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by CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.)

CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III was the executive officer on the USS MARS from 1988-89. He was under orders to attend the Naval War College in Newport, RI when he learned that his former admiral, John Bitoff, had accused him of crimes he did not commit. Bitoff had the new orders rescinded so that he could “discipline” Fitzpatrick and subsequently destroyed his career after holding a sham court-martial based on false allegations.

(Nov. 15, 2013) — I cannot tell with precision when the criminal plot against me began. Only men like John Bitoff, Mike Edwards, Paul Romanski and Tim Zeller know the truth.

Accusers are supposed to be prohibited from “convening” (creating, assembling, gathering, conducting) their own courts-martial against a defendant.  These men were working like a finely-honed machine.  The admiral came out with an out-and-out lie, and then everyone else lied for him.

This was a plot, and I was the target.  There was never any criminal event; there was never any crime committed.  This was a plot that these men carried out, and they used the court-martial discipline system to effect their criminal adventure.  They knew what they were doing from the very start.

Bitoff’s criminal conspiracy was under way well before September 1989. We may all learn together just exactly when the machinery of this outlaw industry started up. Presently it’s not possible to know for sure.

I’m a whistleblower, and Bitoff didn’t like whistleblowers.

There exist clear guideposts and mile markers that, tracking backwards, reveal Bitoff’s plot and move any serious investigator closer to its birth. Progress forward can certainly be measured.

Players (co-conspirators) for today’s performance:

  • Rear Admiral John W. Bitoff:  Commander of a group of a fleet of logistics ships operating in the waters between the International Date Line to America’s western coast (Staff Code 00 – “zero zero”).
  • Navy Captain Mike Edwards:  Bitoff’s second-in-command. Bitoff’s executive officer, Bitoff’s chief-of-staff (Staff Code 01 – “zero one”).
  • Navy Captain Paul Romanski:  An assistant chief-of-staff to Bitoff (Staff Code 02 – “zero two”).
  • Navy Lieutenant Timothy W. Zeller:  Bitoff’s staff Judge Advocate General (Staff Code 14 – “one four”).

Pacific Fleet Exercise 89 was the largest seagoing peacetime exercise in Pacific Fleet history up to that time.

Zeller and Romanski worked together assiduously on the illicit plot during that period of time when the energies of Bitoff and Edwards were forced, focused and directed towards on ongoing operational fleet exercise.

Paul Romanski, who was in a position and had the time and industry to apply, crafted a staff timeline chronology to memorialize the part each man played in the plot. Romanski filed the history as a “MEMORANDUM FOR THE RECORD” on 3 November 1989.

Page 1 of Capt. Paul Romanski’s alleged timeline of events regarding Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III’s alleged misconduct on the USS MARS in 1989, including the cancellation of his orders to attend the Naval War College in Newport, RI
Page 2 of timeline
Page 3

Romanski’s memo reveals much. In and of itself a criminal instrument, Romanski’s memo was kept secret from me from 3 November 1989 until 28 July 2001; 11 years, 9 months.

Romanski began the draft of his staff’s illicit history sometime on or before 2 November 1989, a Tuesday.

Romanski worked with Tim Zeller along the way (Conspiracy:  an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by or more persons; plot, a combination of persons for a secret, unlawful, or evil purpose).

Some of what the two conspirators left out is provided here:

  • Monday, 18 Sept. 1989: Zeller embarked aboard USS MARS to conduct his preliminary investigation.
  • Monday, 25 Sept.: Zeller debarked USS MARS on Monday.
  • Exact date unknown: Zeller becomes one of my accusers. Zeller orally briefs Bitoff and Edwards where they’re forward-deployed in Bremerton, WA, aboard the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Zeller relates to Edwards and Bitoff that the case against me is “serious” (see page 2 above). Fitzpatrick is a guilty man!
  • Wednesday, 4 October 1989: Zeller’s status report to sent to higher command regarding the Naval Investigative Service. The truth was that no attempts were made or actual contact enjoyed between Zeller or Romanski to notify the Naval Investigative Service from the time of Zeller’s return to Oakland (2 Oct.) until the date, two days later of Zeller’s status report. As indicated below, Bitoff was back in San Francisco as of 4 Oct. (Note: The organization name Naval Investigative Service (NIS) did not change to Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) until 1992).

