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by Sharon Rondeau

Why is an attorney with an active law license and background in criminal prosecutions being allowed to serve as the McMinn County grand jury foreman?

(Jan. 23, 2014) — Earlier on Thursday, The Post & Email reported the discovery that McMinn County, TN Grand Jury Foreman, Jeffrey Cunningham, is a licensed attorney with a current membership in the Tennessee Bar Association and background in criminal prosecutions.

Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III, who has been prosecuted for exposing corruption within the Tennessee judiciary since 2009, particularly in the Tenth Judicial District, found the TBA listing for Cunningham on January 23 which indicated that he is employed in the banking profession but still active as an attorney.

Fitzpatrick has been reporting on jury-rigging by the judges in McMinn and Monroe Counties after finding that the Monroe County grand jury foreman had been serving for at least two decades.  Judges Amy Reedy, Carroll Lee Ross, Jon Kerry Blackwood, Walter C. Kurtz and others routinely “hire” the foreman, who serves as long as the judge wishes and at time mixes his or her vote with those of the jurors allegedly selected at random, as required by law.

Grand jury deliberations are expected to be uninfluenced by judges, lawyers, and prosecutors so that their decisions whether or not to issue an indictment can be rendered impartially.  However, Cunningham has demonstrated that he commandeers the grand juries in McMinn County, whether or not the jurors are aware that he is a licensed attorney with criminal prosecution experience.

Fitzpatrick described Cunningham’s posture over the grand jury on Tuesday as a “commanding officer.”

In September of last year, Tennessee Deputy Attorney General Kyle Hixson wrote in a court brief responsive to an appeal from Fitzpatrick’s counsel in a case stemming from grand jury rigging that the foreman is appointed by the judge and is not  a juror.  However, Tennessee Code Annotated requires that all 13 members of a grand jury be selected at random, and the foreman would have to come from that pool of people.

On Tuesday, Fitzpatrick brought a complaint naming Cunningham and other public officials as criminals with a request for the new grand jury to review it in order to begin dismantling the judicial corruption in the county and greater district.  As on previous occasions, Cunningham refused to consider or even look at the complaint, instead requesting a sheriff’s escort for Fitzpatrick out of the building. After Fitzpatrick exited, deputies then escorted the grand jury members to their vehicles so that they could not approach Fitzpatrick and he could not approach them.

“This is very, very serious.  These are federal offenses that we’re talking about.  Amy Reedy appointed a prosecuting attorney into the foremanship of the McMinn County grand jury, and he is not a juror.  So you know that on Tuesday, when he introduced himself to the new group of people and said, “Hi, my name is Jeff Cunningham; I’m a prosecuting attorney, my law degree is from…this is my background…” he now has them in his pocket.

Fitzpatrick’s attorney, Van Irion, has declared his candidacy for Criminal Court Judge against Reedy in November.  Reedy was never elected, but rather, appointed by then-Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2006 to fill a vacancy for an eight-year term.

“Cunningham stood as the illegal foreman of the grand jury before of two special agents from the office of the Inspector General from the Attorney General’s office on Tuesday.  I told them he wasn’t legal, and you hear me telling them (on the recording).  Then today we find out that Cunningham has an active law license.  He could be as much running for judge right now…he has no business being the foreman or on any jury at all,” Fitzpatrick told The Post & Email.

“We are living in late 1930s Germany, when the judges were enforcing the laws that Hitler was handing down.  This is how the judges in Germany were brought up on criminal charges for carrying out Hitler’s government and laws, which were targeting the Jews.  They’re making up their own laws.  [Assistant District Attorney General] Steve Morgan told me on Tuesday, ‘You’re not a licensed attorney; you don’t have a law degree…’ and I was standing with two attorneys who are licensed.  Cunningham has no business doing what he’s doing, and he knows it, and this is why he stopped me from presenting my affidavit,” Fitzpatrick said.

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