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“A CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Sep. 25, 2013) —In a previous report, The Post & Email described how a culture of corruption permeated the U.S. Navy from at least the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, encompassing the Tailhook scandal and the court-martial of Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III.
In 1989, several charges without any basis in fact were brought against Fitzpatrick by his commanding admiral, John Bitoff, with the assistance of his staff JAG, Tim Zeller and Bitoff’s chief of staff, Capt. Mike Edwards. A Marine Corps attorney was hand-picked by Bitoff to serve as Fitzpatrick’s defense attorney.
While “convicted” on one of the several charges, Fitzpatrick has shown that the entire proceeding was carried out behind closed doors and the outcome predetermined. Although Fitzpatrick was accused of misusing $10,400, the NCIS was not contacted to initiate an investigation.
Fitzpatrick has reported that Anderson created and signed a fraudulent response letter to a Letter of Reprimand issued by Bitoff which Fitzpatrick discovered only after submitting multiple FOIA requests for his file. Anderson also made it appear that Fitzpatrick had received a copy of the response letter during the summer of 1990 when he had not. 7 JULY 1990 KEVIN ANDERSON LOR RECEIPT
As accuser, Bitoff was not allowed to convene the court-martial as stated in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). An officer whom Bitoff initially disqualified from participating in the alleged investigation for conflict of interest was later placed on Fitzpatrick’s panel which then issued the “guilty” verdict on the charge of misusing ship’s funds.
In a letter to Rep. Norman Dicks, who requested an explanation from the Navy on Fitzpatrick’s behalf in 1999, Bitoff lied by stating that he was “surprised” when he discovered that Zeller had conducted the investigation instead of the NCIS. He then admitted that he had acted as both Fitzpatrick’s accuser and convening authority. He also expressed “concern” that Fitzpatrick had charged the Navy with the crime of forgery.
Prior to the court-martial, the logs maintained by Fitzpatrick showing how the ship’s funds were spent were declared “missing” and have not reappeared. Fitzpatrick said he was meticulous with his record-keeping and that all funds were spent in keeping with a vote by the crew.
Only two months before the charges were brought against Fitzpatrick, he earned an outstanding review from his commander, Capt. Michael Nordeen of the USS Mars, where Fitzpatrick was executive officer.
Of Bitoff’s motives for framing him, Fitzpatrick told The Post & Email:
Bitoff forced me out of the naval service because of my character…Bitoff used the court-martial process to punish me, using me as an object lesson throughout the fleet.
Years later, after Fitzpatrick persistently brought the forgery to the attention of the Navy JAG Corps, he was threatened with another court-martial if he were found to have fabricated the story. Reluctantly, Navy Judge Advocate General John Hutson directed the NCIS to open an investigation with the purpose of proving that Fitzpatrick was lying.
Hutson and a subordinate admiral, Don Guter, warned the NCIS of Fitzpatrick’s claim and the decision to launch an investigation. In an interoffice memo generated the same day, September 5, 1997, NCIS Assistant Deputy Director Ernie Simon wrote, “…if you can prove the forgery, it totally supports his 10 years worth of contentions and makes the NAV look really bad.”
Instead of finding that Fitzpatrick had lied, an Inspector General for the Judge Advocate General of the Navy, Rand Pixa, and NCIS Special Agent Richard Allen discovered that there was a forgery in Fitzpatrick’s court-martial file after the paper, font size and type matched other documents which Kevin Anderson was known to have generated with his own signature affixed.
When Anderson was confronted by the NCIS in early 1998, he said he knew nothing about how or when the document had been created and placed into Fitzpatrick’s file. However, five years later, in 2003, he told a police detective that he created the letter bearing the forged signature, although he did not admit to signing Fitzpatrick’s name to it.
The signature intended to look like Fitzpatrick’s is missing the “III” after his name and his last name is misspelled. Fitzpatrick has always included the “III” when signing his name, including during the period in question.
Inspector General Derek Vander Schaaf had issued a scathing report on the Tailhook matter in 1992 which was the catalyst for the resignation of two Navy admirals, one of whom was the Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy. All told, Vander Schaaf identified 51 officers who had lied to his investigators. The irresponsible behavior of those involved in abusing female members of the Navy may have contributed to the suicide of Chief of Naval Operations Jeremy Michael Boorda in 1996. Boorda also knew about Fitzpatrick’s claim of forgery and fraud in regard to his court-martial and had sought, and received, assurance from Adm. Ronald J. Zlatoper which lacked any fact-finding that Fitzpatrick’s court-martial had followed proper procedure.
