EYEWITNESS: “HE DIDN’T TRY TO HIDE IT”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Aug. 27, 2011) — An eyewitness to the trial of George Raudenbush has told The Post & Email that while one person whom Judge Carroll Ross alleged had a recording device with him in the Madisonville courtroom on August 24, 2011, another, who is known to the community as a reporter for a local newspaper, was allowed to remain with what appeared to be a recording device left in plain view as the trial proceeded.
LCDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III reported to The Post & Email that on August 24, he went to the Monroe County courthouse in Madisonville to witness the Raudenbush trial. After seeking permission to bring a hand-held recording device into the courtroom but being denied, Fitzpatrick brought the recorder out to his car, re-entered the courtroom and was checked again for prohibited items. He was then allowed into the courtroom, only to be removed “within moments” because Sheriff’s Deputy Bennie Byrum said that Judge Ross had claimed that Fitzpatrick “had tried to sneak a recorder into the courtroom.”
These events were reported to the Knoxville FBI by both Fitzpatrick and The Post & Email. Fitzpatrick has stated that Judge Ross is guilty of “suborning perjury” and that Byrum is guilty of committing perjury.
However, the eyewitness told The Post & Email today that someone with a recording device had been allowed to stay in the courtroom for the trial with the device placed in plain view of observers and court personnel. The following is our interview with the observer.
OBSERVER: I was in the courtroom on August 24, 2011. I had heard about everything that was going on and had the opportunity to see firsthand what was going on. What I observed was that Mr. Raudenbush had objected strongly to the judge that he did not have counsel, and he requested about having counsel. The judge abruptly interrupted him and said that he wasn’t “going to hear it or discuss it” and that Mr. Raudenbush had to represent himself.
It was a very long trial; about 14 hours. Mr. Raudenbush did the best he could from what I could see. He said he was not an attorney and didn’t have enough knowledge to represent himself. I thought he made some errors. He was obviously not an attorney, and he didn’t really know the proceedings of the court.
MRS. RONDEAU: It would seem that most lay people wouldn’t.
OBSERVER: That’s right. It was amazing to see how many times the judge called Mr. Raudenbush up to the bench where he was sitting and turned off the microphone. From where I was sitting, the microphone was turned off at least 30 times during the trial.
MRS. RONDEAU: Does the judge usually have a microphone on his desk?
OBSERVER: I don’t know how they do it; I just know that the jury was told to leave. The courtroom wasn’t always cleared, but the jury had to go back at certain times when Mr. Raudenbush and the District Attorney’s office representative went before the judge. So it wasn’t all the time that the jury was dismissed; they stayed in there a large portion of the time.
MRS. RONDEAU: Why do you think the judge was constantly turning off the microphone?
OBSERVER: Apparently the judge didn’t want what was being said recorded on the record.
MRS. RONDEAU: Was the judge in physical control of the microphone?
OBSERVER: Yes, the judge was in control of it.
MRS. RONDEAU: I know you probably can’t remember every instance, as you said it might have been about 30 times, but what kind of thing was the judge saying when he turned off the microphone?
OBSERVER: What I could hear was every time Mr. Raudenbush raised an issue, the judge called him up, and Mr. Raudenbush had to go before the judge. So it was either that Mr. Raudenbush requested to speak to the judge, or the judge requested Mr. Raudenbush and the District Attorney’s office to come up to speak to him.
MRS. RONDEAU: Did anyone object when Mr. Raudenbush voiced concerns about not being allowed to have an attorney? What about the District Attorney General?
OBSERVER: There was no support for Mr. Raudenbush whatsoever for counsel. At different times during the trial, Mr. Raudenbush even brought up that he wasn’t an attorney, that he did not have representation, and that he was doing the best he could. In the beginning, I also got the impression when the judge was speaking directly to Mr. Raudenbush that Mr. Raudenbush would be in contempt if he pushed the issue. That’s what I got from the judge, and the district attorney definitely was not “for” Mr. Raudenbush at that time.
