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by Sharon Rondeau

Polk County is in the southeastern-most corner of Tennessee bordering on North Carolina, of which Tennessee was once a part

(Sep. 10, 2012) — Last May, The Post & Email had published an article about a Florida man, formerly of Monroe County, TN, who was sought out by U.S. marshals in Florida for a crime for which he had never been charged or ticketed.

A motorcycle accident which injured Peak’s two friends and him on Mothers’ Day of last year has culminated in Rex Peak’s having turned himself in to the Polk County, TN authorities despite no charges or warrant ever having been issued against him.  Peak has been incarcerated in the Polk County jail since June 18, 2012, having been aware that Judge Amy Reedy, described by several citizens as “a criminal,” set his bond at $250,000.

While on August 12, The Chattanooga Times Free Press began to report allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, grand jury influencing, misspending of public monies and breach of trust on the part of several Tennessee Highway Patrolmen and other public officials, its writers have not reported the flagrant violations of law reported at The Post & Email over the last two years or more as a result of the discoveries made by Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III, Darren Huff, Todd Sweet, and others who had dealings with judges within the Tenth Judicial District.

The Times Free Press has also failed to interview any of the principals who were targets of judicial and prosecutorial malfeasance other than two grand jury members.  Fitzpatrick has been contacting that particular publication and others in the region for nearly three years regarding corruption within the grand juries, trial juries, and this past spring, the discovery that laws passed nearly three decades ago regarding criminal court reorganization have never been observed.

While Tennessee “lawmakers” appear to welcome a criminal investigation launched by the state attorney general, Comptroller’s Office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation into the allegations of prosecutorial and financial misconduct, the same lawmakers have failed to initiate such a probe on their own despite having been informed of the corruption in their districts.  Some citizens have expressed doubt that “the state” can properly investigate itself.

The purpose of a Fifth Amendment grand jury is to independently examine evidence of a crime and determine if probable cause exists to issue an indictment, but many grand juries are now controlled by prosecutors who decide which evidence will be submitted for review.  The Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure affirm that the grand jury’s role includes inquiries into corruption allegations of public officials and inspecting the local jails.

The Polk County jail had been ordered vacated and closed in August 2007 by the fire marshal “after the county missed a deadline to make improvements.”  The Monroe County jail has been under a “Plan of Action” since June of last year but has not closed its doors as of this writing despite similar violations and a recommendation from the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) that a new facility be constructed.   Regarding the conditions in the Polk County jail, the fire marshal had said at the time he ordered it closed that “Prisoners of war are treated better.”

Peak reported in a recent letter that the conditions in the jail are very poor.  “This place is so out of date…” Peak said.  The Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure require grand juries to inspect the local jail and make suggestions for improvements, which has occurred in some areas of the state but not within the Tenth Judicial District to our knowledge.

In 2003, the Comptroller of the Treasury found that conditions in many Tennessee jails “violate constitutional rights contained in the Eighth Amendment (banning cruel and unusual punishment) and the Fourteenth Amendment (which guarantees due process rights).”

In addition to the violation of civil rights, constitutional rights, state statutes and the Tennessee and U.S. Constitutions, the “criminal courts” presently convening “grand juries” which issue indictments are doing so in violation of laws passed in 1984 by the General Assembly.  Grand juries are not assembled from citizens of the district, and they are not empaneled at least twice yearly as directed by one of the laws.  Further, TCA 22-2-314, passed in 2008 and mandating that no juror can serve a consecutive term, is violated regularly by longstanding grand jury foremen, who are treated as court employees rather than jurors except when it proves convenient for the court.

Peak told us that on July 23, he had asked that the amount of the bond be reduced but that the District Attorney said “No” and that “Ms. Reedy pecifically [sic] said no bond reduction.”

A hearing took place in front of Judge Carroll L. Ross, also a known criminal within the Tenth Judicial District, who appointed a public defender for Peak, John Furtuno [sic].  Peak told us that Fortuno was not present on July 23 but that “his boss Richard Hughs [sic] was.”

According to Peak, Hughes asked him how much of a bond he would be able to make, to which Peak responded, “$25,000.”  Hughes then responded, “Oh thats no problem” [sic] because of the charges being “vehicular assault and DUI 2nd.”  Peak then wrote, “I told him my bond was $250,000 and he looked over [sic] top of his glasses and laughed + said there aint no way it $250,000 the DA heard him + says yes it is and we (DA + Amy) will not lower it period.” [sic]

At that point in the hearing, Peak asked Hughes to file a conflict of interest against Judge Reedy as well as to request a change in venue.  “I was getting load [sic] with him because they wouldn’t let me go up in front of Ross again to get it on record + they escorted me out of the courtroom to a holding cell,” Peak wrote of his efforts.

Last year after Peak consulted an attorney about the U.S. marshals having sought to arrest him in Florida, he had been told, “If you turn yourself in on this, you’re going to be hung, because I’ve had dealings with Ms. Reedy before.  Peak related in his letter, “Everyone I talk to cant [sic] believe the bond even the sheriff here when I turned myself in said oh there is some kind of mistake.” [sic]  The sheriff had asked Peak when he had been arrested on the charges, to which Peak had responded, “I told him Ive [sic] never been arrested or charged, the dam [sic] sheriff thought I was lying.  So he tell his detective to get the inditment [sic] + he does, the sheriff looked at it and says “I dont [sic] know what to say’ other than I did the right thing by turning myself in.”

Peak wrote that on August 17, he called Atty. Fortuno to ask if he had filed the conflict of interest and change of venue requests, but the attorney responded that he “didnt [sic] know anything about them.”  Fortuno then inquired on what grounds a conflict of interest could be claimed, to which Peak replied by describing a charge brought against him by Reedy in 2005 which had resulted in a hung jury, after which Reedy sentenced Peak to five years’ probation, a $2,000 fine and court costs.  At that time, Peak had told Reedy, “Ma’am, you do what you feel you got to do, because I’ve got a good life.  I’m going back to Florida; you won’t have any problems out of me.”

Peak said he had concluded that Fortuno would not be acting in his best interest.  Peak was due back in court on September 10 “in front of Amy Reedy” but said that he “will not be tried by her.”  He wrote that Reedy holds court in Polk County only every four months and that he expected to then face four more months in jail.  “They say if Amy set my bond that Ross cant [sic] lower it while its [sic] under her.  What…excuse is that?  Is he or is he not a judge?” Peak wrote.

He related that he is seeking outside assistance on his case and closed the letter, “Thank you for everything you have done and I [sic] keep you informed.  Yours Truely [sic] Rex A. Peak.”

As a postscript, he added:

you might not wont [sic] to put The Post + Email on it they might keep it unless its [sic[ legal mail.

The Post & Email is going to contact Mr. Peak with its correct return address and ask that the Polk County jailers deliver it to him.

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