THEFT OF OVER $10,000 IS A “CLASS C FELONY” IN TENNESSEE
by Sharon Rondeau
(Apr. 17, 2012) —The Post & Email had originally prepared the following article in late February but withheld it pending a police investigation which now appears unlikely. On April 2, 2012, we contacted the Sweetwater Police Department to inquire as to the status of such investigation and received no response, just as we received no response to our earlier request for police reports on the two burglaries of Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III’s home in Sweetwater.
After relocating following his most recent release from the Monroe County jail on February 9, Fitzpatrick discovered that nearly all of his personal belongings had been stolen. Of a more recent development which has left him nearly penniless, Fitzpatrick has told The Post & Email, “If you want to know how scared the government is, look at what they’re doing to me.” Fitzpatrick said that he believes that “it goes right up to Mr. Obama.”
Upon returning to his home after his release from jail on December 3, 2011, Fitzpatrick found evidence that his home had been burglarized. He called the Sweetwater, TN police and, in the presence of his landlord and landlady, Officer Gary Newman responded and wrote up a report. Fitzpatrick said that the burglary was committed sometime in November 2011 when he was an inmate in the Monroe County jail because he had been notified of it by a handwritten note from the landlords given to him by the jailers.
In Tennessee, “burglary and related offenses” occurs when “(a) Any person who knowingly causes damage to or the destruction of any real or personal property of another or of the state, the United States, any county, city, or town knowing that the person does not have the owner’s effective consent is guilty of an offense under this section” and can include “tampering with property and causing pecuniary loss or substantial inconvenience to the owner or a third person…”
After the November burglary, Fitzpatrick had noted that clothing, food, and a large sum of money were missing from his home. Fitzpatrick recalled the exact dollar amount of the money. He had renter’s insurance and reported a claim to his insurance carrier.
Although his landlords had knowledge of the burglary as evidenced by their handwritten communication to him while he was in jail, they did not appear to have reported the incident to the police during Fitzpatrick’s absence. Fitzpatrick told The Post & Email that the landlord and landlady, a married couple with grandchildren, were the only parties possessing a key to the home he rented from them. He described them as well-known in town and “pillars of the community.”
During a previous incarceration in the Monroe County jail, Fitzpatrick’s landlady told The Post & Email, “He [Fitzpatrick] is one of the best renters we have ever had. I couldn’t ask for a better tenant.”
On the morning of his arrest for allegedly “failing to appear” for a hearing the previous week, Fitzpatrick had had a telephone conversation with the Knoxville FBI in which an agent had told him, “You can expect a visit from FBI agents” in response to his reports of Monroe County government corruption. During the arrest by Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputies which occurred a short time later, the door to the home was breached, Fitzpatrick was tasered multiple times and injured. Over the ensuing 18 months, he has never received a visit from an FBI agent.
Following the October 27, 2010 arrest, Fitzpatrick’s landlord told us that the Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies “didn’t hit him (Fitzpatrick) that hard,” although Fitzpatrick had reported a bruised shoulder and an unusable right arm, bruised ribs, and an attempt by Capt. Michael Morgan to “rip off my left ear.”
Fitzpatrick told The Post & Email that his former landlords routinely “watched the property like a hawk” at all times because some of their belongings were stored there, and one of their grandsons kept his motorcycle in the garage. The rent was not reduced for Fitzpatrick’s allowance of that amenity to the landlords.
During his most recent stay in the Monroe County jail, Fitzpatrick received an eviction notice even though the rent was paid and he had made provisions to pay future rent and the electricity bill for two more months in the event that his incarceration extended that long. The eviction note was not processed through a court and stated that he had to have his personal belongings out of the home by January 25 because a new tenant was moving in on February 1. The landlords stated in their eviction letter that they were asking him to leave due to “uncontrollable circumstance.”
Fitzpatrick made arrangements from the jail to have his furnishings and belongings moved before the 25th, and the process was completed by January 22. Following his release from jail on February 9 and his subsequent relocation, he told The Post & Email:
I have been out to my storage unit, and there were 33 “easy-fold” storage boxes, like bankers’ boxes, for 8.5″ x 11″ file folders that you put into them. That was all that was left in storage. I’ve cleared that out, and I’m going through these boxes now. I’ve been through all of them. They wiped out my kitchen; they wiped out the living room. I’m walking through an empty kitchen right now. The only thing I have left in the kitchen is the microwave that was there. I don’t know what’s in the actual physical home now; some of the cabinetry that I bought might still be there. I can’t go back and check. They went through there and took every cooking appliance that I had: coffeemaker, waffle iron, blender. In case of emergency, I had a two-burner hot plate. Food..everything. So the microwave is what survived.