Romanski did capture this:

  • Monday, 2 October 1989: Zeller returns to Oakland, CA staff headquarters. Zeller orally briefs Paul Romanski. Romanski orders Zeller to prepare a written report. Fitzpatrick is a guilty man!
  • Wednesday, 4 October: Rear Admiral Bitoff returns to the San Francisco Bay area. Bitoff is in town when Zeller, only back just two days himself, sends out his first preliminary investigation status report to higher command on this day stating that the NIS had been contacted, but was too busy to answer the call!
  • Thursday, 5 October 1989: Zeller has the first draft of his investigation report ready to show Romanski in three days’ time. It’s an extensive report. Romanski and Zeller talk. During Romanski’s interaction with Zeller, Romanski reviews Zeller’s written report. Romanski changes (edits) Zeller’s report sufficiently enough whereupon Romanski joins Zeller as accuser #2. Zeller and Romanski are aware–both of them together–that they are accusers!
  • Tuesday, 10 October 1989: Romanski briefs Edwards on the investigation report that by 10 Oct. both Zeller and Romanski have authored and edited (Romanski and Zeller as accusers). In separate writings, and in Zeller’s own words, Mike Edwards interacts with Zeller and edits Zeller’s investigation sufficiently enough so as to join Edwards to Zeller and Romanski as another accuser. Edwards accuser #3 (Note: Edwards could have become an accuser when Zeller briefed him in Bremerton, WA in late September. I don’t have enough now to know).
  • Thursday, 12 October 1989: Zeller briefs Rear Admiral Bitoff, Captain Edwards and Captain Romanski in Oakland, CA. This is the conduct of the cloaked court-martial. Zeller repeats his pronouncement that Fitzpatrick is a guilty man!. Bitoff, Edwards and Romanski extend themselves in their concurrence. Arrangements are immediately commenced for the SHOW or more public Court-martial. Zeller’s preliminary investigation report at that moment exists only as a DRAFT  or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons (Plot:  a combination of persons for a secret, unlawful, or evil purpose)

Bitoff ordered Zeller to advance formal charges against me after the 12 October 1989 secret court-martial. “I brought the charges and I convened the court-martial,” Bitoff admits in writing in a letter he sent to Congressman Norm Dicks and Navy Secretary Danzig dated 30 April 1999.

Tim Zeller went out to the ship with a mission.  He embarked on September 18 and returned on September 25, and in that one week, he put together in his mind a fiction that he was going to write.   So as of the 25th of September, he was traveling back down toward San Francisco.  He briefed Adm. Bitoff and Capt. Edwards sometime before the beginning of October.  He briefed Paul Romanski on or about the end of October or the first part of November.  Then Zeller was told, “Go write the report, Tim.”

As of that time, there was no written report.  The first written report that we know about is Tim Zeller’s handwritten notes.  The first version of Tim Zeller’s fictional report was the notes that he started taking when he was on the ship.  I have some of those.  When he briefed Adm. Bitoff and Mike Edwards in late October, he did so off of his handwritten notes.  Then he came back down to San Francisco-Oakland and briefed Romanski, the assistant chief of staff, who was manning the store while the other two officers were gone.  So Romanski said, “OK, Tim, go write this up,” which Tim did.

So the first typewritten report that we know about is dated 5 October 1989.  It’s 17 pages long.  We know about it because it’s in the Index, although we haven’t seen that yet.  Tim took that report to Romanski, and Romanski and Zeller got together and refashioned it to some degree.  Then we have the version in hand that is dated 10 October 1989.

That report was in progress for a time; Tim put a lot of effort into writing it, although it is all a fiction.  He made up a story, and it grew and grew, and by the time he put it to paper, it was 17 pages long.

Zeller knew what he was going to be doing before he ever left Oakland.  He says that he and Bitoff and Edwards have some special knowledge about the MWR account on the USS MARS, but they don’t tell us how or what or why.  They say they wanted to send out a Lt. Commander because I was the target of the investigation and they wanted another LCDR senior to me.  That didn’t work out because of the Steve Letchworth problem.

[Editor’s Note:  LCDR Steve Letchworth was judged to be ineligible to serve as an investigator in the “case” against Fitzpatrick because of a conflict of interest but was hand-picked by Bitoff to be on the jury panel during the Special Court-Martial of 2-5 April 1990.]

Zeller was sent out to the ship to create a fiction.  I was guilty before Tim ever left Oakland.  In that report, Zeller said that, for example, he finds me criminally blameworthy of having sent these individuals to a meeting in Pearl Harbor, HI.  His report is 17 pages long.  This was just a couple sentences out of 17 pages.  He said in the report that the men were sent to Hawaii, they came back, and money was spent.  This was 5 October, but the written version we have is 10 October.  From the time that Tim Zeller started to put this notion together on the ship in September, it was his position that the MWR meeting had never been scheduled and had never been held.  That position ended up in the 10 October report and in the 23 October version of events.  It was consistent all through these different drafts.

