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by Sharon Rondeau

Atty. Van Irion speaks out on how district attorneys can easily abuse the power they are given by state government

(Sep. 1, 2014) — Filmmaker William F. Fain has released a second video clip from a promo for “The Field Report” featuring Tennessee Attorney Van Irion, who has defended CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.) in two cases in which Fitzpatrick has attempted to bring to the public’s attention evidence of criminality on the part of district attorneys, judges, grand jury foremen and court personnel.

The Field Report intends to feature injustices and hardships suffered by U.S. military veterans beginning with Fitzpatrick’s attempts to inform the McMinn County grand jury that its foreman is judicially-selected and can serve for years or decades if the judge so desires.

The first video snippet released earlier on Monday was titled “Chilling Effect” and showed Irion speaking to supporters and the press directly after his client was sentenced to three years in prison for convictions on “aggravated perjury” and “extortion,” neither of which could be proven by the prosecution.  During the trial, former grand jury foreman Jeffrey Cunningham, who had been identified as Fitzpatrick’s accuser, denied having filed a criminal complaint or police report and that the claims Fitzpatrick stated in his petitions were in any way false.

Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood was compromised and should have recused himself from presiding, and the grand jury which issued the indictments on March 18 was prejudiced by statements Cunningham admitted to having made to them in January regarding Fitzpatrick’s “history.”

Fitzpatrick has claimed that if a foreman is appointed by a judge and serves indefinitely, he or she wields “command influence” over the members of the grand jury who come from a jury pool of eligible citizens if the law is followed.  In 2010 in nearby Monroe County, upon questioning Fitzpatrick found that a trial juror had served a previous term as a juror, which is contrary to state law.

At that time, Blackwood had presided and insisted that there was “no proof” that a grand juror whose named appeared on a 2009 juror roster had served the two consecutive terms, but records are maintained in the court clerk’s office such that it could have been ascertained.  Blackwood said that the indictment “cured” any deficiency with the grand jury.

At Fitzpatrick’s sentencing hearing on August 19, he was reported to have rhetorically asked, “Who cares if the grand jury foreman is serving illegally?  So what?  Who cares?” which elicited shocked reactions from members of the public in attendance.

Irion specializes in business law but has represented clients in both civil and criminal matters.  He has been working for Fitzpatrick pro bono for more than two years.

Former District Attorney General R. Steven Bebb was investigated by Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper, Jr. in 2012 but exonerated of criminal wrongdoing in March of last year.  Bebb signed the indictments against Fitzpatrick without any evidence other than Fitzpatrick’s petitions to the grand jury and appears to have worked with former Criminal Court Judge Amy Reedy, deputy prosecutors and a newly-appointed grand jury foreman to fabricate the case against Fitzpatrick.

Echoing an opinion from the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Tennessee Attorney General declared that each judicial district’s chief prosecutor is “answerable to no superior and has virtually unbridled discretion in determining whether to prosecute and for what offense” in exonerating Bebb.

In the video snippet, Irion states that district attorneys in Tennessee and other states have “almost complete discretion” as to whether or not to charge an individual with a crime, both in cases where a person has admitted criminal activity and in those where “very little evidence” exists to effect a prosecution.

The trial jurors who The Post & Email was able to reach were not willing to divulge anything about their experiences or decisions in the case.

Fitzpatrick has begun serving his three-year sentence in the state prison at Pikeville but could be relocated at a later date based on several factors.

Irion has vowed to appeal the case.


Editor’s Note:  Financial support for the 45-minute video which Fain is producing on the Fitzpatrick story can be sent to payments@thepostemail.com or to The Post & Email, P.O. Box 195, Stafford Springs, CT  06076.

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