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DENIES HAVING FILED CHARGES
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jun. 18, 2014) — The former grand jury foreman of the McMinn County, TN grand jury, Jeffrey Cunningham, admitted during witness testimony on Monday that despite a presentment accusing defendant Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III of four serious crimes against him, Cunningham never filed a police report or swore out a statement as to his allegations.
Cunningham also eventually told the court that Fitzpatrick had been “following the rules” when he tried to submit evidence of criminal behavior to the grand jury for review.
Fitzpatrick had attempted to present evidence to the grand jury on seven different occasions between November 2012 and March of this year to show violations of state law committed by judges, prosecutors, and Cunningham himself.
On March 18, 2014, Fitzpatrick had submitted his seventh such petition and was awaiting a decision outside the court clerk’s office as to whether or not it would be reviewed when he was unexpectedly arrested. A month before, Fitzpatrick had brought a similar submission to the grand jury, and during a brief encounter with Cunningham, Cunningham told Fitzpatrick that he would have him arrested if he were to attempt it again.
Fitzpatrick then filed a petition for an order of protection against Cunningham which two judges denied.
In response to defense attorney Van Irion’s questioning as to whether or not Cunningham forbade Fitzpatrick from returning with criminal complaints in the future, Cunningham said, “I didn’t tell him he couldn’t come back.”
Cunningham explained that he “felt threatened” when Fitzpatrick had “sent letters” to court authorities asking that Cunningham’s law license be revoked for serving as grand jury foreman and that he spoke with investigator Calvin Rockholdt of the Tenth Judicial District prosecutor’s office.
In 2009, Fitzpatrick discovered that grand jury foremen are hand-selected by criminal court judges and serve for years or even decades at the pleasure of the judge as a court employee. State code makes no allowance for a special “position” of “grand jury foreman,” but appointing orders dating back to 1980 show that the judges created it, at times referring to the person so appointed as “The Hon.” as if he was a judge.
Cunningham’s testimony begins at 6:41 in the recording: (1) 16 JUNE 2014 MOTIONS HEARING PART ONE
Cunningham is a licensed attorney in Tennessee as well as President and CEO of Athens Federal Community Bank.
Cunningham also admitted that on March 18, he adjourned the grand jury after Fitzpatrick indicated that Cunningham himself was named as a criminal in Fitzpatrick’s petition and asked Cunningham to therefore recuse himself from evaluating the evidence.
During his testimony, Irion asked Cunningham if he accused the defendant of stalking, harassment, aggravated perjury and extortion (12:07) on March 12, which was the date stated in the grand jury presentment. “I’m not aware of any petitions that Mr. Fitzpatrick filed with this court on March the 14th [sic]…March 12th,” Cunningham responded, then said that he had no contact with Fitzpatrick on that date.
Fitzpatrick has described Tennessee grand jury foremen as “commanding officers” over the grand jurors, preventing them the freedom to examine evidence independently of state influence.
Cunningham told the court that he felt that Fitzpatrick had tried to “intimidate” him by naming him as a perpetrator of crimes. However, later, Cunningham admitted that Fitzpatrick did not threaten him “at all,” in Irion’s words. However, he agreed with Irion that he “is the victim” of the charges leveled against Fitzpatrick.
Cunningham said that he had told Fitzpatrick that he had made “false statements” about him and that he interpreted that to be “retaliation against a juror.” However, the state of Tennessee maintains that the foreman “is not a juror.”
Cunningham is President & CEO of the Athens Federal Community Bank. On Friday, an attorney representing the bank asked the court to quash the subpoena issued by Irion for Cunningham to produce documentation containing the name “Walter Fitzpatrick.”
Cunningham answered Irion that Fitzpatrick had accused him of being “an illegal grand jury foreman,” but Cunningham and the prosecution stated that that was “not a crime.” Cunningham was hand-picked by Judge Amy Reedy; his successor is another member of the bank’s Board of Directors, Larry Wallace.
“Do you have the authority to block a citizen from petitioning the grand jury by yourself?” Irion asked Cunningham at 29:10, to which Cunningham answered, “No, sir.” He then contradicted himself and said, “I do have the authority.”
He then claimed that Fitzpatrick “blocked himself” from having his petition reviewed by the grand jury.
“Aren’t Tennessee statutes the rules that the grand jury has?” Irion asked, to which Cunningham responded, “Yes.”
“So he was following the rules that the grand jury has,” Irion said, after which Cunningham said, “He had followed them, yes.”
Cunningham then admitted that he prevented Fitzpatrick’s petition from going to the grand jury because he himself had been named in it. Cunningham told Irion in court that he saw Fitzpatrick’s request for him to recuse himself as failing to “follow the rules.”
Cunningham stated that in January, he told the grand jury “some history” on Fitzpatrick after Fitzpatrick had submitted his petition. Cunningham said that he told the grand jury members that Fitzpatrick “had accused a litany of people of crimes” and accused “Barack Obama” of a crime in Monroe County.
In December 2009, Fitzpatrick had asked the Monroe County grand jury to review a complaint of treason against Barack Hussein Obama for being a “foreign born domestic enemy,” among other transgressions. Articles of Impeachment against Obama have been written and are reportedly under active consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Cunningham said he did not recall that the grand jury members were “escorted” out of the building in January in order to avoid contact with Fitzpatrick, as Fitzpatrick told The Post & Email on January 23. One grand juror said that she was “told to stay away from him,” meaning Fitzpatrick, and that she was “scared” of him.
Irion asked if the grand jurors in January were “the same group” which indicted Fitzpatrick in March, to which Cunningham responded, “I don’t know. I wasn’t there in March.”
Court records say that Cunningham resigned on March 4 and that his replacement, another officer of the bank, was appointed by Reedy the same day.
Members of the McMinn County grand jury subpoenaed for Monday said that they “did not remember” what was discussed on March 18, just before Fitzpatrick was arrested. Reedy appointed a new foreman for Fitzpatrick’s case, Thomas Balkom, who has not responded to two attempts by sheriff’s deputies to serve him with a subpoena. Similarly, Gayle Kasior has not responded to two subpoena notices left at her home.
Irion told Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood that the indictment is null and void because one of the grand jurors had said during testimony that “she was a victim of the same harassment that she voted to indict Mr. Fitzpatrick for two months later.” Irion then said that other grand jurors with whom he had spoken felt intimidated by Fitzpatrick in January and were therefore compromised. Prosecutor A. Wayne Carter objected, saying that if Irion’s “argument and thinking” were observed, “we wouldn’t be able to indict anybody out of this court.”
A trial on the four charges is scheduled for Monday, June 23 at 10:00 a.m. at the McMinn County courthouse.