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WHAT ROLE DOES THE MEDIA PLAY?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Aug. 15, 2012) — Although not on the list of article topics for its six-part series on Tennessee Tenth Judicial District corruption, Judy Walton of the Chattanooga Times Free Press today published a report of undue influence on the part of Assistant District Attorney General Paul D. Rush and former McMinn County grand jury foreman Joe Riley.
Walton reported last month that Rush is under investigation for an ethics complaint and is prosecuting Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III on a case of “tampering with government records.” The Post & Email is aware of two additional complaints filed against Rush over the last two weeks.
Fitzpatrick has been contacting Walton and her staff about judicial, prosecutorial, law enforcement, and grand jury malfeasance in the Tenth Judicial District for more than two years, but no one reported on it. On October 5, 2010, Fitzpatrick attended a townhall meeting with Sen. Robert Corker along with his then-attorney-of-record, Stephen Pidgeon, which Times Free Press reporter Pam Sohn attended. Fitzpatrick had spoken and been applauded for his contention that the grand jury in Monroe County was steeped in corruption.
The next day, Sohn published an article about Fitzpatrick and Darren Huff, describing them as militia leaders planning to “take over the town” on April 20, 2010. A similar article was published on October 14. She never interviewed Fitzpatrick or Huff, but rather, accepted the government’s position on what occurred that day.
Now, the Times Free Press is exposing government corruption. “They can’t have it both ways,” Fitzpatrick told The Post & Email earlier today.
Another publication consistently presents the government’s position but not that of the defendant.
Fitzpatrick has been jailed numerous times beginning with an April 1, 2010 citizen’s arrest of the grand jury foreman, Gary Pettway, for serving 20 consecutive years. He conducted the citizen’s arrest after having approached local, state, and federal-level law enforcement about the violation of law. He later learned that collusion within the Monroe County grand jury, the judges, prosecutors, court clerks and court reporters was practiced routinely to deny citizens their constitutional right to a fair trial. Fitzpatrick witnessed firsthand that the more citizens incarcerated in the Monroe County jail, the more money flowed into the sheriff’s department but did not go toward building maintenance or basic necessities.
While Fitzpatrick reported the crimes he was witnessing from his jail cell during the fall of 2010, no one from the mainstream media reported on it. The Post & Email had sent the following email to Walton and AP reporter Bill Poovey on October 26, 2010, the day before Fitzpatrick’s arrest for allegedly “failing to appear:”
The Post & Email (www.thepostemail.com) has been covering the issue of corrupt judges in eastern Tennessee for the last six months. An “arrest warrant” dated October 22, 2010 for Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III was faxed to me today but bears no legal signatures. It is obvious that the judges are out of control and are rigging the grand juries by using the same foreperson year after year. This is a known fact in both Roane and Monroe Counties.
The communities which support the corrupt courts and judges need to know what is happening where they live. The First Amendment gave us a free press so that the government would be held in check, not the other way around. Without a free press, we are slaves to totalitarian dictators in the form of corrupt public officials from bottom to top.
This would seem to be a very pressing issue for those who have been victimized by corrupt courts. For more information on our investigative work, please read:
The Post & Email, Inc.
At the time, no subscription, free or paid, was required to read our work. We received no response.
On June 13, 2012, The Post & Email again contacted Walton:
Hello, I am editor of The Post & Email, which investigates corruption in government at all levels.
Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III has told me that you are about to publish investigatory work on Tennessee grand juries.
My publication has done extensive research and reporting into this topic and recently found that county criminal grand juries were outlawed by the Tennessee General Assembly in 1984. This news has been released for close to a month now and no one has refuted it, nor could we find any law which rescinded or amended the 1984 laws which ordered the criminal courts to reorganize. The courts apparently never complied and have maintained “criminal courts” within counties when they should be operated by districts as commanded by the legislature. Judges have continued to run roughshod over the citizens who pay their salaries, and no one seems to know where the money from plea bargains, court costs and penalties goes.
It would therefore appear that any indictments and convictions emanating from county grand juries in Tennessee since 1984 are null and void. Prior to discovering these laws which are still on the books, it was obvious that county courts were repeatedly violating the Tennessee and U.S. Constitutions by deprivation of due process, grand jury foremen serving for decades at the behest of a judge, and obstruction of defendants’ right to a speedy trial and appeal.
