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BUT ARRESTING AGENCY HAS “NO RESPONSIVE RECORDS”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Sep. 28, 2014) — On September 18, The Post & Email reported that Dixie County, FL citizen Terry Trussell was arrested and charged with multiple felony counts after serving as grand jury foreman and attempting to report alleged corruption on the part of the state’s attorney.
Trussell is a 70-year-old Vietnam combat veteran and retired business owner. On September 2, he was arrested by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) after its questioning of him on August 16 and 18, respectively, and FDLE Special Agent Frank Linton’s production of a criminal complaint.
In April of this year, Trussell and 20 other members of the community were empaneled to serve as the Dixie County grand jury through October in keeping with Florida statute 905.01. When volunteers for foreman were requested by the judge, Trussell readily raised his hand and was assigned the responsibility. He had served as foreman on two trial juries previously and told The Post & Email that he is “accustomed to running things.”
The Fifth Amendment calls upon a grand jury comprised of citizens of the community to examine evidence to determine whether or not probable cause exists that a crime has been committed. If the grand jury issues a “True Bill,” a charge is brought, while a “No True Bill” signifies that the grand jury did not find enough evidence to justify a criminal charge.
Historically, grand juries made their own inquiries, called witnesses and issued subpoenas without the oversight of a government agent, attorney, or judge. The grand jury was an independent body which sought to both protect citizens from overzealous prosecutions and approve prosecutions if enough evidence was found to render them necessary. Today’s grand juries, however, retain but a shadow of their former standing in the community, as prosecutors and judges possess virtually complete control over their actions.
CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.) is serving a three-year sentence after having been convicted of “aggravated perjury” and “extortion” for approaching the McMinn County, TN grand jury with evidence of corruption on the part of judges, court clerks, prosecutors, law enforcers, and then-grand jury foreman Jeffrey Cunningham. At his sentencing hearing, Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood called Fitzpatrick “a moral coward” and asked the rhetorical question of the court, “Who cares if the grand jury foreman is serving illegally? So what?”
Fitzpatrick has observed that the control of the grand jury by the government has rendered them incapable of serving their Fifth-Amendment function. “The grand jury is what makes us a constitutional republic,” he has often said. Following his own arrest, Trussell said he began to learn of Fitzpatrick’s attempts to expose judicial corruption in Tennessee which resulted in Fitzpatrick’s multiple jailings in Monroe County and now a Tennessee state prison.
Trussell and the state’s attorney, Jeffrey Siegmeister, experienced a difference of opinion when the Dixie County grand jury assembled in August to examine evidence presented by a member of the community of a possible crime. According to Florida statutes, the state’s attorney is not to be present while the grand jury deliberates but “shall” be present when witnesses are testifying. Trussell told The Post & Email in Part 1 of our interview that at the first session, the grand jury was strictly deliberating evidence and nothing more.
Siegmeister wanted to be present while the grand jury met that day and attempted to bring a court reporter, bailiff and personal assistant into the room. Trussell said he felt compelled by virtue of the oath he took to serve the public to report Siegmeister’s behavior to the Dixie County courthouse judge. However, when he sought out Judge Cynthia Munkittrick, he was told that she no longer presided over matters relating to the Dixie County grand jury. Trussell also did not know that Judge Greg Parker had apparently taken her place and was not told by the court clerk that Parker was in the courthouse when the problem with Siegmeister arose.
Trussell spent the weekend documenting the transgressions he alleged against Siegmeister and presented his summary to court clerk Dana Johnson the following week. Trussell said that in an email from Parker a week later, Parker implied that he was “an idiot” for failing to “reach out to him and ask for his help.”
The affidavit received from the Dixie County Sheriff’s Office states that Trussell was arrested “for violation of Criminal actions under color of Law or through use of simulated legal process.”
The “probable cause” statement [Trussell Probable Cause0001] claims that Trussell “formed a People’s Grand Jury Under Common [sic] in an attempt to influence, intimidate, or hinder Mr. Siegmeister through Simulated Legal Process…”
The last page of the affidavit contains the following verbiage:
ORDER: THIS CAUSE coming before me as First Appearance Magistrate, and having reviewed the preceding Affidavit, find: Probable cause sufficient, Probable cause not sufficient and unless corrected within seventy-two hours, the defendant shall be released on his own recognizance.
