“STOLEN FROM WE THE PEOPLE”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Apr. 10, 2014) — For more than four years, The Post & Email has been reporting on systemic government corruption in Tennessee, particularly in the eastern section, which has created a penal colony in which residents are in and out of the criminal court system, sometimes jailed for years while awaiting trial.
Tennessee uses the grand jury system, which was outlined in the Fifth Amendment to the Bill of Rights, ratified in 1791. The Fifth Amendment’s purpose is to “protect against abuse of government authority.” It reads:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
However, rather than providing a check against government abuse and overreach, Tennessee grand juries are used as a weapon against the people. Untold numbers of residents in the Tenth Judicial District, which includes Bradley, Polk, McMinn and Monroe Counties, have been indicted on trumped-up charges issued by the grand juries, directed by foremen who are hired by the judges rather than picked randomly.
Tennessee law requires that grand juries have 13 members and up to five alternates, but only 12 randomly-selected individuals are seated. The hand-picked foreman is then added to the grand jury and represented as one of them, while he or she actually works for the judge and represents the county’s interest in prosecuting individuals. Grand jurors are not informed of the laws and blindly follow the directions given by the foreman.
There is no provision in Tennessee Code for a foreman to be personally selected by a judge. The District Attorneys General Conference describes a grand jury as “a group of thirteen citizens chosen from the jury panel. One of these thirteen is the fore person and will preside over the grand jury.” However, that is not the manner in which the grand juries operate.
Moreover, the Tennessee Attorney General’s office maintains that a hand-picked grand jury foreman is legal, despite state laws which mandate that all jurors be chosen by random, automated means. Over the last four years, the Tennessee Supreme Court and Administrative Office of the Courts have refused to answer The Post & Email’s correspondence asking for accountability and scrutiny of Criminal Court judges’ actions.
On Tuesday, an assistant to Criminal Court Judge Amy Reedy told The Post & Email that there was no “public information” available on the new hand-picked grand jury foreman in McMinn County, Larry Wallace. Wallace just happens to sit on the board of the Athens Federal Community Bank, where the previous foreman, Jeff Cunningham, is president and CEO. Two years ago, Cunningham awarded $5,000 to Tennessee Wesleyan College “in honor” of Wallace, where Wallace is Senior Vice President.
While Cunningham is an attorney with an interest in “Criminal Law – Prosecution,” Wallace has 40 years in law enforcement, including as McMinn County sheriff for two four-year terms.
In December 2011, Judge Amy Reedy was observed hand-picking grand jurors by Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III. After picking up the evidence of the jury-tampering to report it to law enforcement, the state of Tennessee prosecuted Fitzpatrick for “tampering with government records.”
In a show trial in which Fitzpatrick’s attorney was not allowed to present a defense on December 3, 2012, Fitzpatrick was convicted after approximately six minutes of jury deliberations. Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz, a Vietnam veteran, was made aware that the charging documents contained a forged signature but allowed the indictments to stand.
The case remains on appeal, with no decision rendered after nearly five months.
Fitzpatrick is one of an unknown number of citizens victimized by the Tennessee courts over at least five decades, during which the judiciary has “operated a government not found in our United States Constitution.”
Bebb recently signed indictments issued by the McMinn County grand jury against Fitzpatrick triggering his arrest which are supported by no evidence, of which Bebb is, or should be, acutely aware.
Corruption has also been reported in the family courts, where cronyism often dictates which parent will be awarded custody. As a result of an order issued by Judge Bill Swann with the knowledge that children’s safety was at risk, a child suffered a head injury at the hands of his father which led to permanent brain damage.
In Monroe County, an innocent man who discovered that his father’s purported will contained a fraudulent signature has been prosecuted, also by Bebb, after the inheritor of his father’s estate brought the false charges which resulted in indictments from the grand jury. Defendant Marvin Young told The Post & Email that in a private meeting he had with Bebb, Bebb had agreed that the signature was forged.
Judge Carroll Lee Ross, who is reportedly retiring in August, allowed a defendant to be sentenced to eight years in prison after denying him his constitutional right to an attorney. While an appeals court reversed the ruling after George Raudenbush spent two and a half years in prison, his case was ordered to be reheard in the same corrupt Monroe County courtroom.
District Attorney General R. Steven Bebb of the Tenth Judicial District, who was a criminal court judge for more than two decades, has been identified as a criminal by various citizens who demanded that he be removed from his post by the legislature after the attorney general’s office declared that Bebb’s actions had not risen to the level of criminality. Bebb had been accused of filing false accounting statements for his use of public vehicles, failing to prosecute misconduct on the part of police officers reported to him; civil rights violations; “grand jury tampering,” and other abuses of power.
On March 24, after the Board of Professional Responsibility cleared Bebb following the legislature’s ethics complaints against him, after which Bebb issued a scathing rebuke of members of the legislature who had publicly sought his ouster, suggesting that their claims were politically-motivated.
Last week, Bebb was accused of assault by a deputy prosecutor working in the Tenth Judicial District office under Bebb. Shortly after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) reportedly launched an investigation, The Daily Post-Athenian reported that “the situation,” which Bebb described as “a disagreement,” was “resolved.” Although Bebb” fired the woman after the incident, the DPA reported via the Monroe County Democrat & Advocate that Bebb reinstated her as an apparent part of the “resolution.”
Bebb’s eight-year term is ending, and he is not seeking re-election in August.
Local reporters have made a decision to present government figures favorably, perhaps out of fear, and have failed to respond to hard evidence of jury-tampering, forgery, civil rights violations and law-breaking on the part of judges and others involved in the “justice” system.
The Post & Email has received no response to its March 25, 2014 letter to members of the legislature, the Tennessee Supreme Court, and the Board of Professional Responsibility, which exonerated Bebb. On Wednesday, The Post & Email contacted Fox News to relate the perceived need for national news coverage of the judicial abuses in the Tenth Judicial District and virtually all of Tennessee.
The following letter was written to Tennessee State Senator Mike Bell, one of those who Bebb excoriated for accusing him of ethics violations, by Michael Jackson, a citizen of the state of Illinois.
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.