MRS. RONDEAU: Do you think Mr. Raudenbush was out of line at all?
OBSERVER: I didn’t see anything other than that Mr. Raudenbush was not prepared. He didn’t have the paperwork, the documentation, his evidence. He even said that in court; that he had been in jail for three days, and how could he produce the documentation when the court had him in custody? He had no access to it.
MRS. RONDEAU: Yes, we were told that Mr. Raudenbush had been arrested on August 22.
OBSERVER: Yes, I think Mr. Raudenbush brought that up to the jury, that he had been detained and wasn’t able to have access to the evidence or the records. He briefly brought it up; I didn’t hear the judge allow him to give any explanation. If he tried to, the state objected and Mr. Raudenbush wasn’t allowed to proceed. There were a lot of objections when Mr. Raudenbush tried to present evidence. It was objected to, the judge sustained the states objection, and Mr. Raudenbush wasn’t allowed to present the evidence.
MRS. RONDEAU: Do you think that it was unusual that a defendant wasn’t allowed to produce evidence to defend himself?
OBSERVER: I’ve taken a few civics courses and consider myself an average citizen, but it seemed to me that it was unfair. Everything was in favor of the state and the court, and Mr. Raudenbush didn’t have the same freedom or access that the court and state had.
MRS. RONDEAU: Do you know why Mr. Raudenbush was arrested on August 22?
OBSERVER: The only information I have was that he was considered in contempt of court, and that’s why they held him. Nothing was brought up at the trial that I heard. There might have been something, but nothing really came up as to why he was contempted.
MRS. RONDEAU: The information I received was that he was accused of using a recording device in the courtroom, but when that might have occurred, I don’t know. How long did the trial last on the 24th?
OBSERVER: It was the whole day. It went from 9:00 a.m. to…It was after midnight when I got back home, but of course I was talking with others after the trial.
MRS. RONDEAU: Wouldn’t it have been more customary for them to have broken for the day around 5:00 p.m. and come back the next day?
OBSERVER: I’ve sat in on a lot of trials, and usually that’s how they do it. The judge was very specific, and he said this three times in the courtroom; I remember this distinctly. He was verbally louder than when he spoke about other things. He said, “We’re going to finish this trial today.” In other words, it was going to be a one-day trial. I remember him saying that. He said it three times; that’s why it stuck in my mind.
MRS. RONDEAU: I wonder why the judge was so intent on finishing it no matter how late it went? Not all jurors can stay. Do you remember if the judge asked the jurors if they were able to stay late?
OBSERVER: No, I didn’t hear that. I had left the courtroom a couple of times briefly, as did most people, but no, I didn’t hear that.
MRS. RONDEAU: It would seem that some of the jurors might have had families, or small children…
OBSERVER: Most of the jurors were elderly. As a matter of fact, they had to stop the whole proceeding because one of the jurors apparently had a nosebleed or something. The judge said it was a nosebleed. I didn’t understand what was going on then, and he quickly dismissed the jury to the jury room. When they came back, that was when the judge said that he was very concerned about the one juror having a nosebleed.
That’s a good point that you brought up, because here the judge was so concerned about the jury and their well-being, but he wanted to push them late into the night, almost until 12:00, to get a verdict.
MRS. RONDEAU: I know there were six or seven charges against Mr. Raudenbush. Do you know if all of the charges against Mr. Raudenbush were heard on Wednesday?
OBSERVER: I believe they were. There were seven counts, and at the end of the trial, he was convicted of eight. I thought that was kind-of unusual since the grand jury had brought only seven counts against him, and that’s what was heard during the trial.
MRS. RONDEAU: He was convicted on eight counts after only seven charges were brought?
OBSERVER: That’s correct. I think at one point, Mr. Raudenbush realized that, and I think he was trying to convey that to the judge. Those were the times when the judge called him up, and he even reprimanded Mr. Raudenbush a couple of times because he was speaking so that the public and jury could hear, and he asked Mr. Raudenbush not to do that.