Page 1 of Tim Zeller’s “Investigation Report”
Page 2
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Based on what?  On his determination.  Another thing that Tim blames me for was the purchase of electronic equipment that I’d been warned about twice by Doug Dolan.  When you look at Zeller’s reports, in one place he said it was the “assistant supply officer,” and in another place he said it was the “assistant supply officer, Doug Dolan.”  So he finds me blameworthy for the purchase of the electronic equipment, but he doesn’t cite any regulation which bans the purchase of the equipment.  It’s never been stated. By the way, it was common practice in the fleet, not just in Combat Logistics Group One, to purchase electronics equipment. I saw this on every ship I ever served on, and it was on every other ship in the fleet.  It was done all the time. There was nothing untoward about it.

So Zeller took this event and criminalized it, and he says that because I had been “warned” by CDR Dolan, I had committed some type of a crime.  We did order electronic equipment which was approved, and when it arrived, it was distributed throughout the entire ship.  I have pictures of men in work spaces and work centers watching the TV.  There’s nothing wrong with doing that, and it was never an issue.  So Zeller said that because I had been “warned,” all of a sudden it became some type of a criminal act.

Doug Dolan was the assistant supply officer.  He was a colleague and friend.  Zeller fictionalized him.  He could have picked anybody on the ship.  He decided to use Doug Dolan as a foil, a creation, and put words in his mouth.

[Editor’s Note:  Doug Dolan later becomes a “ghost witness” against Fitzpatrick who is quoted by Bitoff and Zeller but never provided an interview, affidavit, or testimony.]

Tim took an innocent act and criminalized it by saying that I had been warned twice about it, and he pointed to Doug Dolan as the man who issued that order, and we both know that Doug Dolan never had anything to do with this.  We don’t have any statements from Doug Dolan; we have nothing signed by Doug Dolan; we don’t see Doug Dolan appearing at the Article 32; we don’t see Doug Dolan appearing at the court-martial in April 1990.  Doug Dolan is nowhere to be found except in Zeller’s investigation reports.

When Zeller put together the first charge sheet, it was seven pages long, single-spaced, and he threw the kitchen sink at me.  He wanted me to go to general court-martial, but all of the charges were made up. 

Tim Zeller invented the conversations he exhorts occurred between Doug Dolan and me, one before and after electronic gear was purchased for ship’s company.  Dolan and I never had these discussions.

There were no warnings. There was nothing untoward about the gear we bought (details and context of which Zeller conveniently left out of his 23 October 1989 report).

Zeller did not interview Doug Dolan.

Dolan’s name does not appear on page 1 of Zeller’s investigation report itemizing evidence Zeller relied upon in the construction of his secret report.

Zeller’s 23 October 1989 report was not available in November 1989 for the Article 32. Nor was Zeller’s report available during the April 1990 court-martial.

Another example of what Tim accused me of doing is that he stated that there was mismanagement of the records and that records have gone missing and can’t be found, except that he found one version of a report in my file in the stateroom and that nobody else seemed to have it.  Zeller stated in his fictional report that these documents are missing; they’re gone, but he doesn’t state which ones.  Then he goes on to state that the fact that they’re missing is somehow a criminal act, and then he attributes this criminal act of the missing records to me.  I’m the guy responsible because these records have gone missing.  He talks about other problems with missing records.

Zeller states in other places that he has all of the records from the ship, that one of the records that he claims is missing he has in his possession.  But at the end of the court-martial, he comes in with the memo saying, “Admiral, since I don’t believe in keeping records…” So Tim was admitting that he was in the habit of destroying records when it’s convenient.  So anything that’s gone missing has gone missing because Tim Zeller took it into his possession, and we’ve never seen it since.

Then he went on to take other events and criminalize those.  And all of this is made up.  There was no crime committed.

Page 1 of Zeller’s October 23, 1989 follow-up report
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Doug Dolan, Zeller and Bitoff’s star witness, did not testify at the court-martial. Ergo: There exists no transcribed Doug Dolan testimony available to quote from in the court-martial record (“reference a” of the Letter of Reprimand).

The panel consisted of Bitoff’s own officers.  The only way he got this into an Article 32 was because of Tim Zeller’s report, which is a fiction, and the only way he got this through the court-martial was that he assigned his own officers.  Everywhere you look, it’s John Bitoff’s hand either present or invisible.  But it’s always there, and you see Bitoff’s presence every place you see Tim Zeller.

I sent Bitoff the original letter on the Operation Torch package.  So you have my dad, who is a World War II war hero, Medal of Honor for doctors; his son gets into and graduates from the U.S. Naval Academy and is on his way because of his dad; and then he runs into this monster, Bitoff, who made up this whole fiction.  The Letter of Reprimand that I got from Bitoff is a complete fiction, a lie.