In the living room, I have one chair which I bought from a company in downtown Sweetwater, an antique store. In the bedroom, there’s a desk chair. Two chairs are what I have left. I had several chairs in the other home; they’re all gone. I had three bookcases; now I’ve got two, so they took a bookcase. They took a wooden desk; they took the folding tables, and they took all of the standup area lighting. I have one small lamp that was in the bedroom which is in my new bedroom. They took whatever the heck they wanted to. The wallet which had almost $XXX cash on the evening of 7 December 2011…I remember that after Conway Mason had handcuffed me, he said, “We’re leaving all of your cash money here; it’s over by your dressing desk here.” I had hurricane lanterns that use oil to burn, and I said, “Make sure that you blow those out before we walk out the door tonight,” and he said, “We’ve done that, and we’ve left your cash there.” I found the wallet this afternoon, and it’s empty.
I’m just wiped out today. I’m going to get up in the morning and sit down with a cup of instant coffee and heat water in the microwave, because they stole my coffeemaker. These people have taken a lot of money and property, and there’s no place for me to report it to. I talked to the XXXXX County Sheriff’s Deputy today and he said, “We have no jurisdiction in this” and I said, “I understand that. I’m trying to find a law enforcement agency with clean hands, new set of eyes who can at least take the information and make a record of it,” and he said, “Have you been to the FBI?” and I said, “Yes,” although not about this. And he said, “OK.” So I’m going to get up tomorrow morning and write it up by hand. I’ll keep the original and send some copies out.
They’ve done everything they could to rob me of everything that they could take away from me, and there is nobody to report this to. This is the state of affairs in the state of Tennessee. This is the community in Sweetwater, TN. It’s all about the money. Look at how the State of Tennessee is today, the home of Davy Crockett.
During the morning of February 24, The Post & Email was able to reach a person at the Sweetwater Police Department to request copies of any existing police reports from December 4, 2011 and February 14, 2012 in regard to Fitzpatrick’s reports of robbery, burglary, theft or grand theft. We were asked to send a fax on our letterhead stating our request, which we did. The woman in the office stated that she would have to check to see if an investigation was ongoing into the incidents in question and if there were, she could not release the report(s). We never received a response to our request.
At 12:50 p.m. on February 24, 2012, The Post & Email called the Thurston home, and Helen Thurston answered. After we identified ourselves and stated that we had spoken several times in the past, she said in a hostile tone, “What do you want?” and we replied, “In regard to your eviction of Walter Fitzpatrick, was he behind in his rent at all?” Thurston then hung up on us.
Of the realization that nearly everything he had owned had been taken from him, Fitzpatrick said:
Dr. Victor Frankl said in his book Man’s Search for Meaning that there are two kinds of people: decent and indecent. In the day, when the Germans had so many Jews to manage, it was like managing a huge herd of cattle. So among the Jews, they would select captains, or “compos,” and these Jewish compos would be empowered by the German soldiers to oversee the other Jewish people in the concentration camps. These Jews who were empowered turned against their own people and became more vicious than the German soldiers were against the Jews. They thought that by taking it out on their fellow Jews, the harsher they were on their fellow Jews, the better treatment they would receive from their captors, the Germans. That didn’t work out so well. Dr. Frankl uses that as an example of someone who is “indecent.” And his example of a decent person is a German soldier who treated the Jewish people with dignity and respect, better than their own people did. In the movie “The Pianist,” you see a German soldier taking care of a Jew. That was an example of a “decent” person because it was the right thing to do.