MRS. RONDEAU: Was the judge unable to hear what Mr. Raudenbush was saying?
OBSERVER: Well, I think that the judge didn’t want the court or the jury to hear what Mr. Raudenbush was saying.
MRS. RONDEAU: Was Mr. Raudenbush speaking out of turn?
OBSERVER: No, as a matter of fact, Mr. Raudenbush was overly polite to the court, and I think the reason for that was that he was afraid to be contempted or thrown in jail again. The judge reprimanded him repeatedly for being so polite.
MRS. RONDEAU: He was reprimanded for being courteous????
OBSERVER: Yes. He said that Mr. Raudenbush was being overly polite and apologetic. I thought Mr. Raudenbush was apologizing a lot.
MRS. RONDEAU: Did it seem to you that enough evidence was presented by the government to convict Mr. Raudenbush on all the charges? Also, how did the eighth conviction come about when there were only seven charges?
OBSERVER: There was a lot of evidence produced by the state attorney’s office, and I think Mr. Raudenbush challeneged that evidence. Whether or not a crime or crimes were committed by Mr. Raudenbush wasn’t very clear to me. I had a lot of doubt in my mind about the evidence that was brought forward which was the testimony of the one Monroe County Sheriff’s Department officer and then the two Tellico Plains police officers. From the testimony they gave and the evidence that Mr. Raudenbush was allowed to present, there was a lot of doubt about the officers’ testimony.
MRS. RONDEAU: I have heard that in Monroe County, many times at trials, it is police officers or deputies testifying without any other witnesses. Did the officers present any written material, video, or anything that might have proven their allegations?
OBSERVER: No, I didn’t see anything that supported the testimony of the officers. There were a lot of objections to what Mr. Raudenbush was allowed to present, including his witnesses. At one time, Mr. Raudenbush tried to present the backgrounds of the officers, and the court would not allow him to do that. There was a lot of doubt in my mind about what was going on with the officers. I wanted to know what their backgrounds were, but the court didn’t want the jury or the public to know. The court and state were very strong about that.
MRS. RONDEAU: Do you have any idea how the backgrounds of the officers might have impacted the trial had the judge allowed the information to be aired?
OBSERVER: If I had been one of the jurors, if there was any documentation of suspension, disciplinary action or the use of excessive force, I would have wanted to hear that. I wanted to hear everything that was involved. However, the court and the district attorney’s office objected to it, and Mr. Raudenbush wasn’t allowed to bring it up or present it. I personally would have liked to have heard that, because that would have allowed me, if I was a juror, to make a better decision based on all the facts and all the evidence. But from where I was sitting, all the facts and all the evidence were not allowed to be presented.
MRS. RONDEAU: Do you remember the three officers’ names?
OBSERVER: There was a young lady with bleached blond hair; I believe her name was April Shaffer, although I could be wrong.
MRS. RONDEAU: I believe that name was on the police report which The Post & Email obtained from the court clerk.
OBSERVER: The other two were Brian Millsaps and Travis Jones.
MRS. RONDEAU: I have heard independently about both of them: Jones has been accused of trying to block the vehicle belonging to Daniel Morgan, and I was told that Millsaps has been accused of brutally beating someone who was already injured and waiting for an ambulance. He was also the officer whom Mr. Raudenbush accused of breaking his car window with a flashlight the night he was arrested. Mr. Raudenbush also told us that Millsaps was fired from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department and that both Jones and Millsaps have filed “false and exaggerated reports.”
OBSERVER: From what I understand, the officer Brian Millsaps was involved in another case of using excessive force, and from what I understand, that individual has a lawsuit against Monroe County and the sheriff’s department. I don’t know where that’s at, but I’ ve heard there’s a lawsuit. I’ve also heard of other individuals in the community who have been assaulted or harassed by this officer.
MRS. RONDEAU: So the three officers testified, but had nothing in the way of evidence? Did they demonstrate anything visual which the jury could evaluate regarding Mr. Raudenbush’s driving speed?
