FIRST AMENDMENT NOW “CRIMINALIZED”
by Sharon Rondeau
Fitzpatrick’s attorney, Van Irion, established a legal defense fund in 2012 to help defray expenses associated with Fitzpatrick’s arrests after he exposed corruption in the criminal courts of the Tenth Judicial District, located in the southeast corner of Tennessee.
The Tenth District comprises the counties of McMinn, Monroe, Polk and Bradley.
Irion has been working pro bono for Fitzpatrick and recently filed an appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court in another case on Fitzpatrick’s behalf.
In the latest case, on June 24, the state’s key witness, Jeffrey Cunningham, testified that everything Fitzpatrick had alleged in his complaint submitted to the grand jury but blocked from reaching it by Cunningham himself was accurate. However, the jury reached a “guilty” verdict on a charge of “aggravated perjury” and on another of “extortion,” which in Tennessee code means having procured an end result by coercing another person to take a specific action.
Irion had contended that Fitzpatrick was simply exercising his constitutional and First Amendment right to petition his government for redress of grievances by submitting his petitions and that the jury should find him innocent of wrongdoing. The state produced no police report, criminal complaint, or sworn statement naming Fitzpatrick as having perpetrated any violation of law.
Fitzpatrick was arrested on March 18 while awaiting a decision as to whether or not a petition he brought to the grand jury for its review would be received. 18 March 2014 Fitzpatrick Arrest
The First Amendment has come under intense attack during Obama’s occupation of the White House as evidenced by political targeting by the IRS; death threats and other forms of intimidation directed at those criticizing Obama or investigating his dubious history; and a law passed in 2012 banning protest rallies “restricted buildings and grounds” of the federal government.
One writer described the federal law as “threaten[ing] to criminalize a broad range of protest activities.”
Nine U.S. Senators are alleged to have urged the IRS to audit and delay applications for tax-exempt status “to further their party’s electoral prospects.” Some Democrat U.S. senators now believe that the U.S. Supreme Court has “gone too far” in defending campaign donations as protected by the First Amendment.
Tea Party and other groups were silenced during the 2012 campaign cycle, while others’ confidential tax returns were leaked to groups with opposing political views. While certain media claimed the leaking of the National Organization for Marriage’s tax return was “baseless” last year, the IRS last week agreed to pay $50,000 to NOM to reimburse it for its legal fees incurred as a result of the leak.
On July 2, a college student protesting on a Long Island overpass was arrested for disorderly conduct by a police officer on the grounds that an accident could happen resulting from motorists reading his signs as they drove by. The student, Danny Martins, has raised nearly $2,000 in a GoFundMe drive to pay for attorney’s costs relating to his arrest.
In another recently-revealed example, the IRS intended to investigate U.S. Senator from Iowa Charles Grassley for a potential impropriety which may never have come to fruition.
A charge of “stalking” against Fitzpatrick was thrown out by Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, and the jury acquitted Fitzpatrick on a charge of “harassment.”
As a result of the jury’s verdict, approaching a county grand jury with evidence of a crime is now criminalized despite Tennessee state code which allows “any citizen” to do so.
Grand juries and trial juries are routinely “rigged” in Tennessee, of which the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) has been informed on numerous occasions. For decades, criminal court judges have been allowed to select their own grand jury foreman “from wherever they choose” without any vetting, keeping him or her in the position for years without any objection from the citizens who support the system through their tax dollars.
A special grand jury foreman, Thomas Balkom, was appointed to preside over the grand jury minutes before Fitzpatrick’s arrest on March 18 while reading a book on a bench outside of the McMinn County court clerk’s office. At the time of Balkom’s appointment by Judge Amy Reedy, a case number had curiously already been assigned: 18 March 2014 Thomas Balkom AP
Normally, a grand jury indictment or presentment must be issued affirming that the grand jurors believe there is enough evidence to prosecute before a case number can be assigned.
The verdicts and names of the jurors as obtained directly from McMinn County court clerk Pat Newman can be found here: 14-cr-69_rad568A1
A petition in support of Fitzpatrick’s First Amendment right to petition the grand jury and condemning Blackwood’s court and the verdict is here.
A second petition has been launched asking the White House to order the FBI to investigate Tennessee “public corruption.” The state has a lengthy history of corruption which includes jury-rigging; prostitution; human trafficking, “extortion” of motorists driving legally to pay fines to highway patrolmen; racketeering, drug manufacturing and distribution; and bribery on the part of state legislators.
On May 24, 2012, well-known constitutional attorney Jonathan Turley wrote:
It appears that anyone visiting Tennessee this summer should leave their cash at home. A New Jersey man has encountered an outrageous policy among police in that state to seize large amounts of cash from out-of-state visitors without any probable cause of a crime. The practice brings a new meaning to “highway robbery.”
A professional insurance adjuster, George Reby, was traveling through the state from New Jersey when he was stopped and asked by Officer Larry Bates if he had large amounts of cash. He said that he did — $22,000. The officer demanded the money and said that he was confiscating the money on suspicion of drug activity. That is it. The mere fact that he was carrying a large amount of cash was enough under this policy to seize the money. The police know that many out-of-state travelers never come back for the cash and they are then allowed to keep the money for their own uses at the department.
Even though Reby explained why he had the money, it did not matter. The fact that he completely cooperated in allowing a full search of his car did not matter. What mattered was that the police wanted the cash.
Turley gleaned his information from Channel 5 and concluded his blog post with:
The Tennessee policy makes its recent slogan “Follow Me To Tennessee” sound a bit more menacing. However, they may want to go back to it. The new slogan does not quite fit with its seizure policies targeting out-of-state travelers: “Tennessee- America at its best.”
The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, William C. Killian, has refused to review numerous petitions from Fitzpatrick containing evidence of wrongdoing on the part of judges, court clerks, and other public officials in the area as well as exculpatory evidence of a federal prisoner prosecuted by his office. However, he states on his website that “public corruption cannot be tolerated.”
With its preying upon its citizens for a steady stream of revenue, the Tenth Judicial District has been described as “America’s penal colony.” Monroe County has been compared to “a town in Cuba.” As a communist country, Cubans are jailed and sometimes killed for speaking their minds.
It is known that federal elements have contributed to Fitzpatrick’s prosecutions and convictions in Monroe and McMinn Counties. As of this writing, Fitzpatrick’s sentencing date is set for August 19, at which prosecutor A. Wayne Carter, a former Army colonel, intends to seek “enhanced sentencing and/or impeaching convictions.” Enhanced Sen