…AT LEAST TO THE POST & EMAIL
by Sharon Rondeau
(Sep. 23, 2014) — On Monday, The Post & Email followed up its request for an audio recording and typed transcript from the sentencing hearing for CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.) on August 19, 2014, during which Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood was heard to complain about “people coming in here demanding their constitutional rights.”
The Post & Email obtained a recording in segments of the hearing which may be able to be enhanced for better audio quality. In one of the recordings, the above-cited comment can be heard from Blackwood, who purportedly took an oath to uphold the Tennessee and U.S. Constitutions when he began serving as a judge decades ago.
Blackwood is now a “senior judge” who draws a pension while presiding over cases on an as-needed basis throughout the state. On August 19, he sentenced Fitzpatrick to three years in prison after he was convicted of aggravated perjury and extortion for attempting to bring evidence of public corruption, including on the part of Blackwood and other judges, to the McMinn County grand jury.
In Fitzpatrick’s case, the grand jury which indicted him had been provided “history” about him by then-foreman Jeffrey Cunningham, who The Post & Email has learned obtained the information from now-retired Judge Carroll Lee Ross. Fitzpatrick had been ordered arrested by Ross on April 1, 2010, after he attempted to carry out a citizen’s arrest on the Monroe County grand jury foreman at the time, Gary Pettway, who had been installed in the position 28 years before and served continuously without an oath of office or appointing order.
Grand juries were included in the Fifth Amendment to provide for an objective body of citizens to evaluate whether or not enough evidence exists for a person to be charged with a crime. Washington State and Connecticut do not use the grand jury system today.
When we communicated with the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts (TAOC) to obtain the Fitzpatrick transcripts on September 6, Connie Turner of the Office of the Administrative Director informed us that even though the materials were in the possession of the court reporter contracted to record and transcribe the hearing, permission to purchase them must be obtained from the court for which they were created. Turner added that a judge’s order might also be needed to release the transcripts. We had communicated with Cooley earlier that day, who said that at that time, she had neither the typewritten transcript nor the audio recording and referred us to the TAOC.
Since that time, Cooley and John Dunn of the Comptroller of the Treasury’s office have invoked the wording of the Tennessee Open Records Act, which says releasable documents are to be made available “to any citizen of this state” to deny The Post & Email access, something no other state has done in our five years of publication.
Tennessee bears the label of the third most corrupt state in the nation. Over the last five years, Fitzpatrick has discovered criminality within grand juries and trial juries facilitated by judges, court clerks, court reporters, administrators and the legislature, which has designated judges as immune from prosecution, even when they knowingly violate the law or defendants’ civil or constitutional rights.
A video is in production currently detailing Fitzpatrick’s exposure of systemic court corruption in eastern Tennessee and their operation of a government “not found in our United States Constitution.”
After receiving Cooley’s letter on Tuesday, we contacted Belinda Moore, the court reporter for Fitzpatrick’s sentencing hearing, to verify Cooley’s contention that she “was apparently new to criminal proceedings” and to inquire as to the method by which she produced the recording. As of press time, she had provided no response.
Our facsimile sent on Monday reads as follows:
On Tuesday morning, Cooley responded with the following facsimile: