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by Sharon Rondeau

Why are court costs and fines so high in Tennessee, or is it just that way in Monroe County? The Post & Email will be investigating.

(Dec. 8, 2010) — The Post & Email has obtained the list of charges and fines levied against Mr. Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III as a result of his conviction on two misdemeanor charges on December 1, 2010.

The following emails were exchanged between Monroe County Chief Court Clerk Martha M. Cook and The Post & Email:

From:  Sharon Rondeau
Sent: Fri 12/03/10 7:59 PM
To: Martha Cook

Ms. Cook, is there a report from the court on how much the fees will be?  I am aware of the $3,000 in fines, but the court costs do not seem to be posted anywhere yet.

Also, by which date do they need to be paid?

Thank you.

Sharon Rondeau
The Post & Email, Inc.

to which Ms. Cook replied on December 8, 2010:

Apologize for the delay have been very busy this week. Total amount due on fine & costs on Mr. Fitzpatrick’s convictions is $4776.00 and should be paid within the time frame of his suspended sentence.

If he wants to appeal, he would need to file a motion for bond pending appeal and the Court would set the bond.  He can buy a transcript from the court reporter, Denise Barnes, and her number is 423-435-8501.

Martha M Cook

and our response was:

I would like to buy the transcript.  Just for the record, I will call Ms. Barnes, but the last time I did so, she was very rude and hung up on me, even though I called during business hours.  Where do I send the money?

So the $4776 is due before Mr. Fitzpatrick is released, or can it be paid afterward?  May I have something on official letterhead confirming the amount and terms?

How does Mr. Fitzpatrick file a motion for bond pending an appeal from the jail?

Thank you.

Sharon Rondeau
The Post & Email, Inc.

The Post & Email was referring to the previous conversation with Ms. Barnes detailed here.

We contacted Ms. Barnes at the number provided by Ms. Cook, and she was courteous but said that she did not know what the cost of the transcript would be.  She promised to contact us tomorrow with that information.  When we asked if there was an audio of the trial rather than a typed transcript, she said, “We don’t do CDs.”  We then advised Ms. Barnes that Ms. Cook had sent us a CD of the November 9 preliminary hearing for Mr. Fitzpatrick which had cost $10.00, and Ms. Barnes replied, “I’ll have to talk to Ms. Cook.”

Ms. Cook’s next response to us was:

The transcript will be expensive due to the fact that she must type all of the trial and court reporters are paid by the page, it will not be on a disc and she will advise you where to send the money. The costs being paid has nothing to do with the time he is in jail.  He received a suspended sentence and the fine and costs are to be paid before his suspended sentence expires.  I can fax you a copy of the Bill of Costs in his case and will also send a copy to him at the jail.

Mr. Fitzpatrick would just file the motion pro se.

Below is a link to the Court of Appeals.


We then asked Ms. Cook:

OK.  You can fax the Bill of Costs to 203-987-7948.

Is there any video of the proceedings?

If the transcript is going to be several hundred dollars or something in that area, I would rather put the money toward something else.  Do you know where in the Tennessee Code it says that a defendant is charged for obtaining a transcript of his own hearing?  I never heard of such a thing before.  Isn’t it the court reporter’s job to produce the reports of hearings and trials, as her salary is paid for by the county and/or state?

If she is already being paid to produce these documents, where does the additional money collected from the defendants go?  Wouldn’t the “court costs” cover the transcript as well?  Isn’t that double-dipping, so to speak?

Also, Mr. Fitzpatrick never received a copy of the transcript from his June 28 arraignment.  When he went to Atty. Randy Rogers’s office, he was turned away empty-handed.  Is that transcript available?  Why was it supposedly given to Atty. Rogers and why couldn’t Mr. Fitzpatrick obtain a copy as he was promised in a phone message and in writing from Atty. Rogers?

Thank you very much.

Sharon Rondeau
The Post & Email, Inc.

Ms. Cook then replied:

There is no video. I don’t know where it is in the code, it is the way it is done in Tennessee. The court reporter is employed by the state and types the record and bills the party requesting the record. Costs of transcript is not included in court costs, 2 separate issues.  If I’m not mistaken, Mr. Fitzpatrick went to Mr. Rogers office to obtain a copy of the transcript and refused to pay $33.00 for said copy so Mr. Rogers did not give it to him.  If a defendant is indigent the state pays for transcript. Will fox bill of costs today.

