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FOLLOWING CIVIL EXCHANGES OF TWO WEEKS AGO
by Sharon Rondeau
(Apr. 3, 2014) — On Thursday afternoon, The Post & Email contacted the McMinn County, TN courthouse to inquire if the new grand jury foreman, Larry Wallace, is the same “Larry Wallace” who served as director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), Chattanooga Police Chief, McMinn County Sheriff, Tennessee Highway Patrolman, and alleged point man for Al Gore when asked to “take care of criminal matters involving Gore’s crooked…uncle.”
Wallace’s name and address are published in grand jury meeting notices for each month through December now posted visibly in the courthouse.
Note: The Post & Email did not black out the text in the paragraph below Wallace’s name and address. The original was highlighted in gray, which caused it to appear blacked out after it was scanned. The invisible text reads, “Tuesday, April 15TH, 2014 at 9:00 A.M.”
When we called the courthouse, we asked for Sherry, who had been courteous and helpful to us when we requested the indictments issued by the McMinn County grand jury charging Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III with extortion, aggravated perjury, stalking, and harassment of the former grand jury foreman, Atty. Jeffrey Cunningham, on March 18. Cunningham is a bank executive and active member of the Tennessee Bar Association who was serving his third term as foreman.
Fitzpatrick was visiting the courthouse on March 18 when he was indicted and arrested, spending ten days in the McMinn County jail until he was released on bond on March 27. Prior to his arrest, he had requested a restraining order against Cunningham in both February and March, both of which were denied.
Last week, Sherry had informed The Post & Email that Cunningham had resigned his foremanship on March 4 and another foreman was appointed the same day by Judge Amy Reedy.
The Post & Email has written to the Board of Professional Responsibility (BOPR) to ask how a licensed attorney and member of the Tennessee Bar Association could have legally or ethically acted as a grand jury foreman. The same letter was sent to members of legislative committees and the Administrative Office of the Courts, with no response received to date.
The BOPR recently exonerated District Attorney General R. Steven Bebb of wrongdoing after the legislature contemplated removing him from his post as a result of numerous corruption claims from constituents after the state attorney general concluded after an investigation that Bebb had made some errors and perhaps exercised poor judgment in his capacity as prosecutor for the Tenth Judicial District which did not rise to the level of criminality.
During the Bebb investigation, at least two grand jurors complained of undue influence from then-grand jury foreman Joel Riley, also appointed by Reedy, and Bebb’s deputy prosecutor, Paul D. Rush, who was found guilty of two ethics charges last year.
Historically, the Tennessee legislative and judicial branches have been at odds with one another, with conflicting statutes and court rules in effect simultaneously. Tennessee state law requires that grand juries consist of 13 members chosen by automated means, but the Tenth Judicial District, of which McMinn County is a part, empanel 12 grand jurors selected randomly paired with a judicially-selected foreman who can serve for years, or even decades. Despite the state code, Deputy Attorney General Kyle Hixson asserted that grand jury foremen are not jurors and therefore can be selected by criminal court judges by means of an unknown vetting process.
Judges guilty of misconduct have almost universally not been removed from their posts by the Tennessee General Assembly.
McMinn County is the location of the Battle of Athens, when a group of World War II veterans took matters into their own hands to oust a crooked sheriff and several deputies as a result of deeply-ingrained corruption, cronyism and election tampering on the part of those “public servants.” The FBI in Washington, DC had refused to act, as it has in the present day, to restore the rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens by the Bill of Rights, one of the nation’s founding documents.
We were not given the opportunity to express our request to Sherry verbally. Rather, after we identified ourselves, she interrupted us and said, “From now on, if you want anything, you’ll have to put it in writing. Send us a fax request in writing, and we will respond in writing.” We politely agreed to do that and sent a fax with our request prior to the close of business on Thursday.
The Post & Email has called many courthouses around the nation on a variety of issues and never been told that to ask a question, we must “put it in writing.”
What could account for Sherry’s markedly changed demeanor?