“IT’S NOTHING BUT A MIRACLE THAT WE HAVE THIS”
by Sharon Rondeau
In late 1989, Fitzpatrick was accused of stealing funds from the USS MARS MWR fund and using them for personal items after a contingent of sailors and their wives made the extraordinary gesture of flying from the West Coast to Dover Air Force Base to greet MARS Capt. Michael Nordeen upon his return from Greece. Nordeen had hastily flown overseas attend to the affairs of his brother, William Edward Nordeen, who was killed in a terrorist attack in Athens on June 28, 1988.
Fitzpatrick has maintained his innocence over more than 23 years, during which he has obtained hundreds of documents from the court-martial record through dozens of FOIA requests. The man who served as Command Master Chief aboard the MARS at the time recently corroborated Fitzpatrick’s claim that the commanding admiral of the unit, John Bitoff, carried out a personal vendetta against the MARS targeting Fitzpatrick, Michael Nordeen, and himself.
Bitoff used members of his staff to fabricate witnesses and produce voluminous reports claiming that Fitzpatrick had misused the funds, even though Chief of Naval Personnel Adm. Leon Edney had praised the selflessness of the crew members and wives who had made the trip with the knowledge that MWR funds had been used. Both Fitzpatrick and Command Master Chief Poasa Fa’aita related that the crew members of MARS had asked what they could do to help their captain following the news of his brother’s tragic death, and all had agreed that sending the contingent by means of the MWR fund would be appropriate.
The actual log of the MWR expenditures disappeared before the court-martial and was never resurrected.
Bitoff’s staff JAG, Lt. Tim Zeller, and others concocted the allegations with the knowledge that a court-martial would end Fitzpatrick’s career, something which Bitoff admitted had occurred in a letter to Sen. Patty Murray in 1999.
Dozens and perhaps hundreds of Navy and Marine Corps flag officers have asserted that the forgery in Fitzpatrick’s file is authentic, including lying to members of Congress, as did Bitoff in 1999. Nearly a quarter-century later, Fitzpatrick is still seeking justice and restitution from the U.S. Navy for the wrongful charges and conviction as well as for defamation of his character, and the personal financial distress it has wrought upon his family and him.
While Fitzpatrick retired in 1994 with a military pension, he had planned to stay in the Navy and was under orders to report to the Naval War College in Newport, RI when Bitoff had those orders canceled so as to carry out the vendetta which killed Fitzpatrick’s chances of promotion.
In September 1997, the NCIS admitted that if the forgery were proven, it “makes the Navy look really bad.” After NCIS Special Agent Richard Allen presented evidence which pointed to Anderson being the forger, an investigation was launched but quickly abandoned once it became evident that Anderson had, in fact, committed the crime against his own client in 1990.
As the Navy has been unresponsive to Fitzpatrick’s and others’ attempts to open the record of court-martial and prosecute those who participated in the crimes against him, The Post & Email and Fitzpatrick are producing a book which is currently under review for publication.
Documents relating to Fitzpatrick’s appeal of his conviction are still being withheld to this day.
In a recent turn of events, a development relating to the court-martial has the potential to expose the “massive criminal adventure” in which so many have engaged at Fitzpatrick’s expense. In describing Anderson’s dishonesty with NCIS investigators in 1998 about his knowledge of the forgery, Fitzpatrick told us:
Kevin Anderson has witnessed against himself. He said that there was a document, which is the forgery, which he created, and when it came off the printer, it was unsigned. It required my signature, and Anderson said he didn’t sign it, and if he had signed it, he would have signed it indicating that he signed it on my behalf.
Anderson connected himself to that document particularly in his interview with Det. Beth Deatherage on January 29, 2003.
Three separate reports from the NCIS dovetail together. One is the report of the interview; the second is an after-action report; the third is “case closed.” All refer back to the interview with Anderson where he stated that he had no independent recollection of the origination of the forged instrument. That was in 1998.