The Post & Email was referring to the incident described in a previous report in which Walter Fitzpatrick had stated that he had gone to the law office of Randy and Matthew Rogers but had been refused the transcript which had been promised.  He did not mention that there was any issue over the cost of the transcript.

Ms. Cook was true to her word and faxed us the following list of fines and charges.

List of court costs, fees and fines for Walter Fitzpatrick received from the Monroe County Chief Clerk on December 8, 2010

The document bears a “file date” of June 3, 2010, when Angela Davis, a juror who is listed as having served on a jury in 2009, served as grand jury foreman, appointed by Judge Amy Reedy.  On Fitzpatrick’s June 28, 2010 arraignment hearing, that point was reportedly brought up by both Fitzpatrick and his attorney at the time, Stephen Pidgeon, but Judge Blackwood refused to concede that the grand jury had been compromised because there was “no proof” that the same “Angela Davis” had served in both 2009 and 2010..

However, during the December 1, 2010 trial, eyewitnesses reported that at the beginning of the trial when Fitzpatrick was allowed to ask questions of the jury, Blackwood dismissed a juror who admitted to having served on a jury within the past 24 months.  Blackwood reportedly dismissed the juror.  Why was that juror dismissed but the indictments of the grand jury from June 3 allowed to stand?

The Post & Email has the name of the dismissed juror from December 1 but will keep it confidential until the proper time.  Were there any other jurors on the jury that day who had served within the past 24 months but didn’t admit to it?

The Post & Email will be checking the Tennessee Code Annotated to see if the fines and charges being brought against Fitzpatrick are unusually high.  Perhaps a call to Rep. John Duncan’s office will yield some useful information, but perhaps not.  The Tennessee constitution states, in Section 16:

Section 16. That excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments be inflicted.

Are the fines totaling $4,776 for two misdemeanor charges stemming from an arguably compromised grand jury unconstitutional?  Is there an attorney anywhere in the state of Tennessee, or anywhere at all, who could effectively argue that?  If not, why not?

If a citizen is attempting to correct a situation which violates state law, why is he then the one arrested and imprisoned?

If juries have been “stacked” for years or even decades, how many trials would have to be reheard?  If the visitor is correct, how many people are paying their way out of convictions?

The Post & Email also called and left a message for Ms. Peggy Sawyer, Assistant Director of the Tennessee Corrections Institute, regarding our complaint filed last week about the conditions at the Monroe County detention facility.  While it is our understanding that there is now consistent heat, we do not believe that the plumbing leaking raw sewage has been repaired.  Ms. Sawyer had represented that as “a problem” when we spoke with her last week and had promised to assign an investigator to inspect the jail.

It is reported that in 1946, the “Battle of Athens” in McMinn County “restored lawful government” by putting an end to election fraud.  Soldiers returning from World War II took action, “cleaned up county government and fixed the jail.”

Editor’s Note: Thank you for your generous donations to the Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III Legal Defense Fund.  We have raised about $2,300, but between collect phone calls and the $200 repair to the broken door which the sheriff’s deputies caused on October 27, there is about $1,000 left.

Thank you also for your support of The Post & Email through our general fund.

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  1. Why have patriots not stormed that Traitor Pidgeon’s office and forced him to explain himself? He betrayed Walt. He betrayed the country. And we let him go about his business as if nothing has happened.

  2. All of this for a Government job and just another paycheck. What a poor lot you all have become, I bet you have to look in the mirror everyday before going to work, don’t you. Bad boy, Bad Boys what you gone do when they come for you.You know suicide rates are very high in law enforcement and one of the highest rating in America. It is a known fact that police officers not to mention Judges become very anti-social after a few years on the force and the bench. It seems that they have this problem that they cannot trust anyone anymore and are scared to mix with others outside their own kind. It is a very well-hidden subject in the law enforcement world that is called (ASOP). It seems you can do to others but you are scared to death of the others you have done to. So you fight back like the dogs you have become. It would really be nice if someone would look into their Union or Lodge agreements with the county and maybe put the pressure where it is needed on the County commissioners courts and the local Mayors and city councilmen and of course women, or do they allow women yet in this town to hold public office?

