DOES BITOFF HAVE REGRETS FOR WHAT HE DID?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Feb. 15, 2014) — In a 1999 letter written by Adm. John Bitoff (Ret.) to Richard E. Danzig, then-Secretary of the Navy, Bitoff asserted that the charges brought against CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.) “should not have consummated in trial by court-martial with the resultant career ending punishment.”
Bitoff illegally acted as both prosecutor and accuser against Fitzpatrick regarding the use of MWR funds which allowed a contingent of sailors from the USS MARS and their wives to travel from California to Washington, DC to greet their captain after he returned from handling his murdered brother‘s immediate affairs in Athens, Greece.
The ship’s then-Command Master Chief, Poasa Fa’aita, concurred with Fitzpatrick’s account of the agreement of virtually every crewmember that MWR funds should be used to fund the trip. After then-Chief of Naval Personnel Adm. Leon Edney learned of the contingent’s presence at Dover Air Force Base on July 4, 1988, to greet Capt. Michael Nordeen, he heartily praised the effort expended to make the trip possible with the knowledge that MWR funds had been used. “That is very thoughtful of you guys,” Edney is quoted as having said at the time.
Five years prior, then-Chief of Naval Operations Michael Boorda, who committed suicide in 1996, stated that the court-martial “played no part” in Fitzpatrick’s chances of advancing in the U.S. Navy. After having been denied promotion twice, Fitzpatrick was forced into retirement in September 1994.
In his letter to Danzig, Bitoff contended that he was “bothered by LCDR Fitzpatrick’s recent allegations of misconduct by his defense counsel and the doubt as to the validity of Fitzpatrick’s signature on the Response to Letter of Reprimand.” Further, Bitoff stated, “I would ask that the appropriate authorities look into these allegations and determine their veracity.”
In late 1997, the NCIS had launched an investigation into Fitzpatrick’s claim that his signature had been forged on the Response to Letter of Reprimand. However, the NCIS quickly abandoned its efforts when evidence was discovered which clearly pointed to Fitzpatrick’s former defense counsel, Kevin M. Anderson, as the person who signed Fitzpatrick’s name to the document. No document trail exists showing how the letter reached Fitzpatrick from Anderson’s office.
Fitzpatrick told The Post & Email that if he had signed the letter, there would have been at least one witness. In fact, during July 1990, when the letter was purportedly sent to him, Fitzpatrick had no specific assignment and was home attending to the birth of his fourth child. “After April 5, 1990, the next time I saw Kevin Anderson was a number of years later after I had moved to the Pacific Northwest,” Fitzpatrick told us.
Bitoff’s letter to Danzig reads as follows:
The Navy has never admitted to the massive cover-up of the criminality leading up to and springing from Fitzpatrick’s court-martial, which involves dozens of former and current officers. For 23 years, the forgery of his name has remained in place in both his service record and record of court-martial.
Attempts by The Post & Email to contact members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have resulted in no response.
The U.S. Department of Justice has said that it “has no jurisdiction” to investigate the circumstances of the court-martial. In March 2005, a member of the NCIS, James P. Connolly, threatened Fitzpatrick’s life if he were to continue seeking justice for the crimes committed against him by Bitoff, Anderson, Lt. Timothy Zeller, Capt. Paul Romanski, and others. Connolly is still employed by the NCIS and was the interrogator of Sgt. Lawrence Gordon Hutchins, III in Iraq in 2006, which was ruled unconstitutional by a military appeals court in June because Hutchins did not have an attorney present.
The current Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, who was a classmate of Fitzpatrick’s at Annapolis, has also been unresponsive to requests to open Fitzpatrick’s Navy records.
When Fitzpatrick attempted to speak with Bitoff last fall prior to submitting the manuscript for the book he and this writer are assembling about the court-martial, Bitoff refused to come to the phone. However, his wife asked Fitzpatrick, “Why are you doing this to us?”
In a letter to Rep. Norman Dicks dated April 30, 1999, Bitoff told Dicks that he had “retired from active service at the end of 1991…” However, Bitoff was included in the chain of command which reviewed Fitzpatrick’s court-martial in April 1992 upon Fitzpatrick’s appeal, the documentation from which Fitzpatrick has been denied copies to this day.
Bitoff described the outcome of the court-martial as “a tragedy” and suggested that “the Secretary of the Navy might grant clemency and remove the Federal conviction from his record,” which has not occurred.
Four years later, Dicks became hostile to Fitzpatrick’s requests for help in obtaining the court-martial record and pressured a local newspaper not to report on the matter. Dicks and Anderson were acquainted, and Fitzpatrick believes that “it just got too close to home.”
Prior to the initiation of charges against him in the fall of 1989, Fitzpatrick wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Navy informing him that Bitoff was targeting him for political reasons. Fa’aita told The Post & Email that there had existed “a poor relationship” between the MARS and its command unit headed by Bitoff.
While Bitoff receives his pension, Fitzpatrick is now in the 27th month of his military pension having been garnished by two-thirds without an explanation from the IRS, Navy, or anyone else.
The U.S. Navy continues on its “massive criminal adventure.”
Last month, Anderson accused a Kitsap County defense attorney of perjury, a charge the defendant, Dennis Goss, has vowed to fight. On January 25, Anderson was quoted by The Kitsap Sun as having commented, “Defense attorneys are usually conscientious and law-abiding.”