Vander Schaaf was able to procure a long-sought “Thanksgiving Day memo” written by Zeller to Bitoff which stated that no record of the communication would be retained on Zeller’s computer or in any file.
Repeated attempts to reach Anderson, Zeller, and the former JAG officers involved, particularly over the last several weeks, have been met with complete silence with the exception of one former JAG attorney who was willing to answer all of our questions in a two-part interview. That officer revealed that the place where Fitzpatrick’s file was reported to have been found by Pixa did not exist.
CDR FITZPATRICK: Look at what these people were doing 20 years ago, and they thought they got away with it. Now here we are 20 years later, and they’re caught in it. There isn’t a single officer or person who is at this moment defending the court-martial of Walt Fitzpatrick as legitimate; not even John Bitoff…with the exception of Kevin Anderson, the man who forged my name.
A four-star admiral…this is as high as you get in the military. If there were anything that they could hang their hat on that Fitzpatrick’s court-martial was legitimate, they ought to contact me right away.
If they could prove that my signature on that document was really my signature, which of course they can’t, we should be hearing from them right now.
They never in their wildest imaginations think that I would actually find the kind of document record that I now hold.
There are two different dynamics going on here. In fact, Tim Zeller knew what I was doing; he wrote about it. He said, “Fitzpatrick waits until new people come into a job, and then he starts to ask them questions, thinking that he’s going to get different answers.” It’s been a highly effective method, because that’s exactly what’s happened. New people come in and they release information about which they have no idea of the significance. So there is that dynamic going on where there is an institutional weakness where they can’t cover up for each other as effectively as they would want to if they could stay in the same jobs for years and years. They move on and other people come along.
But the other thing that you have is that there are people who want this information to be known and acted on, and I can’t tell which is which; I can only speculate.
THE POST & EMAIL: It sounds like the people who leaked the IRS’s targeting of certain groups and the DOJ’s spying on reporters. Someone must have had some pangs of conscience.
CDR FITZPATRICK: Yes, you have some of the institutional ineffectiveness of an organization unable to keep its dirty laundry concealed, but there are people like Richard Kavlick, the guy who dropped the dime on Zeller’s Thanksgiving Day memo. Had he not told me about that memo, we wouldn’t know about any of them.
THE POST & EMAIL: Did you ever speak with him?
CDR FITZPATRICK: I did speak to him. I was standing in a phone booth at the end of Pier #3 at the Naval Air Station at Alameda, CA. This is where the USS Carl Vinson was tied up at the dock. Because I didn’t want anyone listening in on my conversation, I left the ship and walked to the foot of the pier and made a phone call from the phone booth to Combat Logistics Group 1. I wanted to get a hold of the attorney who had replaced Zeller, and the guy I reached was a First Class Petty Officer called a legalman. He was not a trained attorney; in the Navy, we call them “legalmen.” This was on July 2, 1993, and Richard Kavlick told me about the Thanksgiving Day memo that he had seen, and he said, “Hey, Commander, you need to get your hands on this. I can’t release it, because if I release it, they’ll know it came from me.”
That was on a Friday, and on the 5th of July, after the July 4 weekend, I called Congressman Dicks’s office and I said, “We need to get this memo.” It was Congressman Dicks who sent in the first Freedom of Information Act request in July 1993. The Navy came back out of San Diego and said, “You can’t have it.”
In the meantime, I went to Sen. Patty Murray and told her the same thing. So Sen. Murray said, “OK, fine, I’ll ask for it.” And she did. And the judge advocate general of the Navy, Rick Grant, told her, “You can’t have it.” What he told her was, “I don’t have access to it, Senator, so go away; you’re bothering me.”
It was at that point that Sen. Patty Murray said, “Fine; we’ll go to the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office and we’ll ask them if they can get their hands on it.” So that’s what happened, and that’s where Derek Vander Schaaf comes in.
THE POST & EMAIL: Derek Vander Schaaf seems like a “good guy” in all of this.
