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IN CASE EERILY SIMILAR TO THAT OF CDR WALTER FRANCIS FITZPATRICK, III
by Sharon Rondeau
(Sep. 27, 2013) — On Friday, the Marine Corps Times reported that Marine Corps Maj. James Weirick, a staff judge advocate who alleged undue command influence on the part of Marine Corps Commandant James Amos against eight Marines accused of abusing Taliban members’ corpses in 2011, was removed from his post and ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, among other things.
Twenty-three years ago, CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III was railroaded in a sham court-martial orchestrated by his admiral, John Bitoff, and members of his staff, based on false charges and a fraudulent signature.
The Navy, though well aware that a forgery has been maintained as authentic for nearly a quarter-century, refuses to comment on their continued cover-up and the false conviction used against Fitzpatrick for having spoken out about his superior officers. Fitzpatrick’s Navy career was ruined as a result.
Fitzpatrick has told The Post & Email that the military “justice” system “is not justice at all” but only a “function of command.”
Weirick’s attorney, Jane Seigel, told the Times that “I think this is a last-ditch effort by some very heavy hitters to completely undermine the credibility of Maj. Weirick. If they push this rock down the slippery slope, he’ll end up out of the Marine Corps.”
Last month, Weirick filed a complaint with the Department of Defense (DOD) Inspector General against Amos and his advisers for attempting to influence the outcome of the courts-martial against the eight accused Marines. A general whom Amos had tasked with conducting the investigation against the Marines corroborated Weirick’s claims that Amos wanted “harsh punishment” meted out against the defendants, that Amos “suppressed evidence” and orchestrated a cover-up.
When a military judge ordered Amos’s emails to be made public, the Marine Corps quickly dropped the charges against Capt. James Clement, who was the last of the eight to be disciplined. Clement’s attorneys had claimed that the case against their client was tainted with “blatant unlawful command influence that denied their client a fair court-martial.” Lead attorney John Dowd called the case “the largest case of unlawful command influence in the Corps’ history.”
The Marine Corps is a division of the U.S. Navy.
The Marines who have received some form of punishment may have reason to seek new trials or expunging of their records.
Weirick has been ordered to relinquish his personal firearms maintained at his home, undergo a “risk assessment” and the psychiatric evaluation.
One player in the Fitzpatrick court-martial with whom The Post & Email has spoken attempted to convince us that Fitzpatrick was mentally unstable, although he would not speak on the record. Another hung up on us and then pretended he was not at home. A third spoke to us at length but refused to go on the record, stating, “If somebody did this [forged Fitzpatrick’s signature], they did bad…”
Through his attorney, Weirick said that he plans to comply with all requests from his chain of command, but in August he said that he “would not back down.” In addition to the DOD, he had taken his complaint to Congress, after which Rep. Walter B. Jones attempted to obtain information on the status of Weirick’s complaint.
Fitzpatrick had approached his U.S. representative, Norman Dicks, and U.S. Senator Patty Murray, both of whom were told by the Navy that they could not obtain a copy of an incriminating document signed by Lt. Timothy Zeller which stated that “no record” of the communication with Bitoff would be maintained on his computer or in his files. A year later, Navy Deputy Inspector General Derek Vander Schaaf located and sent the memo to Murray, who forwarded it to Fitzpatrick.
It took Fitzpatrick many years and FOIA requests to acquire many of the documents from his court-martial, with some still kept obscured the Navy nearly a quarter-century later.
When Weirick asked to obtain emails from Amos and his advisers about their possible roles in attempting to fix the outcomes against the Marines, he said, “I lack the power or authority to get the emails and other requested materials in the possession of the Commandant and his staff. To ensure a fair proceeding I need the assistance of those with much greater authority. I should have acted earlier, but I truly believed those with the authority to accomplish this would adhere to the Rule of Law and our shared value of due process. This, sadly, has not been the case. Both civilian and uniformed counsel for the Commandant have thwarted my efforts and remained silent, or possibly assisted in, this unlawful command influence.”
By August, Weirick’s allegations reportedly had “received attention in national media, on Capitol Hill and throughout the Defense Department.”
Media Affairs for the Navy and Army have refused to research, respond to or counter The Post & Email’s assertion of the forgery in Fitzpatrick’s court-martial file. A formal letter addressed in April 2012 to Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert, a former classmate of Fitzpatrick’s, was met with no response.
Emails to primary participants in the Fitzpatrick court-martial, the creation of the forgery, and to those continuing to keep the deceit obscured have gone unanswered. Because the allegations against more than 100 former and current Navy and NCIS officers are criminal in nature, they can still be prosecuted.
“Here we see the DNA markers in the case of the Marine snipers as you see in what happened to me,” Fitzpatrick said. “Whenever you try to stand up and expose the command influence, you are yourself targeted for elimination, and this is what’s happening to Maj. Weirick,” Fitzpatrick said. “He’s been relieved of his position; he’s been ordered to turn in his sidearms; he’s been ordered to go to a psychological evaluation; these things happened to me as well.”