OBSERVER: On the speeding offense, which I believe was the second charge and a misdemeanor offense, no evidence was presented by the officers or the state to prove the officers’ testimony.
MRS. RONDEAU: Don’t they have dash cam recordings and other ways of making a permanent record of these things?
OBSERVER: The officer said that his camera wasn’t working that day, and the other officer said he didn’t have a camera, and I thought that was kind-of suspicious that none of their cameras were working, especially when Mr. Raudenbush claims he was assaulted by Brian Millsaps. That didn’t add up in my mind. These officers had no physical evidence of speeding, the assault on them, or any of their claims, but Mr. Raudenbush was able to get into the record somehow to show pictures of his vehicle which had supposedly struck and caused “severe damage” to one of the officers’ vehicles. After I looked at the pictures from where I was at, from the testimony – the guy who towed the vehicle and the guy who took pictures of the vehicle – they both testified that there was not even a scratch on the vehicle, nothing. So if Mr. Raudenbush’s vehicle did, in fact, go right into the officer’s car, which is what the officer testified – and he was charged with using his vehicle as a deadly weapon – there was absolutely no evidence whatsoever to prove that. In fact, the evidence that Mr. Raudenbush showed in testimony and pictures proved that the officers were lying under oath.
MRS. RONDEAU: Do you recall how many witnesses Mr. Raudenbush called up to the stand?
OBSERVER: I don’t remember exactly; there were a few. I do remember that during one part of the trial, he had quite a few witnesses, even state officials, and the court refused the witnesses the opportunity to testify. They were very strong about not allowing Mr. Raudenbush to bring in those witnesses.
MRS. RONDEAU: Do you think that was legal?
OBSERVER: Well, whether it was legal or not, I don’t know, but I felt cheated as a member of the public. I wanted to hear everything. I don’t want to hear just one side of it, and the proceeding was very one-sided. I went in with a very open mind to see what this Mr. Raudenbush has been doing.
MRS. RONDEAU: Was there any other kind of evidence that was presented that might have placed doubt in the jurors’ minds that Mr. Raudenbush was innocent?
OBSERVER: The only thing I saw, and was the biggest evidence I saw, was the photos presented by Mr. Raudenbush, and the two witnesses who didn’t know each other who presented their testimony with the photos, and everything was consistent. The photos and the two witnesses – were so consistent that it proved the officers to be lying. These were two individuals who didn’t even know each other, and they testified about what they saw, and the photos confirmed their testimony. So I was kind-of confused as to how the officers could make a statement that Mr. Raudenbush struck their police vehicle three separate times damaging it, when the photos, testimony, facts and the evidence were contrary to the officers testimony.
MRS. RONDEAU: Do you know if the jury’s verdict was unanimous to convict?
OBSERVER: I don’t know that it was unanimous, but I’m assuming it was, because he was convicted on all seven charges plus the additional one.
MRS. RONDEAU: How many jurors were there: 12?
OBSERVER: Yes, there were 12 there.
MRS. RONDEAU: In at least one of Walter Fitzpatrick’s trials, it was found that a juror had served too previously to have served again, according to TCA 22-2-314. Do you recall if any of the jurors were dismissed before the trial began for that reason or any other reason?
OBSERVER: There was one juror dismissed whom I believe was related to the clerk, Martha Cook.
MRS. RONDEAU: Was Mr. Raudenbush allowed to object to that juror who was allegedly related to Ms. Cook?
OBSERVER: I don’t know if he was allowed to, but I do know that the court dismissed that juror.
MRS. RONDEAU: How did it come out that the juror was related to Ms. Cook?
OBSERVER: The judge had asked if anybody in the courtroom was related to any of the officials or anybody in the courtroom, and the juror stood up and said he was a cousin of Marty Cook’s.
