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BUT NOT IN THE WAY ONE WOULD EXPECT
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jul. 14, 2014) — At approximately 3:10 p.m. EDT, Monroe County, TN Sheriff Bill Bivens was reported on Fox News as having made the first arrest under a new state law criminalizing the use of methamphetamines and other illicit drugs during pregnancy.
Bivens had made a statement to a local news outlet last week after a baby was found to have methamphetamines in its system following its birth. “Anytime someone is addicted and they can’t get off for their own child, their own flesh and blood, it’s sad,” he is quoted as having said.
The law took effect in late April and considers an expectant mother who uses illegal drugs for which her baby tests positive at birth to have committed an “assault.”
Bivens is responsible for employing deputies who have brutally beaten citizens of Monroe County, whether or not they are suspects in a crime, in some cases rendering permanent injury. Intimidation, harassment, shake-downs and assaults have been carried out in the area, which has been described by one state prison inmate as “like a town in Cuba.”
A victim of severe deputy brutality likened Monroe County to the old Soviet Union in a 2010 interview with The Post & Email. He described his wrongful arrest, during which he was pulled out of his car and punched for no reason:
Before I got to the jail, they tasered me over and over, repeatedly, and I counted to get my mind off of it. I counted “one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi…” and there was one time I counted to 23-Mississippi sittin’ there being shocked. And they were laughin’…”What’s the matter, you’re not toilet-trained?” because I lost control of my bowels. When you have that much electricity runnin’ through you, there’s not much you can do. They were just laughin’ and goin’ on, havin’ a good old time…”Did ya eat tacos, man? Can’t control yourself?” I didn’t say anything…what could I say?
So they threw me in the back of the car and they put these cuffs on so tight that I could not feel my hands. I couldn’t feel my fingertips. As a matter of fact, I didn’t have feeling in my left hand for about three months.
Monroe County has had its share of political prisoners in the recent past. After moving to Tennessee in 2007 and discovering corruption with the Monroe County judicial system, CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.) was jailed six times for exposing and standing up to it. For decades, Tennessee criminal courts have permitted judges to hand-pick grand jury foremen, which defies the purpose of a grand jury as an unbiased check on a possibly overzealous government official against a citizen. By installing an advocate for the judge, the judge’s preferred outcome is virtually guaranteed. Reports of the foreman’s undue influence on grand jurors and prosecutorial misconduct are numerous in the Tenth Judicial District, of which Monroe County is a part, but the prosecutors, sheriff’s department, judges, court clerks and local police work together to incriminate citizens on a regular basis.
While incarcerated, Fitzpatrick described a “prisoners-for-profit” scheme which seeks to jail as many inmates as possible in order to bill the state for each one, regardless of the overcrowding it produces. He also said that the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department is involved in a “government hit” on former Republican elections commissioner Jim Miller, whose murder on July 17, 2010 has still not been solved. Of three men Fitzpatrick named to the FBI in 2011 as having committed the “hit,” two are now in federal prison on drug charges. One of those referenced in court preferring a drug sentence to a “death sentence.”
Bivens also presides over a jail which does not meet state standards, was condemned more than two years ago, and has reportedly been infested with rats in the kitchen. Lack of sanitation by means of functional indoor plumbing, 40-degree indoor temperatures in the winter and faulty distribution of medications to inmates, if it occurs at all, have been reported to The Post & Email by former inmates.
“Systemic corruption” was found in Cocke County, to the northeast of Monroe County, in 2008 by the FBI, but to date, it appears that the FBI is not investigating claims of racketeering, human trafficking, misuse of inmate funds and deprivation of civil rights in the Tenth Judicial District.
The Knoxville FBI, which has been informed on dozens of occasions of wrongdoing on the part of Bivens and Tenth Judicial District criminal court judges, has dismissed citizen complaints as “This is the way it is.”
Bivens is running for re-election against Republican Randy White in the August general election. As of this writing, his Facebook page has 497 “likes.”
For exposing the McMinn County grand jury foreman as serving illegally earlier this year, Fitzpatrick was convicted of “aggravated perjury” and “extortion” and is expected to face a lengthy prison term. Fitzpatrick accused McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy of criminality in several evidence submissions he attempted to give to the McMinn County grand jury. However, foreman Jeff Cunningham blocked the submissions and said he felt “threatened” because Fitzpatrick called for Cunningham’s law license to be revoked for serving his third term as foreman.
Tennessee code makes no special provision for a longstanding grand jury foreman. In the early 1980s, criminal court judges created a position in which they addressed their hand-picked foremen as “Hon.” (Honorable), as if the person were a judge. Fitzpatrick has called the long-serving foremen “judge advocates.”
After mentioning Bivens, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith went on to discuss with a legal analyst whether or not the new Tennessee law could be challenged on the basis of its constitutionality.