Five years later, Anderson told Deatherage that he “vaguely remembered” that he was the originator of the forged instrument. It’s nothing but a miracle that we have this. He did say it, and he said it with two witnesses. One of them was a police detective, and the other was his boss [Kitsap County Prosecutor], Russ Hauge. It was memorialized in writing in a police report which we have only by the grace of God.
And it was after that report became public that my life was threatened; that is how significant this revelation is.
The case against Kevin Anderson is lock-tight.
The best witness we have is Kevin Anderson’s witness against himself.
This means that Kevin Anderson lied to the federal agents in 1998.
NCIS Special Agent Richard Allen worked out of the Washington Navy Yard; he was an East Coast guy. He listed the documents from the court-martial record which matched the forgery. He sent out the directive once he found the matching documents.
We have all of this evidence against Anderson, and then he did not cooperate with the criminal investigation into the forgery when he was Suspect #1. He never gave any kind of handwriting samples as he was asked; he told the NCIS to get out of his office and not to bother him. I do not know who the agents were who interviewed him in his Port Orchard, WA office, but it was not Richard Allen. It would have been someone from Bremerton, WA.
One of the people who could have been involved in the interrogation of Kevin Anderson was Leon Carroll, Jr., who is now working as a technical adviser on the CBS hit series “NCIS.” He’s the coach for Mark Harmon.
We know where these people are, but they will not cooperate. But we don’t need them; we have the document record where Anderson lied to the NCIS in 1998 and then gave up his lie in 2003. The two best witnesses are both in Port Orchard, WA: Anderson and Det. Beth Deatherage. There’s a third one, Russ Hauge, who was identified as having been in the room during Anderson’s interrogation.
[Editor’s Note: On page 2 of the Kitsap County, WA Prosecuting Attorney’s 2013 Annual Report, Hauge wrote, in regard to the duties and “power” of his office:
…by deciding to do nothing, by looking the other way, the prosecutor can enable any behavior. If a prosecutor doesn’t like a particular law, whether for ethical or venal reasons, he or she can choose to decline to charge reported violations. If a prosecutor has some affinity for a particular offender, he or she can protect them from the consequences of their actions…A person can break the law without fear with the prosecutor on his or her side…]
Let’s say that you’re a special agent with the NCIS, and you’re looking into a forgery that bears CDR Fitzpatrick’s name. One of the things you want to find out as a trained investigator is where that document came from. You’re interested in its source; you’re interested in its origination and its chain of custody to try to determine at what point in time the signature was applied and how all that took place. So you go out to investigate and you interview Mr. Anderson, and he tells you emphatically that he can’t remember anything about where that document came from. He has no idea of its origins. You walk away empty-handed on finding out the original source of that writing, which means that from the beginning, you don’t have the first link in the chain of custody. That’s a very important piece of information to have: who had the document first, and what happened to it next? That’s why Anderson lied to the NCIS, because had he told them in 1998 what he told Det. Deatherage with a witness in the room in 2003, “I vaguely remember being the person who crafted that document, typed it up, printed it out…I held it in my hand in that moment when it needed to be signed by Fitzpatrick…” If Anderson had answered the question the NCIS had put to him in 1998 in the way that I’ve just answered it as he did with Det. Deatherage, then the NCIS’s next question would have been, “OK, you held this document in your hand; it had to be signed by Fitzpatrick; you knew that. What happened next?”
Anderson lied to the NCIS in 1998. Had he answered the question in 1998 as he did in 2003 with Beth Deatherage – had he told the NCIS officials that he was the person who originated the document that he knew required my signature before it could be put into any record, their question would have been, “We have the original writing, Capt. Anderson. Now you’re telling us that you were there at its creation; is that not correct, Capt. Anderson?” And his answer would have been, “Yes.” “Then, Captain Anderson, please explain to us how this document was administered. What happened to it after it left your hands? How did this signature get applied to this document?” Anderson is required to know the answer to that question, as are Tim Zeller and Adm. Bitoff. They are required to know the chain of custody of that document.
If Anderson had answered the NCIS in 1998 as he answered Deatherage in 2003, he would have been placed under federal felony arrest.