Wherever you see that they found nothing wrong or everything was correct in law and in fact, then you realize just how big this scandal is.  John Bitoff committed very, very serious crimes against me, and to this day, it’s going on, and still, Bitoff hasn’t come forward to admit his crimes.  Nothing came out of these different processes, the Article 32 or the actual court-martial, that supported anything that appeared in Tim Zeller’s report.  Bitoff’s panel did not name those two events as being the ones upon which they rested their decision.  You can’t tell from reading the court-martial record what it was that I was supposed to have done wrong.  The only place that becomes available is in the Letter of Reprimand.  So where else do you read about that stuff?  It’s in Tim Zeller’s report.

So everything that happened in between was for show.  The evidence is that Tim Zeller and Bitoff controlled every aspect of this thing so that they got what they wanted in the end.  They couldn’t care less what the court-martial came up with; they went through the process, the 32 and the court-martial, but neither of those things paid attention to Tim Zeller’s investigation reports which were not inquired into or vetted at the 32 or at the court-martial.  Tim Zeller’s investigation reports, in their various versions, were not there.  They were kept secret.  Tim Zeller was not called in, and he masked his position in all of this.  It was all done to see that I was shown the door.

This was a vendetta, and that’s all this is about.

[Editor’s Notes:  As has been reported previously, the “Response to Letter of Reprimand” contains a fraudulent signature, and the document was never sent to Fitzpatrick as his defense counsel claimed.  The Post & Email will be detailing the missing paper trail in regard to the forgery in a future installment of the story.

The Navy has never admitted any wrongdoing on the part of the officers who framed Fitzpatrick.  Rather, a series of higher-ranking officers repeatedly insisted that the court-martial was carried out properly and fairly, to include the Navy JAG Corps.  Moreover, the Navy has never addressed the forgery which was placed in both Fitzpatrick’s court-martial and service records.

After exhaustive research and having contacted all of the principals involved in Fitzpatrick’s case as well as the Navy itself on several occasions, Fitzpatrick and this writer are producing a book which will show how easily the system of military justice, which lacks the constitutional protections of a grand jury and trial jury of one’s peers, can be manipulated by commanding officers to achieve a particular outcome.

Fitzpatrick has also demonstrated how civilian courts are increasingly resembling military courts by depriving the accused of their Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Amendment rights, among others.

A military veteran and expert told The Post & Email that Fitzpatrick’s court-martial experience “is happening every day” to other innocent men and women serving their country as a result of undue command influence and cronyism which have continued unchecked in recent decades.]

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  1. The Military has lost many good members because of this type of Command Corruption and it has also produced many good things on the other side of corruption. It is obvious in any of Walt’s writings or comments that he is and was an outstanding Navy Officer and an intellect. These types of things happen in Military and corporate life but this case needs to be shown and hopefully it may tend to reduce this type of filthy jealousy and dirty people that should never be allowed to rise in Command or wear a uniform of authority under oath. Washington is filled with these types but in the Military it is devastating. Bitoff and his low quality Officer adjutants should be court martialed and brought to Military court by the Navy to clear Walt of his false accusation and return his good name and service to his record. You have to realize that it took Walt a long time and relentless effort to obtain and organize all these records and information. They wanted him to give up and go away, that’s not the way it works. If they do something to Walt, there are people that are watching, we know that corruption is being allowed by many in the Military and DC. Admiral Mike Mullen was advanced for being a Democrat and shoulder to Obama and the DNC by allowing gays and cutting of the Military to get passed. He is one of the worst Admirals I have ever seen in modern times and brought disgrace to the Military for votes for Obama and his gay agenda while selling out his position for retirement. I will say to Mullen-you are trash and no kind of Navy material at all-no Navy man can see how you made rank and is testimony to “The New Navy”? Rocks And Shoals to you-a coward in uniform who sold out the Navy for rank! Bitoff was even worse-a one star loser who would never have made rank through normal assembly! I can only hope that soon a movie will be made of this dirty scheme used against Walt and that it brings light to the Navy and calls for the Navy to bring a responsible investigation to this criminal act allowed for decades to go on without investigation and fair UCMJ deliberation to fact. If I was in Command I would have immediately called for incarceration and arrest of all involved and had trial within weeks to deal sentence to these Command Criminals that have caused such suffering for an Officer who stood up for tradition in the Navy, not false promotion and personal gain and misuse of authority. Walt deserves a book and a movie to be done to expose the cover ups and wrong doing in Command. We need people in uniform that will serve their country and their fellow patriots not sabotage the process for their own greed and lack of character.