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APPELLATE COURT SILENT SINCE NOVEMBER ON CLAIMS OF JUDICIAL LAW-BREAKING
by Sharon Rondeau
(Mar. 18, 2014) — On December 3, 2012, CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.) was convicted after approximately five minutes of jury deliberations of “tampering with government records” following a Monroe County, TN trial in which his attorney, Van Irion, was not allowed to present a defense of his client.
Irion had planned to use the “necessity defense” to claim that Fitzpatrick had observed criminal activity on the part of Judge Amy Reedy when she hand-picked slips of paper containing the names and personal information for potential grand jurors for the upcoming year.
Fitzpatrick has spent five tours of duty in the Monroe County jail stemming from his challenge of the grand jury foreman, after which his health deteriorated significantly. On December 3, Kurtz ordered a suspended sentence after threatening to jail Fitzpatrick again during the hearing.
State law mandates that all jurors be chosen by “random, automated means,” and at the last stage that the finalists’ names be picked blindly out of a box kept for such purpose.
Since late 2009, Fitzpatrick has reported that grand juries and trial juries in Eastern Tennessee are “rigged.” Members of both bodies have been found to be serving consecutive terms in violation of TCA 22-2-314.
Special Judge Walter C. Kurtz, a Vietnam War veteran, presided over the hearing and denied Irion his chance to speak. Kurtz denied Irion’s request for a new trial, after which Irion filed an appeal.
A hearing by the appellate court took place on November 21, 2013, with both Irion and Fitzpatrick in attendance at the courthouse in Knoxville.
At the hearing, Fitzpatrick discovered that Tennessee Deputy Attorney for the Criminal Division General Kyle Hixson had filed a brief on behalf of the state clarifying that the grand jury foreman “is not a juror.”
The Monroe County grand jury had indicted Fitzpatrick on the charge of “intimidating a juror” on June 3, 2010, but in November, the attorney general’s office clarified that Pettway had never been a member of the grand jury, and therefore, was not a juror. Fitzpatrick was convicted on two charges stemming from the Monroe County grand jury’s indictments on December 1, 2010, with Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood called in to preside.
Blackwood had insisted that grand jurors on the Monroe County grand jury serving consecutive terms in violation of state code did not invalidate the grand jury indictments against Fitzpatrick.
On Tuesday morning, Fitzpatrick planned to go to the McMinn County courthouse for the seventh time since late 2012 to submit evidence that McMinn County grand jury foreman Jeffrey Cunningham, a trained, licensed Tennessee attorney and member of the Bar Association, is breaking the law in his current position. On Monday, Fitzpatrick told us, “He’s just a civilian,” although Cunningham, like other grand jury foremen throughout Tennessee, represents himself as a member of the grand jury.
State law commands that a grand jury have 13 members. Counties in Tennessee’s Tenth Judicial District empanel 12 members allegedly selected at random and count the 13th person as the foreman. However, the foreman is not randomly-selected as are the grand jurors, but his vote is often used to push through an indictment, which requires 12 affirmative votes.
Fitzpatrick has been seeking to inform the members of the grand jury that their “foreman” is engaged in criminal behavior, but Cunningham has blocked all of Fitzpatrick’s attempts. On February 18, Cunningham, in an offensive action, threatened Fitzpatrick with arrest simply for coming to the courthouse and carrying a sign which read, “Jeffrey Cunningham is not a juror” in an attempt to inform the grand jury of the attorney general’s declaration of the true status of a grand jury foreman.
There has been no ruling as a result of the November 21 hearing, during which Irion had argued that Monroe County grand jury foreman Faye Tennyson had over-served her term as mandated by law for jurors, countered by Hixson’s contention that the grand jury foreman is, in fact, not a juror.
Connecting Cunningham’s series of reappointments with those of Tennyson, Fitzpatrick told The Post & Email, “The appellate court cannot come down with a ruling that says that Jeff Cunningham is a juror. That’s not a decision that’s before them to make. It’s not up to them whether he is or isn’t. The state has declaratively said that he is not. Anything is possible in Tennessee State, but normally speaking, an appellate court cannot answer a question that they haven’t been asked, and they have not been asked whether or not [grand jury foreman] Faye Tennyson was a juror. In fact, the challenge was that she is a juror, and because she is a juror, she exceeded term limits and she was disqualified for other reasons, and the Fitzpatrick case needs to be remanded to the lower court because it was improperly handled by the grand jury. The position was that she acted illegally as a juror. But the state of Tennessee came in and said, ‘She’s not a juror.'”
The State of Tennessee has not disclosed what type of vetting is done in the selection of a grand jury foreman. In 2012, a Davidson County judge chose a grand jury foreman who was found the following year to have been a convicted felon, necessitating the review of approximately 900 cases over which he had exuded influence.
“The foundation of the challenge to the outcome in Judge Walter C. Kurtz’s trial court was that Faye Tennyson acted illegally as a juror, but the state responded, ‘That accusation and premise is altogether wrong, and you need to let the conviction stand because the underlying premise is no longer at work because Faye Tennyson isn’t a juror,'” Fitzpatrick said. “That was the only position they could take.” Further, he stated:
I’m calling out Jeff Cunningham as an imposter who is stalking me, and he is, because he is coming to these meetings illegally and blocking me from presenting information to the grand jury. He is not a juror. When the appellate court comes out and affirms that “Cunningham is not a juror,” then this is another count of felony, jury-tampering, intimidation, impostoring, masquerading…I have six dates now, and I’m coming up on number 7.
On Monday, Fitzpatrick was informed that Blackwood had denied Fitzpatrick’s request for a restraining order against Cunningham. In addition to presiding over the December 2010 case, Blackwood had failed to respond to subpoenas Fitzpatrick had issued in 2011 while researching the appointment of grand jury foremen in the Tenth Judicial District.
On February 18, Cunningham had threatened Fitzpatrick with arrest. Regarding his request for the restraining order, Fitzpatrick told us, “I said that there was a gun involved in this case, and I’ve put this under oath. When Cunningham called me over to talk to me, he brought with him a gun being carried by Sgt. George, the deputy that Cunningham had to protect him against me. It was not Jeff Cunningham talking to me privately; he brought a deputy with him who was under arms. That’s why George was standing there.”
Fitzpatrick stated that in the request for the protection order, he made it clear that he planned to visit the McMinn County courthouse on Tuesday, March 18 with the knowledge that Cunningham would most likely be there. The decision by Blackwood came within two hours of the close of business on Monday.
“I have no business with Jeff Cunningham. I want him to stay away from me. He approached me with a gun. He wasn’t carrying the gun, but he approached me with someone who would use the gun against me under Jeff Cunningham’s orders. He threatened me with arrest with a deputy sheriff standing there with a gun.”
Later on Tuesday, The Post & Email will report if Fitzpatrick has been arrested by a McMinn County deputy sheriff, allowed to present his evidence to the grand jury, or some other outcome. Fitzpatrick has named McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy as a criminal for allowing his deputies to take part in a state-sponsored training program depicting Fitzpatrick as a “Sovereign Citizen.”