  3. I understand criminal misconduct by the judicial activist judges. I understand what should have been moved to another county the case, I also understand the term (Duty to be Careful). But most of all I understand a SLAPP SUIT and Malicious Procecution actions are illegal. You SLAPP Walt to shut him up. This whole bunch of MERCS suffer from (ASOP) Bipolar Anti social Personality Disorders.The Judge has a Panic Disorder and is possiblly suffering from the same thing as Obama, Psychosis and Schizo Phrenia he is scared someone might get his job. You ever wonder why spell check, and or I-pads do not Cap nor spell check the word GOD. Just take a look at the whole of the town that Walt is stuck in and you will find you answer. NO Christmas lights. What a hole in the ground it has become, not one person with the guts to speak up for their own. My father was a federal officer and he would spit on the whole of you all in this dump.If I lived in your area I would start with a suit against this judge on an individual bases, where his cloak and dagger would not help his pocket book because this is all they know or care about anymore.Sitting on the bench is an Honor not a thrown.
    Tuxkabin comes from the Mayan word which means (where are you Going)?.

  4. I spoke with a freind of mine the other day, he has two sons in Knoxville who are older lawyers. He said he would have his sons look in on this case because he is also a war vet of some 90 yrs now. He said most likely they are all of kin in Tennessee and they would know how to deal with them. He is a very powerful man. Keep you finger crossed it should be a few weeks before he gets back home. We know you boys are reading this site now in the east of the smokey Mtns, it is just a matter of time now. Now and you know you should have done right by Walt. This country is getting really tired of trash such as you all. you took a good man away from his family during the holidays and God will judge you some day, you know we all get old and tired and your day will come too, that is when you will find yourself all alone in your last days for what you have done during your life. That will be when you can remember my words, make it right now or you will live a very sad last days of your old age.People will walk by your house of rest and remember who you were, and a few might even spit a few challs on you site. I know I will.
    Tuxkabin has spoken.

  5. Sharon,

    Lots of people maybe don’t understand how it’s done. I work for court reporters, and everyone has different software programs. For example, if I have something called Eclipse software, I work for a CR that has that same software. She types into her steno machine and it goes into her computer, and she can translate it. Well, her software can. Steno is like kind of a different language.

    If I work for someone with that same software, and there are several big name companies, she has translated it and would send me to file through the Internet e-mail, where I have the edit portion of the software. I can go into it, do what formatting that I need to do, listen to the audio, because most all of the softwares have audio that plays along with the text. Then I would edit it for her/him. There are also depositions and/or trials where they do a video. But this doesn’t mean that the depo didn’t have audio with it, because most do anymore. It’s like a backup, so to speak.

    When you have a video deposition, you will have your audio with the job that you’re taking, it’s just that you have a videographer there taping the deposition.

    There are also different kinds of trials or depositions. Sometimes they don’t even have a CR there, but they have someone who does taping the proceedings. Right off the top of my head, I forget what you call it, but it’s all electronic. Then a person would take the audio and transcribe it.
    Mrs. Rondeau replies: Thank you; I’m learning a lot about the court reporter responsibilities and how hearings are transcribed. It must be different in some respects from the transcription I do from microcassettes.

    1. Yes, but I’m not sure of the transcription that you do, and you don’t have to say it if you want. But I can also read the steno too, and I have a way in my special software to where I can read the steno. Yet there are different theories of steno, then each CR will probably make up some of her own briefs and phrases to help her. There’s tons of briefs and phrases. You can say “at that time” in just a couple of strokes. It takes a lot of years of practice and learning to be good at being a CR. I have a lot of respect for them. It’s hard work trying to take all of what everyone is saying down, and many times you have two talking at the same time, which she/he can usually get control over.

      And every state usually has their own rules for deposition and formatting for court.

  6. Mrs. Rondeau, There are NO courts in east Tennessee that are not, Corrupt. I know, been there and fought through it and left Tennessee to keep from being killed. I know of an attorney(defense Atty) who might be able to put LtC Fitzpatrick in touch with someone that might help him through this mess. The attorney himself is at present suspended for fighting these crooked Judges in open Court. He may have someone in his firm that could help. I also believe the Gov-elect Bill Haslam is respectful person and possibly someone like you could contact his transition team and ask for help against these corrupt Court Systems. Do it soon before he officially takes office. Rep. Duncan is Useless as he only caters to his in crowd. The Senators, are all talk and nooooo action, unless there is something in it for them. The Attorneys name is Herb Moncier from Knoxville and I,m sure he can still be reached through his Law Firm.
    Mrs. Rondeau replies: OK, thank you.

