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by Sharon Rondeau

Atty. Van Irion (left) and Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.) at the August 19 sentencing hearing.  Photo credit:  James Mahon, Channel 12 News

(Oct. 19, 2014) — A hearing in which the attorney for state convict CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.) will ask for a new trial and for an “arrested judgment” will be held on Monday morning at 10:00 a.m. EDT in the McMinn County, TN courthouse.

Fitzpatrick was imprisoned on August 19 following a sentencing hearing presided over by Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, who will also preside on Monday in a clear conflict of interest.  Blackwood was also conflicted in presiding over Fitzpatrick’s trial in late June, as Blackwood had knowledge of Fitzpatrick’s attempts to expose corruption within Tennessee’s Tenth Judicial District, which includes McMinn County.

On August 19, Blackwood had pontificated to the court that he was “sick and tired of all these people demanding their constitutional rights.” Blackwood’s statement, and that of having called Fitzpatrick “a moral coward” at the same time, have been substantiated by sworn affidavits and statements from eyewitnesses and an unofficial recording which The Post & Email was able to obtain.

Blackwood also decried Fitzpatrick’s failure to “learn his lesson” regarding his exposure of grand jury manipulation; a prisoners-for-profit scheme run in coordination with local sheriffs’ departments, courts, parole officers, and judges; and the placement of jurors on both grand juries and trial juries in violation of Tennessee law.

Department of Corrections official Judith Hilton-Coffman had stated in her pre-sentencing report that the state had found no victim in Fitzpatrick’s “crime.”  However, during the sentencing hearing, she corrected her “error” by stating that a victim, had, in fact, been found in the person of former McMinn County grand jury foreman Jeffrey Cunningham.

In a news report following the hearing, Channel 12’s James Mahon wrote, “Fitzpatrick’s lawyer said this is a shame and an embarrassment to The Constitution and he will be appealing and moving forward with his client’s case.”

Blackwood sentenced Fitzpatrick to three years in prison, although Fitzpatrick’s prison registration states that he is eligible for parole on March 2 of next year.

McMinn County court clerk Rhonda Cooley refused to provide a copy of the audio-recording of the hearing to The Post & Email, claiming that since the Tennessee Open Records Act contains the wording “citizen of this state” as to who may request records, The Post & Email is not entitled to it.  However, a citizen of Tennessee requested the same recording approximately a week later and was told to “see Judge Blackwood” about it.

The Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts (TAOC) told The Post & Email approximately six weeks ago that audio and typed court transcripts are “public record,” although property of the court for which they were prepared.  When The Post & Email related Blackwood’s statements during the sentencing hearing and his conflict of interest in the case, Connie Turner said that she could not advise us as to action we could take to report Blackwood’s illegal behavior other than to file a complaint against him.

Over the past five years, Fitzpatrick has exposed a phenomenon now seen in other states which he termed “the dictatorship of the judiciary.”

Fitzpatrick’s attorney, Van Irion, filed a Motion for New Trial and Motion to Arrest Judgment, which are expected to be reviewed on Monday.  Fitzpatrick is scheduled to be transported to the hearing from the Bledsoe County Correctional Center (BCCX), where he was sent at the end of August.

Fitzpatrick had stated before he was incarcerated that he desired no mail, phone calls, visits or any other attention while in prison.

On March 18, Fitzpatrick was accused of extortion, aggravated perjury, harassment and stalking by the McMinn County grand jury, which was commandeered by handpicked foreman Jeffrey Cunningham, who is an attorney and president and CEO of a local bank, the Athens Federal Community Bank.  For decades, judges in Tennessee have been permitted to select the grand jury foreman “from wherever they choose” unrestrained and even assisted by the legislature, their personal assistants, higher-level judges, or the citizens themselves.

Fitzpatrick had brought several complaints accusing public officials of wrongdoing, including Cunningham and former Criminal Court Judge Amy F. Armstrong Reedy and former District Attorney General R. Steven Bebb to the McMinn County grand jury from which Cunningham refused to recuse himself for the grand jury’s deliberation.

Following Fitzpatrick’s grand jury submission on March 18, he was arrested while reading a book on a bench outside of the court clerk’s office and taken to the McMinn County jail, from which he met bail ten days later.  No video footage from the security cameras in operation in the area in which Fitzpatrick sat has been produced to show that he was involved in criminal activity.

Over the past several years, The Post & Email, The Rutherford Institute, and other organizations have reported that veterans and other citizens across the country are increasingly accused and jailed in violation of state and federal law and the U.S. Constitution and Bil of Rights.  In Dixie County, FL, a 70-year-old Vietnam combat veteran is jailed because of corruption he exposed in the court system involving the court clerk, two judges, and the state’s attorney, Jeffrey Siegmeister.  Terry Trussell was jailed after appearing at a scheduled arraignment hearing, stating that he was present three times, and then being ordered jailed by Judge James C. Hankinson in violation of his constitutional rights.

Irion’s Motion to Arrest Judgment claim that the court had no jurisdiction to hear the case against Fitzpatrick from the outset.

The Motion for a New Trial states that Fitzpatrick’s right to bring evidence of public corruption to the grand jury is a “Constitutionally protected activity,” citing the case of Marbury v. Madison.

A Tennessee citizen’s statement on tomorrow’s hearing reads:

A hearing for retired Lt. Cmdr Walter Fitzpatrick is set for Monday, 10:00 AM in the courtroom on the lower level of the courthouse. If at all possible please be there.  When Walter is brought in the courtroom we will stand to let him know we are supporting him.  I would like to clap for him, but have been advised that might cause us to be ejected from the courtroom.  This is not favorable for his release, BUT, if we bombard Heaven with prayers at this time it could turn the tide.  It is the same judge that sentenced him….judge blackheart…er blackwood…Of course we do not know what God has planned, but it would be good for Walter to walk out of there and go to his home.  The prison where he is at is in turmoil and he spends 23 hours a day in a cell.  He is bearing it as well as we can expect, but prayer, and a lot of it, is needed right now.

In a video clip from a professional video to be released in the near future on Fitzpatrick’s exposure of Tennessee government corruption, Irion states that Tennessee District Attorneys General are guilty of an “abuse of power.”  While the office is an elected one, corruption within District Attorneys General offices has been noted throughout the state. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) has refused to prosecute any public official without the recommendation of a District Attorney General, who wields nearly unbridled power over the citizens he is expected to serve.

Calls made to Tenth Judicial District chief prosecutor Stephen Crump on the corruption within the grand juries have gone unanswered.

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  1. “Treason never prospers … what’s the reason? For if it prospers, none dare call it treason.” Read Alvin Toffler’s book Future Shock. Unfortunately you won’t find it in a public school library.