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by Sharon Rondeau

A hearing to determine whether or not the Tenth Judicial District should prosecute a case against Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III is scheduled for Monday, June 16 and will include witnesses from the prosecutor’s office, among others

(Jun. 10, 2014) — On Monday, June 16, a hearing will be held in State of Tennessee v. Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III, 14-CR-69, to determine if the Tenth Judicial District should pursue the case  or if a special prosecutor should be appointed.

Fitzpatrick’s attorney, Van Irion, believes that the case resulted from a “vindictive persecution” and asked in a brief filed on May 29 that the District Attorney’s office recuse itself.

A Bill of Particulars produced by assistant prosecutor A. Wayne Carter does not contain specifics of the allegations claimed by the McMinn County grand jury on March 18 charging Fitzpatrick with aggravated perjury, stalking, harassment and extortion of former grand jury foreman Jeffrey Cunningham, a bank CEO and President as well as active member of the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA).

On Friday, District Attorney General R. Steven Bebb, who Fitzpatrick has called “a criminal” and against whom allegations of assault and official misconduct have been made public since 2012, precipitately resigned his post more than two months early, when he was set to retire.  News of Bebb’s resignation appeared in The Washington Times on Friday via the Associated Press.

In a hearing on Monday, Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood determined that Irion’s subpoenas to approximately two dozen citizens, including grand jury members and assistant prosecutors, were not “a delay tactic,” as had been claimed by Carter.

Carter and deputy prosecutor Steve Morgan are among those whose subpoenas were upheld by Blackwood, who quashed two subpoenas for Monroe County Chief Court Clerk Martha M. Cook and Tenth Judicial District investigator Calvin Rockholdt.

Late last month, Blackwood set a trial date of June 23.

Bebb signed the presentments issued by the grand jury on March 18.

Reedy appointed Jeff Cunningham grand jury foreman for 2014.  On March 4, Cunningham resigned the foremanship, and Reedy appointed Larry Wallace, a business colleague of Cunningham’s, to the position.  Abruptly, Reedy elevated Thomas Balkom to the position from within the grand jury minutes before Fitzpatrick was arrested.

Blackwood ruled on Monday that Balkom, Cunningham and Wallace must honor their subpoenas to testify on June 16.

Bebb called Reedy to serve as a witness at the trial.

Judges in Tennessee have been appointing grand jury foremen since at least 1980 in violation of state laws which mandate that jury members be made by “automated means.”  In late 2009, Fitzpatrick learned that the Monroe County grand jury foreman had been serving for at least two decades, after which he placed an advertisement in the local newspaper informing the local citizenry that the grand juries were tainted from the consecutive service of the foreman.  After approaching law enforcement at all levels about the criminality of the judges and foreman without result, Fitzpatrick attempted a citizen’s arrest of Pettway on April 1, 2010.  In response, Judge Carroll Ross, who announced his retirement last August for August 2014, ordered Fitzpatrick arrested and jailed.

The Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure state that the grand jury foreman “must possess all the qualifications of a juror.”  Convictions of Fitzpatrick from Monroe County arose from his exposure of the grand jury foreman as serving in violation of state law.

With the judges’ personal selection of the foreman, there is no vetting process, which resulted in a Davidson County grand jury foreman serving with a felony on his record, which defies state code.

In a hearing on Monday, Irion asked the court on numerous occasions, “What if Commander Fitzpatrick is right?”

Reedy is running for re-election as Tenth Judicial District criminal court judge in August.  Irion was a candidate for the same position against fellow Republican and prosecutor Sandra Donaghy in a primary held on May 6, after which Donaghy was pronounced the winner by roughly a 2-1 margin.

Donaghy has prosecuted cases and achieved convictions stemming from tainted grand juries. During the primary season, The Post & Email contacted Reedy and Donaghy about the judicial appointments of grand jury foremen in contravention of state law.  Donaghy responded that if elected, she would “follow State and federal laws,” while Reedy avoided the question.

An untold number of Tennesseans remain in county jails and state prisons as a result of convictions which arose from indictments issued by illegally-formed grand juries.  After Fitzpatrick contacted The Post & Email early in 2010 regarding his discovery of long-serving grand jury foremen, we notified the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI); several members of the Knoxville, TN FBI; Gov. Bill Haslam and the two U.S. Senators from Tennessee.

Bebb resigned on the same day on which McMinn County chief clerk Rhonda Cooley provided Fitzpatrick with documents responsive to an open records request for all appointing orders filed in the court by criminal court judges dating back to 1980.  The documents show gaps in appointing orders as well as the three-time appointment of Katherine Redfern as grand jury foreman by Bebb.

In March, following the dismissal of ethics complaints filed by members the Tennessee legislature earlier this year, Bebb warned that the legislature’s “evil supermajority” was seeking to control him in his position as District Attorney General.  He accused Sen. Mike Bell and another Republican state senator of the “cascading investigations” which he claimed had no merit.

“Nothing I have been accused of is true,” Bebb wrote to his counterparts in other judicial districts of the state after the legislature’s ethics complaints against him were dismissed by the protective Board of Professional Responsibility (BOPR).

Bell, for his part, called on Bebb to resign in early April after a female coworker accused Bebb of physical assault.

The District Attorneys General Conference states that a grand jury has 13 members, all chosen randomly, one of whom is selected as the foreman.  Contrary to Cook’s assertion made several years ago to a local newspaper, the Conference does not say that the judge can pick the foreman “from wherever they choose.”

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