IS NEW CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE ANY DIFFERENT FROM THE LAST?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Dec. 1, 2014) — A status hearing held on November 17, 2014 in Madisonville, TN for defendant Marvin William Young resulted in a postponement of his trial to an undetermined date, with the next status hearing scheduled on January 26, 2015.
In August 2013, Young was accused of “especially aggravated kidnapping” and “especially aggravated burglary” in Monroe County, of which Madisonville is the county seat.
At the previous hearing in late August, Young told now-retired Senior Judge Carroll Lee Ross that he could not afford an attorney. Contrary to Tennessee code 8-14-205,, Ross did not order a probe to determine whether or not Young was entitled to representation by a public defender, but rather, told him to return with representation on November 17.
The pertinent section of the law reads:
8-14-205. Determination of indigency — Appointment of counsel — Multiple defendants — Law students.
(a) When any person appears without counsel before any court of this state exercising original jurisdiction (whether magistrate, general sessions, municipal, juvenile, circuit, criminal or any court empowered to deprive the person of liberty) upon a criminal prosecution or juvenile delinquency proceeding involving a possible deprivation of liberty, the court shall inquire whether such person is financially able to employ counsel. If the person claims to be without such means, the court shall examine such person and any witnesses the indigent person or the court may call and proceed to determine whether the person is indigent. The determination shall not be based alone on the person’s ability to make a bail bond, but the court shall consider income, property, obligations, the number and ages of dependents and any other matters deemed pertinent.
(b) In all habeas corpus and post-conviction proceedings, the court having original jurisdiction of the matter shall determine the question of the petitioner’s indigency if such is claimed.
(c) In every case arising under this section, the court’s determination of indigency or nonindigency shall be reduced to writing and signed by the court and filed with the papers of the cause. If the court is one of record, the court’s determination shall also be entered upon its official minutes.
(d) If the court determines that the person is indigent, as defined in § 8-14-201, and the person has not waived the right to counsel, the court shall make and sign an order appointing the district public defender, or such other appointed counsel as provided by law, to represent the person. The original of the order shall be filed with the papers of the cause, and if the court is one of record, the order shall also be entered upon its official minutes.
Ross’s replacement, Andrew Mark Freiberg, won the Republican primary on May 6 and the general election on August 7 for Circuit Court Judge. Freiberg is self-described as a “lifelong conservative” and a Second Amendment supporter. He began serving on September 1 following Ross’s retirement the day before.
Ross is on record as having ejected an observer, CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.), from the courtroom during the August 2011 trial of George Joseph Raudenbush, III on the premise that he had a “recording device” as he took notes with a fountain pen. The trial, which lasted more than 16 hours, resulted in eight convictions on seven charges, with Ross allowing an eighth charge to be added during the trial.
Raudenbush, who has been involved in exposing corruption within the local judiciary and Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, spent more than two years in state prison before his case was reversed on appeal and remanded back to Monroe County. In a two-day trial last week, Raudenbush was convicted on seven lesser charges than those he originally faced, and a call placed to his public defender by The Post & Email was not returned.
Since late 2009, Fitzpatrick has exposed systemic corruption within Tennessee’s Tenth Judicial District, which includes the counties of McMinn, Monroe, Polk and Bradley.
Ross also denied having appointed any grand jury foremen in neighboring McMinn County, but appointing orders received through open records requests prove his statement inaccurate. At the same time that he denied having done so, Ross approved of the process by which criminal court judges hand-pick the grand jury foreman through an undisclosed vetting process which results in an acquaintance of the judge presiding over the grand jury, whose function it is to examine evidence of a crime in an unbiased fashion.
Over the last five years, The Post & Email has demonstrated that a prisoners-for-profit operation in Tennessee’s Tenth Judicial District, and possibly other districts, incarcerates as many citizens of the community as possible so as to bring in state dollars for each inmate which go to unknown causes, most likely involving the illicit drug trade.
Freiberg campaigned on reducing illegal drug activity in the Tenth District which he said would entail “to make it uncomfortable enough on the offender so they learn they never want to commit crime again or, at the very least, never want to appear back in my courtroom.”
Young has maintained that he is innocent of the charges against him, which involve the estate of his late father, which initially went to his father’s then-wife, Deborah Jean Gray Young, after her husband died in February 2011. Eight months later, Deborah Jean married a man named Larry David Godwin, and seven months later, she was dead under mysterious circumstances.
Marvin Young’s father’s estate was sizable, including retail stores, farm equipment and machinery, and acreage and is now occupied by Godwin, who reportedly began selling off pieces soon after Deborah Jean passed away.