  7. But, with regard to that reasoning, shouldn’t it be possible to get a transcript in the original short-hand without additional costs? Maybe then someone can translate that for free, I suppose we could find one court reporter (current or retired) who supports our case enough to volunteer, right?

    1. Jack, that is not possible for several reasons. Number one, not all court reporters write their shorthand in the same manner and it can be difficult for one reporter to read another’s shorthand accurately.

      The main reason is that a court reporter not involved in the case at hand can not certify the transcript (a necessary process) for use in an appeal court. Plus if (as seems to be hinted at) one is going to challenge the accuracy of the official transcript, it must be exactly that, the transcript of the court reporter taking down the proceedings. (and just as an aside, good luck with that one if attempted).

      Thirdly, the court reporter who reported the trial is entitled to be paid for producing the transcript.

      With regard to another poster’s advice to obtain the audio, first of all there may or may not be audio of the trial recorded by the Court. If there was a reporter present, which there obviously was, it is often not also recorded by the Court.

      Secondly (at least in most jurisdictions with which I’m familiar), the appeal courts will not accept an audio recording for appeal purposes (one would have to check the TN rules to find out if that’s the case there). It’s too cumbersome and time-consuming, in addition to the fact the court reporter will hear and understand and write down more than most recording devices. There are, in common court proceedings, whether they be depositions, court hearings, trials, or whatever, times that people will speak over each other, someone is rattling papers, tapping on a table or the like and the words spoken on the recording are covered or garbled.

      Part of having the “human element” present in these proceedings is that the reporter can control those things, directing people to speak one at a time, slow down, etc. and his/her hearing will not be hampered in ways a recording will… and this includes video.

  8. My experience with the legal “system” was in family law, pro se. I would deal directly with the independent court reporter to get transcripts. And they were pricey.
    I did not see a way for the court to get between the recorder and the transcript.
    It would be interesting to hear the court recorder’s answer if asked whether the transcripts were “approved” before they were released. If they were, it would be unique to Monroe County.
    Go for the audio record, if it is available.

  9. The transcript will say what they want it to say. Check the time they claim to keep electronic files because they will withhold the transcript long enough that you won’t be able to challenge it by comparing it with the original recording. Count on it. The bottom line is this, Walter just got a taste of what power is wielded by judges in our nation and what little if any recourse we have even when there is ample evidence of corruption and a media arm watching. As the old line goes, “you ain’t seen nothin yet”. Consider this, 99% of cases do not involve a jury at all just a judge and his gavel. What do you think goes on then? It gets better. The court system uses a database to see what they have already got on you so they can add nails to your coffin as they see fit. The system is called PROMIS. Check it out. There is quite a history of the powers that be fighting over the software (stolen) and who will get to use it for what purposes. It isn’t so much the software that is dangerous to liberty, it’s the database of names, trumped up charges, political allegiances, cash flow and travel that are being assembled. I guarantee that since Olliver North set up REX-84 and began collecting data that it now is in the hands of the current socialists and they are using it for much more than continuity of government. I bet Stalin, Mao and Castro would have loved to have had PROMIS.

  10. From the above article:
    “If the transcript is going to be several hundred dollars or something in that area, I would rather put the money toward something else. Do you know where in the Tennessee Code it says that a defendant is charged for obtaining a transcript of his own hearing? I never heard of such a thing before. Isn’t it the court reporter’s job to produce the reports of hearings and trials, as her salary is paid for by the county and/or state?

    If she is already being paid to produce these documents, where does the additional money collected from the defendants go? Wouldn’t the “court costs” cover the transcript as well? Isn’t that double-dipping, so to speak?”

    My understanding regarding the court reporter’s billing is this:

    Court Reporters learn and use a special language so that they can type amazingly fast; it is a form of short-hand, but more complicated. In order for a transcript to be produced, that short-hand must be translated.