Neither choice is circled, underlined, or otherwise indicated by the judge, whose initials, appearing at the bottom of each page of the document, are “JCH.” The judge signed his full name, however, next to that of the notary above the paragraph quoted separated by a slash and identifying himself as “Circuit Judge.”
Trussell’s bond order issued by Siegmeister forbids him from entering the Dixie County courthouse for any reason except to attend hearings on the charges, an order similar to that which was issued by now-retired Judge Carroll Lee Ross to Fitzpatrick in Monroe County, TN.
Of Siegmeister’s insistence on bringing his entourage into the grand jury deliberations, Truusell said, “I recused him from the grand jury. This whole thing reeks of corruption,” he told us, having detailed “irreconcilable differences” with Siegmeister in a chronology of events published in the first part of the interview. Trussell told The Post & Email that Siegmeister referred to the grand jury as “his grand jury.”
Florida statute 905.17 states that the state’s attorney and his assistants are to be present while a witness is testifying to the grand jury. However, during grand jury deliberations, paragraph 3 states that “No person shall be present while the grand jurors are deliberating or voting, except that an interpreter appointed pursuant to s. 90.6063(2) may be present after swearing to refrain from personal interjection and to uphold the secrecy of the proceeding.”
Paragraph 4 reads:
An intentional violation of the provisions of this section shall constitute indirect criminal contempt of court. Further, and in addition to any contempt sanction, if the court determines that the attorney for the witness has violated any of the provisions of subsection (2), then the court may take such measures as are necessary to ensure compliance with subsection (2), including exclusion of the offending attorney from the grand jury room.
The Florida Grand Jury Handbook can be found here: flgrandjuryhandbook
In the section titled “DETERMINATION WHETHER TO RETURN AN INDICTMENT OR A NO TRUE BILL,” it is stated:
When the grand jury has heard all necessary or available witnesses and is prepared to deliberate on the issue whether to indict or return a no true bill, the foreperson must compel all persons to leave the grand jury room except the members of the grand jury themselves. No other person is permitted in the grand jury room during its deliberations, even including the state attorney (or the statewide prosecutor), court reporter, and interpreter.
Trussell told The Post & Email that by accepting the foremanship of the grand jury after he was empaneled, he “was entrusted by a member of the public who came to me and said, ‘I’ve got concerns that there’s a crime being committed here.’ I took that on under my oath as a responsibility to present it to the grand jury,” he said. “My understanding, before I got into this judicial mess, was that the grand jury I was foreman of was the true grand jury. After Siegmeister pulled what he did and after the judges, the courts, completely abandoned me and refused to do anything to help me, I had no choice. I talked to some people who knew about the common-law grand jury. We talked a little bit about it, and I said, ‘Look, it makes sense to me. Go back to the Magna Carta and look at the way that things have been done.’ Until right after the Civil War, our grand juries were true grand juries; they were of common law, by the people.”
Trussell decided to present the case “to the people,” meaning the common-law grand jury, to decide if a True Bill should be issued. “If the people decide that it’s going to be a True Bill, I can hand it over to law enforcement, the clerk of court, and then let them handle it from there. It’s off my back; I have done my duty; I have done what I promised to do, what I swore to do under oath. This is a problem for the police, the sheriff’s department. And that’s what we did: we issued a True Bill; I carried the True Bill in to the clerk of court and said, ‘Here, file this.’ I took it over to the sheriff; I said, ‘Sheriff, you need to know there might be some criminality going on in your county; you might want to look into it.’ He said, ‘Well, I’ve never had this happen before,’ and I said, ‘Well, that makes two of us.’ He said, ‘I don’t know how to deal with this.’ If you’re a law enforcement officer, and a member of the public comes up to you and says, ‘I saw a crime committed,’ and you don’t know what to do with it? Are you serious? How incompetent, how stupid are you?”
Trussell said that because the sheriff “didn’t know how to deal with it,” the sheriff contacted the FDLE. At the time, Trussell said he was “elated,” thinking, “Now we have the really big-dog professionals up at the state capital… they’ve got everything under control.” However, he found that the FDLE had opened an investigation on him, accusing him of violating several state statutes.
They challenged me: “What statutes give you the right to form your own grand jury and make a True Bill presentment? You can’t indict anybody.” They kept calling it an indictment. I said “I know I can’t; I’m not the state attorney.” Everything they were saying, they weren’t paying attention to what was actually done. They had created a different scenario. So they were condemning me for what they had created, not what the facts in the case were.
