMAIL: So any of these officers could have stood up and said, “This is not right,” but none did?
CDR FITZPATRICK: Yes, ma’am. But they didn’t. To this day, right to this moment, you have that kind of thing going on.
THE POST & EMAIL: Military corruption was also on display during the courts-martial of Sgt. Hutchins and Lt. Col. Terry Lakin. Someone observed to me the other day that through the American Revolution, we rejected a monarch as the head of our government, but the military system is set up as a monarchy with all of the power concentrated at the top.
CDR FITZPATRICK: I have written about this before. In fact, there was a point in history when Alexander Hamilton wanted to denominate the head of our executive branch as a king. I explained in an email yesterday how we have come to this point in time when we have this very British system of government. I used a legal example yesterday in the excerpt that I took from Alice in Wonderland of the queen:
“‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first – verdict afterwards.’
“‘Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ‘The idea of having the sentence first!’
” ‘Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.”
-Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
-Lewis Carroll (1865)
THE POST & EMAIL: There’s a lot of emphasis on forgery these days because of the Obama birth certificate and all of the things they tried to do to make him look legitimate.
CDR FITZPATRICK: Forgeries are used all the time for these kinds of criminal purposes.
[Editor's Note: This interview will be continued in a subsequent post in which CDR Fitzpatrick discussed the nexus between his forgery and Barack Hussein Obama's.]
Update, September 3, 2013: After a lengthy interview with Maj. Ricky Stutzel (Ret.), The Post & Email learned that Fitzpatrick’s court-martial file may not have been found in Stutzel’s office closet after all. Stutzel told us that files from courts-martial were routinely checked out by his office for review and maintained in an area close to where he worked in the JAG office. Stutzel said that approximately every two years, files were reviewed and “cleaned out.” Records show that Fitzpatrick’s file was checked out of the Federal Records Center in Suitland, MD in 1992.
Tags: Alexander Hamilton, Alice in Wonderland, Barack Hussein Obama, Bill of Rights, Capt. Michael Nordeen, Capt. William Nordeen, courts-martial, Crystal City, Dan Guter, forgery, Gerry Nance, grand jury, JAG Corps, James H. Connolly, John Bitoff, John Hutson, Kevin Anderson, LCDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick III, Lt. Col. Terry Lakin, Lt. Michael Behenna, Lt. Tim Zeller, military discipline, Nanette DeRenzi, NCIS, Operation Torch, Rand Pixa, Rep. Norman Dicks, Richard Allen, Sgt. Lawrence Gordon Hutchins III, Silverdale WA, SSgt. Ray Girouard, the Pendleton 8, U.S. Constitution, UCMJ, Walter Francis Fitzpatrick Jr., Washington Navy Yard