    Many Court Reporters are Independent Contractors. Thus, they are employed but not salaried employees. Because of this, they may earn a basic wage (not salary) for attending and recording the proceedings; they are used on an ass needed basis (although some are full-time in specific courts). However, the transcripts that are provided to lawyers, plaintiffs, defendants and the public are produced upon order. Not every transcript is produced for public consumption. Transcripts are produced (translated) if needed. Otherwise, the Steno copy that is made by the Court Reporter remains as the official record. A transcript is the translation of the Steno record. It is also an official record of the court proceedings (and other forms of legal proceedings).

    The version of what Court Reporters record in court is in their short-hand (for lack of a better term). Many use what is called a Steno Machine:

    “The steno machine has only 22 keys and they are used in the most intriguing way to create such speed and accuracy. Your first few months of court reporting school will be learning what we call theory. Your court reporting program, is like learning how to read and write a new language that only court reporters know. You start at zero words per minute and gradually work your way up to 225.” http://www.thehighschoolgraduate.com/editorial/NJ/court_reporting.htm;

    That Steno record will always be on record. But, for a transcript to be made, the steno record must be translated from Steno language to English. This is very time consuming, and is why Court Reporters charge to translate this transcript into what you and I can read.

    The transcripts that you and I would read are only made if they are requested. Thus, the Court Reporter is paid by the court for their time in court, but they are only paid for the translated transcript IF it is requested. The person that requests the transcript is the one that pays for that product. There isn’t any double-dipping.

    Think of it this way. Let’s say you are a student note-taker for an international student. You attend the classes and take notes in English. Only if the international student needs those notes translated do you translate the notes into their language. You are paid to take the first set of notes in English. The international student may or may not need that lecture’s notes translated; if the student understood the lecture, they may not ask for that lecture to be translated. If they need the lecture translated, then that requires you, as the note-taker, to spend more time to produce the translated product. You only get paid for what you do.

    Because of this, Court Reporters charge for creating the public version of the official document. There are times when the product that is recorded during a proceeding isn’t needed.

    That is why folks have to pay to obtain a transcript. This is a standard practice throughout the US. And yes, all transcripts are expensive. The rates are pretty standard nationwide.

  11. Ms. Rondeau: I just read your report of the costs assessed Mr. Fitzpatrick for the trial. Thank you for obtaining and relating this information. It is a very interesting read. Your reporting of Walt’s and Darren’s arrests and court activities has been interesting and invaluable.

    While I know nothing of the costs and how they are reached, I do know about transcript fees, and yes, they are very expensive. To answer some of your questions about it, first, the money paid goes directly to the court reporters for payment of time and costs to prepare them. The salaries for court reporters who are employed by both the state and federal governments do not include payment for transcripts. The major reason behind that is that the reporters are in court reporting on trials ( and in come cases motions hearings, but apparently not in TN on hearings that do not include evidentiary matters such as trials) and they must work nights and weekends to prepare the transcripts, and of course they are entitled to be paid for that time and their expense.

    In most state and federal courts there is a statutory rate they may charge, which is usually quite a bit less than a court reporter doing depositions, for instance would charge. Those rates should be available from the courts. I have no idea what they are in TN, but a full day’s court time will certainly be several hundred dollars. Depending on the statutory rate there (assuming there is one) it could run anywhere from $200-$300 to as much as $700-$800, and in some places even more.

    In virtually all instances, both state and federal that I am aware, arrangements for payment are done directly with the court reporter. They will prepare and estimate of the cost and then tell you what their requirements are for payment. And yes, then can demand the full amount of payment up front. If the estimate was low they can then demand the balance up front prior to delivery. If the estimate was high they will refund any difference.

    This is not just the way it works in Tennessee, but everywhere of which I am aware.

    It seemed there was some confusion on that issue between you and Ms. Cook in the emails, so I thought I’d try to clear that up for you. Hope it helps.
    Mrs. Rondeau replies: You could be correct, but I wanted the information to come directly from the court. What is your source?

    1. My source is being married to a court reporter for over 20 years, who has worked in both state and federal courts and has freelanced. Her experience covers three states and two different federal courts. My best friend is also a court reporter of over 20 years experience similar to my wife’s.

      In addition, I’ve been involved in several court actions in my life and have purchased several transcripts for appeals of cases and also many depositions from freelance court reporters.

      I saw nothing that Ms. Cook told you regarding transcript acquisition that is erroneous nor at odds with anything in my experience or that of my wife, who also reads your publication.
      Mrs. Rondeau replies: OK, thank you. I am simply seeking factual information.