“What statutes give you this right?” they asked. So I said, “First of all, you’re looking in the wrong place. I don’t get my rights from statutes; I get my rights from God, and if I have the courage to stand up and enforce them under the Constitution, then I can exercise those rights. That went completely past them, and they kept going back to the statutes. I said, “Look, this is a court of common law; of, by and for the people; it has nothing to do with statutes. This is common law; this is the people’s law, and if you try to make your statutes work with what we did, it’s not going to work. You can’t justify it. And I said, “Your statutes don’t apply to the people; they only apply to you as an employee of the state.” That didn’t go over real well at all (laughs). It’s amazing how people defy logic in defense of their own misdeeds.
Trussell brought notes with him to the meeting with the FDLE pertaining to the laws and rules of the grand jury.
The Post & Email asked if the FDLE had performed “an interrogation” of him, to which Trussell responded:
They did. They accused me; they threatened me; they interrogated me for two hours. They said, “Y0u can’t just create a grand jury yourself,” and I said, “I didn’t create a grand jury myself.” I said, “Fifty people of this state got together; from them, they chose 25 to represent them on the grand jury. I didn’t do that; the people did it. The people were invited in.”
Trussell told The Post & Email that he played no part in selecting the individuals who formed the common-law grand jury. He further stated:
Here’s the point that so many people are missing in this: they don’t understand how motivated and inspired people are in this country to fix the problems we’ve got. There’s nobody on the street out there that I can run into, unless you’re on the streets of Washington, DC, who will say, ‘Everything is wonderful.’ Everybody knows – they can feel it in their bones – things are not right and they are not getting any better.
They’re aware that something is wrong; a lot of them can’t put their finger on what it is. But the problem is they will tell you right up-front, “There’s nothing one man can do; you can’t fight City Hall; they’re just corrupt. Maybe we can elect somebody someday who can do something about it.” So they’re deluding themselves. And that’s where we stand with this. When I start talking about the people’s grand jury working under common law, it takes a little bit of time for people to grasp the concept that the People themselves are the top of the food chain in this country. We’ve been so dumbed-down, so beaten by the system, by the bureaucracy, that people are just accustomed to it. You can talk for just a few minutes and people start waking up to the fact that they do have more control than they would admit to themselves. When they hear about the people’s grand jury and how it works, they always have questions, but they get excited, because here’s a tool that we can use. We can fight back. I, as an individual, one man, can do something to change this, to turn this thing around. I’m going to tell you how powerful this is. One little 70-year-old man in Dixie County, FL all by himself has the entire judiciary of the state of Florida quaking in their boots trying to figure out whether or not they’re going to kill me or put me in prison for the rest of my life.
As a result of The Post & Email’s Public Records request to the FDLE for documents relating to Trussell, the FDLE responded that no responsive records exist.
Our request reads as follows:
Good afternoon, I am editor of an online newspaper and am requesting the following documents under Florida’s Public Records law (Chapter 119 of the Florida statutes):
All documents produced as a result of an interview or interviews of Dixie County resident Terry Trussell, DOB 10-26-1943, who was charged with ten felony counts by your agency on 09/02/14 citing Florida Statute #843.0855 (3) and (4).
I am willing to pay copying costs but can accept electronic delivery of the documents.
Thank you very much.
Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
P.O. Box 195
Stafford Springs, CT 06076
Our message was acknowledged with the following:
Thank you for contacting the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Office of General Counsel. This message is being provided as confirmation your message was received. You should receive a response to your inquiry as soon as possible. Please feel free to contact 850-410-7676 to speak with a representative directly. Additional information regarding how to obtain public records including what costs may be applicable is contained on the hyperlink below. We are committed to our fundamental values of Service, Integrity, Respect, and Quality.
For Additional Information click
On September 24, we received the following response to our request:
Dear Ms. Rondeau:
RE: Public Records Request Response, FDLE Docket No. PRR 2014-2413
Searches were conducted through FDLE’s files for records based on the information you provided and as of this date we do not have public records responsive to your request.
Please be advised that it is this Department’s policy not to confirm or deny active criminal investigations. However, if the information you are seeking is considered active criminal investigative information, it would be confidential and exempt from public disclosure pursuant to Section 119.071(2)(c)1., Florida Statutes.
If you have any questions concerning your request, please contact us at (850) 410-7676
Office of General Counsel
2331 Phillips Road
Tallahassee, FL 32308
This article was updated on September 30, 2014, at 10:47 a.m. EDT.