MRS. RONDEAU: I recall hearing that a cousin of Marty Cook’s ended up on a jury in another recent case. Perhaps Ms. Cook has a lot of cousins, because jury selection is supposed to be done in a totally automated way. When that juror was dismissed, was there an alternate ready to be brought out?
OBSERVER: Yes, there were two alternates. But I’m glad you asked that question, because it just brought back a memory. There were two reporters in the courtroom that I could see. One of them I think is with a local newspaper, I think “The Buzz.” The other reporter I wasn’t familiar with, but the judge expelled him from the courtroom for having a recorder. I don’t know if he had a recorder or not; I just know that he was expelled. Here’s what’s really interesting: How come the other reporter had a recorder and he was allowed to stay in the courtroom?
MRS. RONDEAU: Did the other reporter have a recorder?
OBSERVER: That’s what I understand.
MRS. RONDEAU: Did you see the device?
OBSERVER: I saw what looked like a recorder, and he had it open on top of his clipboard.
MRS. RONDEAU: We have received a report from a man named Walter Fitzpatrick, who was expelled for being accused of trying to bring a recorder into the courtroom. He was told about what was said later, after he was expelled from the courtroom. Did you witness the judge placing Deputy Bennie Byrum under oath and claiming that Fitzpatrick had a recorder?
OBSERVER: Yes, I was in the courtroom when that happened.
MRS. RONDEAU: So you don’t know if Mr. Fitzpatrick had a recorder with him or not?
OBSERVER: No, I don’t, but I did see the other reporter, and he did have what appeared to be a recording device, and I believe other people saw it as well, because he wasn’t trying to hide it.
MRS. RONDEAU: But he was allowed to stay?
MRS. RONDEAU: Did anyone question that?
OBSERVER: It didn’t come up, because everyone was focused on the trial. I don’t remember it ever coming up.
MRS. RONDEAU: As a member of the community there, do these inconsistencies make you wonder if the court proceedings are being conducted lawfully or if the judge is impartial?
OBSERVER: Well, yes, now that you’ve raised the question. I was there because I wanted to see what was going on based on what I’d read in the papers.
MRS. RONDEAU: About how many other trials have you observed in that courtroom?
OBSERVER: Perhaps 20 or 30. Over the years I’ve been called as witness for others, and I’ve had to sit there and watch what other people have had to go through. When you come in, they make you wait all day. I’ve probably seen more than 30.
MRS. RONDEAU: Are you confident that justice was being served at those times or now?
OBSERVER: I don’t see how the jury came to the conclusion that they did without being influenced or instructed somehow to go a certain way. I can’t see how they came to their conclusion. There was too much doubt in my mind about the officers’ testimony, the court not allowing the officers backgrounds to be admissible into evidence. There was too much doubt in my mind about the state’s evidence. It was really shaky to me. I went in to find out the facts and the truth.
MRS. RONDEAU: Do you think you found out the truth on Wednesday?
OBSERVER: No, I don’t think we were able to find out the truth that day. There were a lot of things that were withheld. There was a lot of evidence that was not allowed to be entered into the court, evidence that I wanted to know about.
MRS. RONDEAU: Did that seem strange to you that evidence was not allowed in?
OBSERVER: Yes, I think it was. Whenever someone is on trial, it’s very important that you see both sides. I wasn’t able to see Mr. Raudenbush’s whole side. What I saw was the side that the state wanted to present, and then Mr. Raudenbush was limited in what he could present. The part of Mr. Raudenbush’s side that I did see caused a lot of doubt in my mind as to the officers testimony, because in my opinion, they had lied. Their testimony was not lining up with the evidence or the testimony of two separate and independent witness.
MRS. RONDEAU: Had you thought up until this point based on the other trials you had witnessed that those trials were conducted fairly?
OBSERVER: When I had to be in court and listen to the other cases, there were some crazy decisions that this judge has made. There was one man who had sexually assaulted a woman and the state had brought strong charges. They were even still bringing the charges. Judge Ross sentenced the guy and let him walk out.
MRS. RONDEAU: Was there strong evidence that the man was guilty?