The Post & Email also broke the story of the “Sovereign Citizen” movement in Tennessee about two months ago, and we have a copy of the training CD being used by the Knoxville FBI and other agencies which the Southern Poverty Law Center helped to produce.
This would mean that the demonization and prosecution of Fitzpatrick; Darren Huff of Georgia, who is now in federal prison; and others by federal and local “law enforcement” was indeed unjustified, and the ramifications of invalid convictions over the course of nearly three decades is, of course, enormous.
Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
On April 1, 2011, Fitzpatrick had addressed the McMinn County Tea Party to raise awareness of the problem of compromised grand jury foremen in Tennessee, specifically, Joe Riley, after which he was threatened with, “Don’t come back here,” because the chairman of the group was acquainted with Riley.
Now, the Chattanoooga Times Free Press is reporting that Riley allegedly exerted undue influence on the grand jurors. Riley was dismissed from the foremanship in 2010.
Fitzpatrick had visited the Knoxville FBI on numerous occasions to report the corruption within the Monroe County jury system, but no one appeared to take any action.
Following a motions hearing on June 28, 2012, Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz wrote in an order that a grand jury foreman could serve unlimited multiple terms based on a 1972 judicial opinion which stated that the judges can “think of no valid reason why a grand jury foreman appointed to two years…is disqualified to serve longer either by reappointment or holding over.”
Walton’s article dated August 14, 2012 focuses on two members of the McMinn County grand jury who “complained to an investigator” that Rush and the grand jury foreman applied pressure to obtain a particular outcome from the grand jury on a case which a prosecutor from another county was to prosecute. The foreman, Joe Riley, had served in the position for multiple terms. Paul D. Rush allegedly mentioned “politics” to the members of the grand jury before turning the case over to Randy Nichols, the prosecutor from Knox County.
Fitzpatrick has said that grand juries throughout the state of Tennessee are controlled by prosecutors and that long-serving grand jury foremen become “patronage” employees of the judge or judges. However, Judges Kurtz, Ross, and others have insisted that a foreman can serve as long as the judge wishes, even “for 50 years” if the judge so chooses. However, such a construction is not found in the U.S. Constitution, state constitutions or state statutes.
Fitzpatrick has stated that the foreman should serve the same term as the other jurors, leaving when the term of jury service concludes. Tennessee code does not differentiate between a juror and a foreman, but the judges utilize their own system and insist that it is “the law.”
In 1984, the Tennessee General Assembly passed several statutes ordering the county courts to reorganize into districts. The judges did not observe the new laws and continued convening county criminal courts. In Tennessee, grand juries no longer should consist of solely “county residents;” they should be selected by automated means from the districts created by the legislature.
If the laws were to be observed, 28 years of convictions and acquittals would have to be re-evaluated because of illegally-constructed grand juries who also might have been unduly influenced by prosecutors and long-standing grand jury foremen with sway. That is why the grand jury foreman cannot serve multiple terms because the judge likes him or her or believes that he or she “is doing a great job.”
Because it is not a job; it is a constitutional duty outlined in the Fifth Amendment, today at times corrupted by those in positions of power and influence.
In an interview earlier today, Fitzpatrick told The Post & Email that he attempted throughout the day to reach Walton and members of upper management of the Chattanooga Times Free Press in response to the newspaper’s six-part series. He stated that he was given a variety of reasons why no one could speak with him: the person was in a meeting, out to lunch, otherwise occupied, or had left for the day. Voice messages which he left were not returned.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press has stated that its investigation into corruption in the Tenth Judicial District was performed because “no one else” would do it. That is not the case. On August 12, 2012, we pointed out to Managing Editor Alison Gerber that her statement is incorrect but received no response. We obviously supplied Walton and her staff with an abundance of information at no charge in the public interest but have received not a word of thanks or attribution. While The Post & Email is pleased that a mainstream media outlet has substantiated our reports about judicial corruption in eastern Tennessee, we would have appreciated the standard attribution of the industry, as the Times Free Press itself states.
If reporting on government corruption is now important to the Times Free Press, where has it been since 1869? Why has judicial and prosecutorial misconduct, resulting in the deprivation of civil and constitutional rights to thousands of citizens, not been reported before?
If the grand jury foreman was over-serving his term on April 1, 2010, was Fitzpatrick’s citizen’s arrest justified?
What role did the media play in the incarceration of Darren Huff?