Fast-forwarding to today, you have XXXXX and XXXXX feeding upon their own people in their own community to take care of themselves and their families. This is the cancer that we find in America today, the indecency. This is the mindset. This is what’s wrong with America. We are no longer exceptional. Shame on you! Shame on all of you! If any of you have seen this or know this or are doing it yourself, shame on you. If you want your country back, you’re going to have to get back to the Bible, The Ten Commandments, the difference between right and wrong, decent and indecent. Morals. Character. The kind of things that this country was built on. And this is the scary part: XXXX and XXXXthink it’s OK. ‘Walt’s not going to be bothered by this. He’ll be OK with this.’ They think this is OK. That’s what scares me. They don’t see that they’re doing something wrong.
The Post & Email commented, “It’s called ‘stealing,'” to which Fitzpatrick replied:
“My cousin, my friend, my Tennessee buddy in the police department will take care of me. I’ve got nothing to worry about.” This is what The Post & Email is all about…finding corruption at its core. This is what’s wrong with America! You get someone like Bert and Helen in government and you give them some more power…holy smokes??!! On your local county commission, as a jailer, an elected official…put him on a jury, for goodness sakes! When you give a guy like XXXXX power like that over other people with taxpayers’ money…this is what’s going on. And regular, decent people aren’t able to fight back because the grand jury has been taken away from us. And that’s just one example. That’s what’s frightening.
Laws regarding tenant and landlord disputes state that “No person shall enter upon any lands, tenements, or other possessions, and detain or hold the same, but where entry is given by law, and then only in a peaceable manner. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-101.” Subpoenas for witnesses may be issued (TCA 29-18-121) and “Any officer neglecting or refusing to execute any process, under this chapter, shall forfeit two hundred and fifty dollars ($250) to the party aggrieved, to be recovered with costs before any tribunal having jurisdiction thereof. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-116.”
Chapter 66-28-504 of the Tennessee Code Annotated states:
If the landlord unlawfully removes or excludes the tenant from the premises or willfully diminishes services to the tenant by interrupting essential services as provided in the rental agreement to the tenant, the tenant may recover possession or terminate the rental agreement and, in either case, recover actual damages sustained by the tenant, and punitive damages when appropriate, plus a reasonable attorney’s fee. If the rental agreement is terminated under this section, the landlord shall return all prepaid rent and security deposits.
The eviction letter which Fitzpatrick received while in jail appears to have had no basis in the law because the rent was paid, and provisions had been made to pay the utilities to prevent any freezing of pipes.
Tennessee state code defines “theft of property” as a criminal offense: “A person commits theft of property if, with intent to deprive the owner of property, the person knowingly obtains or exercises control over the property without the owner’s effective consent.” Based on the items and money Fitzpatrick has reported missing, the perpetrators are facing conviction on a Class C felony if the amount stolen exceeds $10,000, which Fitzpatrick reported is the case.
There were witnesses to the confiscation of Fitzpatrick’s household belongings who were interviewed by the Sweetwater Police about four weeks ago, but Fitzpatrick has received no update from the police since speaking with them in late February. He told The Post & Email that he also made them aware of the jury-rigging he witnessed on December 7, 2011 and asked them to act upon it.
Last month, Fitzpatrick confirmed that there was money missing from his bank account and that the February rent check which he had written in advance to the landlords had been cashed even though he no longer resided at their property as of January 22.
Fitzpatrick was left with one chair, a bookcase, a few meager furnishings and his binders containing his research and evidence of government corruption compiled over the last 23 years. He stated that his computer equipment was “stolen by the government” on December 7, 2011, when he was rearrested for allegedly under-serving his prior sentence and tampering with government records. A hearing on the tampering charge is scheduled for April 30 after the charge was allegedly reviewed by a special grand jury picked by a judge. The foreman who signed the indictment was Faye C. Tennyson, who was the foreman last year and was therefore compromised.
Both Fitzpatrick and the witnesses who were interviewed know who confiscated Fitzpatrick’s belongings and reported what they knew to the Sweetwater Police, who have apparently chosen not to perform their sworn duty to protect and defend the citizens of their town. Sweetwater is located in Monroe County, where Fitzpatrick has been exposing government corruption for the last three years. A state inmate, Todd Sweet, claims that someone in Sweetwater possessed explosives and had been planning to use them, having been protected by corrupt judges, prosecutors, and at least one person at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Of the theft of Fitzpatrick’s possessions, one area resident remarked, “We know better than to expect the police there to do what they should….” It is rumored that the perpetrators of the theft have a relative working in the Sweetwater Police Department.