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SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENTS IN 24-YEAR-OLD COURT-MARTIAL CASE
by Sharon Rondeau
(Oct. 31, 2013) — CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.) has come across a routing document relating to his 1990 sham court-martial proving that a 17-page criminal complaint filed with the Navy against his co-conspirators was kept top-secret.
In 1989, Fitzpatrick was charged with misusing ship’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) funds by a conspiracy initially involving his admiral, John Bitoff, and his staff. The crime later involved scores of Navy and Marine Corps officers who, instead of coming forward to report the misconduct of their fellow officers, chose to remain silent, perpetuate the false claims, and lie to members of Congress.
Fitzpatrick’s special court-martial panel contained a member appointed by Bitoff who had already been disqualified because of a conflict of interest. Bitoff’s staff JAG, Tim Zeller, conducted the investigation alone, without having contacted the NCIS, then called the NIS.
Fitzpatrick had been headed for the Naval War College in Newport, RI when he received a phone call informing him that he had been accused of several crimes and that his orders to go to Newport were canceled.
Over many years of FOIA requests, Fitzpatrick learned that a forgery was placed in his court-martial file indicating his acceptance of a Letter of Reprimand and that his defense attorney, Kevin Anderson, had fraudulently signed Fitzpatrick’s name to it.
Other violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) were committed by Bitoff and his team, including using the testimony of a “ghost witness,” then using Fitzpatrick as a ghost witness against himself. Bitoff, who was the convening authority, acted as judge and jury and later, illegally reviewed Fitzpatrick’s request for a review.
Submitted on September 17, 1993 when Fitzpatrick was still on active duty, the criminal complaint was addressed to numerous Navy officers who then distributed it to several offices as a top-secret communication. “Once the criminal complaint got back to the recipients, the Office of the Secretary of the Navy routed it around,” Fitzpatrick said. “This was a very highly classified document administratively. It was the highest classification it could have: ‘Hold close; don’t show this to anybody else,'” he explained.
Fitzpatrick said he did not know the Navy would designate his complaint as classified after its submission. “That classification extended to the 17-page report, and it remains undisturbed to this day,” he told us.
“People have asked, ‘Did you ever send this to the office of the Naval Inspector General?’ and the answer is, ‘No, I didn’t.’ And the reason I didn’t is that in the body of the report, a man by the name of David M. Bennett, the vice admiral in the Navy, is listed as one of the criminal participants. He’s accused of a crime in the body of the report. When Bennett committed his crimes against me, he was the commander of the Naval Surface Force, United States Pacific Fleet. His headquarters was in San Diego, CA. He was the three-star admiral in that position. Because of Tailhook, Bush 41 reassigned Bennett to become the first three-star Naval Inspector General. That’s where David Bennett was in 1993 when I submitted my criminal complaint naming him in the report. I didn’t send it to the office of the Inspector General because the Naval Inspector General himself was named as a criminal in the report. His office was very badly conflicted in looking into the criminal allegations. That’s why you don’t see ‘Office of the Naval Inspector General’ there.
“I was very happy to find that document,” Fitzpatrick said. He has mailed a copy to The Post & Email, as he is currently without a working computer.
In another development on Tuesday, Fitzpatrick spoke with someone with impeccable credentials who has told him that the Navy “knows all about your case.” Fitzpatrick explained:
He said that there are Marine Corps JAGS, in particular, who have looked at this case, and they said, “Fitzpatrick really got worked over.” They know about the case, and XXXXX told me that they talk about it casually over a cup of coffee, but they have been prohibited from talking about this in any kind of official capacity. They can’t talk about it at the JAG schools.
This also gets back to what I told you about the reaction I got from Mrs. Bitoff, which was “Why are you doing this to us, Walt?” This is all over the Navy. Bitoff is being raked over the coals because folks know what he did.”
I believe that the “sensitive, hold-close” document has more of an administrative classification today than it did back in 1993. It has the highest administrative classification they could put on a document to keep it from getting out into distribution. And it was also saying to them, “It’s for information and retention.” It didn’t go to any organization for action.
It tells people on active duty, “Keep your mouth shut about this; otherwise, it’s going to cost you your job.” It’s a very big deal.
The document says right on it, “Comments: Block 37, Sensitive – hold close” and then other things are blacked out. They knew 20 years ago, and the only thing that’s happening is that it’s getting bigger and bigger.
We are dealing with something which is unprecedented in the history of the military discipline system. This information has never been revealed before.
Today I found the routing sheet, so if the Naval Inspector General tries to say, “You didn’t notify us in a timely fashion,” the explanation is that I didn’t do it because at the time, when the crimes were becoming known to me and I could prove them, the Naval Inspector General was one of the people who was involved in the criminal misconduct. At the top of the distribution list on page 17 in the body of the complaint, the Secretary of the Navy indicates that he also sent it to the Undersecretary of the Navy, which appears as “USN” on the routing; the OGC, which is “Office of General Counsel,” which is the civilian attorney for the Secretary of the Navy; then it went to the military attorney for the Navy, Rick Grant – and it says “TJAG,” which means “The JAG” – and it went to the director of the NCIS. I forget who that was in 1993. Then it went to a special legislative assistant.
It went to six different organizations, and of those, four of them were new. So it’s all over the Navy, and it has been for a long time.
The Post & Email has contacted the public affairs office of the Navy, the Army, and Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert about the miscarriage of justice carried out against Fitzpatrick. We have additionally contacted TJAG Nanette DeRenzi and a number of officers known to have participated in the cover-up of Bitoff’s misdeeds and received no response. Neither Bitoff, Anderson nor Zeller would speak to us on the record, with Zeller having pretended that he was not the person answering the phone when we called.
The amount of restitution for the crimes committed against Fitzpatrick can only be speculated upon at this time.