CDR FITZPATRICK: Yes, and he was a good guy in Tailhook as well. He was the one who blew the scandal wide open and said that the 35 admirals and generals who avoided criminal responsibility should have faced the consequences. This is the same environment now in which the court-martial of Walt Fitzpatrick is starting to emerge, and Vander Schaaf realized that. He went looking for the memo, and he got it. On July 8, 1994, he turned it over to Patty Murray, and on the same day, she turned it over to me. A year and a week after my conversation with Richard Kavlick, we finally got our hands on the memo…and it was as powerful and explosive as it could be. And it should have been enough at that point to order a new hearing.
We didn’t know about the rest of the memos. After the first one, the other ones started to seep out. That’s how all of that happened.
Back in the early 1990s, they knew that they had put Steve Letchworth into the panel, knowing that he had an axe to grind going in and that he should have been disqualified from that position.
THE POST & EMAIL: Should that one thing not have been enough to nullify it?
CDR FITZPATRICK: Correct. So I point now to the forgery and I say, “Excuse me, but the forgery was meant to cover up all of this, and the first person to use it as it was intended by Bitoff to be used in covering up what Bitoff had done was Judge Advocate General of the Navy Rick Grant.
THE POST & EMAIL: They all insisted that everything was done properly, but all of your appeals were denied for no reason.
CDR FITZPATRICK: That’s because I didn’t have enough information in that day to prove that these people were involved in a criminal enterprise.
THE POST & EMAIL: It seems as if they were battling to keep the lid on it as you were getting closer to exposing what they had done.
CDR FITZPATRICK: That’s correct, and that’s why they went into a panic when it finally got into The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, first as a story, and then as an editorial in the days before Mike Boorda came into the job as Chief of Naval Operations. So the third person who participated in representing the forgery as an authentic writing and confession was Mike Boorda, who shot himself in the chest two years later because he had to live with it.
In the meantime, more things were building up and more was coming out, and I hadn’t gone away, and he knew that. He knew I wasn’t going to go away.
So how many admirals and generals do we have wrapped up in this thing right now? It’s a whole bunch of people.
THE POST & EMAIL: You mentioned that you have contacted all of them, plus many reporters at the same time.
CDR FITZPATRICK: I don’t want anybody to think that we’re doing anything behind closed doors. I am doing this publicly and openly. As a reporter, you have to be able to independently verify that everything I say is as I have presented it.
Why do we say that this is the most-examined court-martial in the history of the country? These confrontations are being made in public with reporters watching, and if there were a squeak of protest from anybody, we would have heard it way before now. Instead, what we’re getting back is confirmation of the information we have. At this point, Tim Zeller has gone dark and quiet and is trying to keep this as buried as he can. And the one who did come forward said, “Well, that’s not the way I remember things.”
THE POST & EMAIL: When I spoke to him, I tried to keep a completely open mind.
CDR FITZPATRICK: Now Pixa becomes a question mark. He’s the guy who held the other guy out to dry. So I went and found Rand Pixa. We thought we knew what had happened to this court-martial record, but we really don’t. All we know is that its chain of custody is murkier now and that the one guy who had it in his hand that we know of is Rand Pixa. “Well, how did you get it, sir?” Is Rand Pixa coming forward? He’s been confronted. He’s working in DC, for goodness sakes.
It’s Rand Pixa who was good friends with Diane Carr and Kevin Anderson when they all worked together at the Navy Legal Service office at Treasure Island, CA. When the forgery was discovered, Pixa didn’t have any idea that it was going to lead back to Anderson.
One of the guys wearing a white hat is Richard Allen. He knew what was going on and did his best to get the word out. He did a very effective job with that but was overruled by his admirals and generals at the NCIS. He found this and said to Capt. Pixa, “Do you see these documents?”
I haven’t seen the original of anything, but Allen told me that the first thing he examined was the kind of paper that was used. I don’t know what type it was, but it stood out from the other paperwork in the record. Then the special agent said, “Well, this paper looks like that one,” and he started taking a look at the type, fonts, style, and he saw that they were identical. Then he saw that the other writings were signed by Kevin Anderson using his own name. Then Kevin Anderson became Suspect #1 in the moment.
In our next installment, The Post & Email will explain how Rep. Norm Dicks became hostile to Fitzpatrick and why, then had him arrested.