Former General Sessions Court Judge J. Reed Dixon, who stated at a hearing for Fitzpatrick in early 2012 that “the judge picks the grand jury,” approved the settling of the Young estate without the mandatory signatures of witnesses. Last summer, a clerk was unwilling to discuss the case with The Post & Email, advising us only to contact a criminal court if we suspected something afoul of the law.
Godwin is Young’s accuser in the case.
In his description of the November 17 status hearing, Young told The Post & Email that the day lasted 12 hours. “I went in at 9:00 that morning and didn’t leave until 9:00 that night,” he said. “It went so long because the docket was just loaded with people.”
Young said that his case was called second-to-last. “I experienced a different situation in the courtroom for the first time,” he told us. “Giving credit to Andrew Freiberg where it’s due, when he walked into the courtroom, he stood behind his chair and had a moment of silence before he started court, which I had never experienced in court before. Then he sat on the bench and was very cordial. He said, ‘Good morning’ or ‘Good afternoon’ to every single person who came before him, whether they looked like an ax murderer or a little old lady. He talked and treated everybody equally, which surprised me. He didn’t do anything extraordinary, but in a time of tyrants, speaking the truth is an extraordinary act. So it’s only extraordinary because he followed the rules.”
Young commented that he had the advantage of being able to observe Freiberg for a full day dealing with everything from DUIs to convicts serving 15-year sentences to traffic violations.
“It’s the first time I ever saw a judge refer to American jurisprudence on the bench,'” Young observed. “A lot of the public defenders and attorneys who came up used ‘case law.”
“When people pleaded out of a case, he’d ask them several times in two or three different ways so that they knew for sure that they were waiving their constitutionally-granted rights. He used the word ‘constitution’ probably 50 times the whole day, asking ‘Do you understand that you have these constitutionally-secured rights and that you are waiving them by pleading guilty?’ Do you understand that you can plead ‘not guilty?’ He really went through the mill with these people and was very cordial to every single person who came before him. He never lost his cool with anybody, nor did he ever speak down to anybody that I can remember. So I was very surprised; it was really a breath of fresh air. Is this a breath of fresh air for Monroe County? Let’s hope.”
He seemed to be very particular about the law and to be quite versed in the law. He had absolutely no problem elaborating on anything he said. He actually made the statement on the record that he feels that justice is the most important thing. He really impressed me; I have to say that. Whether or not it’s deserved we don’t know yet.
He probably was the shortest with me as he was with anybody in the courtroom. When I got before him, he experienced a little discontent toward me, stating, “My predecessor had problems with you,” so he kind-of picked up where Ross left off. It was a prejudiced opinion, without a doubt. He already had an opinion about me before I came around and completely went against everything he had done all day long.
My protected rights were violated from the very beginning of the process with Ross. If Freiberg is a stickler on the Constitution, he should see that, but I don’t think he took that into account too much. He found me partially indigent regardless of the fact that my affidavit of indigency stated that I am fully indigent, that I am in possession of only two items of mediocre value; I have no means of income or support other than XXXX; so they found me partially indigent and ordered me to pay $100 a month for as long as this lasts.
“I didn’t know there was such a thing as ‘partial indigency,'” The Post & Email responded.
It surprised me, too, because it was always $50, and the first time in front of a judge, it’s $100 now. So it doubled from Ross to Freiberg. I was only the second person in there declared “partially indigent;” the other person was a woman, and she got $50 a month until she went to court. I got $100 a month, and I claimed to make only $400 a month. My payment to the debt that’s been created because of my former attorney is $350 a month. Now he’s expecting me to live 100% on someone else with $50 a month to pay my bills. So my indigency was just overlooked because I have two simple possessions of not very much value, and I make $400 a month. These baseless charges have put me $60,000 in debt, and I just don’t have the money.
“Does he know you’re paying $350 a month as a result of this case?”
I tried to say something about that. I did get on the record that I have contacted the prosecutor’s office – [former District Attorney General] Steve Bebb, [former Monroe County Sheriff] Bill Bivens – and that they are guilty of vindictive prosecution against me. Freiberg then spoke up and said, “I suggest you exercise your Fifth Amendment right from this time forward.” He was telling me to be silent, because I put on the record that I have proof of a murder and then will do nothing about it and that I have contacted every senator and representative in the state and no one has done a single thing about it. I put all that on the record and he basically told me to shut up.
“He must have been primed about your case.”
Absolutely. He made it clear in court that he reads every single file that comes before him. I think there have definitely been conversations with the prosecution.
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.