OBSERVER: Yes. The guy even admitted that he did it. The evidence was there. Nobody objected to the self-incrimination. I guess he waived his right to counsel or he had counsel there; I don’t know which. I distinctly remember the judge saying, “Time served, and you’re free to go.” If somebody commits a crime like that, certainly, you don’t let him go. You at least put him before a jury trial and let the jury decide.
MRS. RONDEAU: And there was no jury trial in that instance?
OBSERVER: I think he was being tried before the judge. I think he might have made a deal to go before the judge and let the judge try him. That’s one thing I do know: you can choose which way you want to go: either with self-representation or with an attorney and a jury trial or going before the judge and having him hear the complaint.
MRS. RONDEAU: I recall the case of a young man who had gotten a speeding ticket who had chosen a jury trial, which was unusual for an infraction that small, but it was his right. The judge in that case, Amy Reedy, reportedly refused to produce a transcript for the defendant. Was there a court reporter in the room?
OBSERVER: Yes, there was.
MRS. RONDEAU: Do you happen to know his or her name?
OBSERVER: No, I didn’t get the name of the court reporter.
MRS. RONDEAU: How many other observers were in the courtroom who were not connected to law enforcement or the court?
OBSERVER: There was a right side and a left side where the public could sit. On the left side, there were quite a few people, and on the right side, there were just a few people. It alternated as people went in and out to eat or go outside and smoke a cigarette, but I would say at any given time, there were at least ten people always there. But at the end of the trial, there were a lot of people there close to midnight. I noticed the Tellico Plains Police Chief, Tonia Norwood, come in and there were some other law enforcement people in plain clothes there as well.
Editor’s Note: A reader commenting on the arrest of Mr. Raudenbush prior to his trial said:
I would like to respectfully request that you include the issue with the simple pen being deemed as a “recording device” by Judge Ross since one writes with a pen and writing is considered “recording.” I think this little detail really exposes the sick minds of these people and their tactics. Everyone knows that any defendant should be allowed to have a simple pen in the courtroom, especially when they are forced to defend themselves without any legal counsel. Clearly, George would need to take notes during any court hearing under these circumstances. Everyone who I tell this aspect of this story are completely shocked at this Judge’s very dark and disingenuous tactic for the purpose of falsely charging George with contempt of court and throw him in jail so he could not prepare for the upcoming trial two days later. Then the Judge had the nerve to mock George for not coming prepared to that trial. He wasn’t even allowed to go get his documents! And he certainly can’t magically make the documents come to him in jail. This was so egregious!
Another reader sent the following comment and posted it on Topix:
When I saw the post from “No one is above the law” from Johnson City, TN I thought finally a local has taken notice.
Johnson City was one of the communities I was looking at when I was making a decision to change residence. For more that a year now I have been following the corruption in TN. I even asked some of the Real Estate Cos if they knew what was occuring. I finally had to tell myself there was no way I could put up with the reports of corruption in the legal system and law enforcement community in TN.
After letters I personally wrote to your Governor and federal representatives went unanswered I knew I had made the right decision.
The people of TN need to find out about all of these instances as factually reported. I say factually because every effort has been made to get rebuttal from everyone in the local law/judiciary to the State TBI, office of the Governor, AG, and numerous elected officials to the FBI but no response has been forthcoming.
You all can verify this for yourselves by visiting the on-line news of “The Post & Email” www.thepostemail.com for an unbelievable record of what has gone on to what is currently happening.
People of Tennessee if this treatment is only occuring to the indigent and down on their luck citizens of your State it is only a matter of time before it will encompass the rest of you ordinary everyday citizens who think they are free to go about your pursuit of happiness and enjoyable life’s work. Some very brave souls died for your freedom and it seems most of you are willing to overlook their sacrifice.
As the previous writer states; “You Mr. Ross are not above the law” and you may want to add a whole bunch of other elected and appointed individuals from the evidence that has been published but not allowed in your “blind” justice system.
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.