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by Sharon Rondeau

(Aug. 8, 2015) — In late May, The Post & Email received a letter from Tennessee state inmate Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III which stated that staff were pressuring him to participate in the “Pro-Social Life Skills” (PSLS, p. 9) course to which he objected because he perceived the workbook exercises as requiring him to admit to criminal behavior and thinking.

Fitzpatrick and his attorney, Van Irion, maintain Fitzpatrick’s innocence on convictions of aggravated perjury and extortion from June of last year stemming from several petitions he attempted to present to the McMinn County grand jury containing allegations of law-breaking on the parts of judges, prosecutors, grand jurors, grand jury foremen, court personnel, law enforcers, and trial jurors, among others.

Criminal court rules state that investigating reports of public corruption is one of the responsibilities of the grand jury, but foreman Jeffrey Cunningham would not allow Fitzpatrick’s petitions to be considered by the McMinn County grand jury.

In late 2009, after taking an initial petition to the Monroe County grand jury naming Barack Hussein Obama in the commission of treason, Fitzpatrick discovered that Tennessee criminal courts utilize hand-selected grand jury foremen “from wherever they choose” who serve for as long as the judge wishes.  In some counties, the foreman appears to participate when the grand jury votes on whether or not to indict an individual for a crime; in others, court clerks have told The Post & Email that the foreman does not cast a vote.

However, Tennessee law calls for a grand jury to consist of 13 voting members, not 12.

Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood has both hand-picked grand jury foremen and claimed that the foreman is “no different than any other member of the grand jury.” Blackwood presided over Fitzpatrick’s Monroe and McMinn County trials in December 2010 and June 2014, respectively.  At Fitzpatrick’s sentencing last August, Blackwood is heard on a recording of the proceedings to say, “Who cares if the grand jury foreman is serving illegally?” in a lengthy soliloquy in which he termed Fitzpatrick “a moral coward.”

Several eyewitnesses at the hearing sent sworn affidavits containing Blackwood’s statements to The Post & Email, which also cited prosecutor A. Wayne Carter as guilty of professional misconduct.

On April 1, 2010, Fitzpatrick was arrested for having attempted a citizen’s arrest of then-Monroe County grand jury foreman Gary Pettway and charged with six crimes [WFF ArrestReport 04-01-10].  One of the charges stated that Fitzpatrick  “did unlawfully and knowingly harm or threaten to harm a juror, Gary Pettway, by an unlawful act in retaliation for actions taken by Gary Pettway in an official capacity as a juror…”

In September 2013, then-Deputy Attorney General for the Criminal Justice Division Kyle Hixson wrote in a court brief relating to another case of Fitzpatrick’s on appeal that the grand jury foreman is “appointed by the trial court” and not selected from the “jury pool,” which would signify that he or she is not a juror.  HIXSON BRIEF

The Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference describes the grand jury as:

…a group of thirteen citizens chosen from the jury panel. One of these thirteen is the fore person and will preside over the grand jury. The grand jury hears testimony from witnesses in a private session. Neither the defendant nor his lawyer will be present at the grand jury hearing. A representative of the district attorney general’s office may be present when witnesses present their testimony, but the grand jury’s voting must be done in secret. If twelve of the thirteen grand jurors believe a crime was committed by the defendant, they will charge or ” indict” the defendant for that crime. The formal charge by the grand jury is called an INDICTMENT. Sometimes this charge is also referred to as a “true bill”. When the grand jury refuses to indict someone, its action is sometimes referred to as a “no true bill.” When the Grand Jury returns a “no true bill’ against a defendant, then that person cannot be brought to trial.

State law precludes a juror from serving a second time within 24 months of his initial service.

On May 19, Irion provided oral argument in an appellate court in Fitzpatrick’s current case, with no decision having been rendered to The Post & Email’s knowledge as of press time.

After Fitzpatrick reported that the PSLS course instructor, Terry Hopper, made physical threats against his person after he objected to participating, Fitzpatrick was ultimately excused.  A disciplinary hearing was scheduled and then reported canceled, then allegedly rescheduled for July 1, does not appear to have taken place. Fitzpatrick then filed a criminal complaint against a handful of educators who he named as having attempted to coerce him to take the course and who rifled through his personal papers in a search for articles published by The Post & Email which might contain their names.

Fitzpatrick told The Post & Email that he had learned that each enrollee in the PSLS course triggers a $3,000 payment from the federal government.  He also stated that upon his intake evaluation at Bledsoe County Correctional Complex (BCCX) last summer, he was told he was not a candidate for any TDOC educational course.

Following his dismissal from the PSLS course and relocation to another section of the prison, Fitzpatrick was enrolled in Adult Basic Education (ABE) despite his having graduated from high school, the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor’s Degree in 1975, and earned a Master’s Degree from the University of Phoenix in 2002.

The Post & Email is in possession of the “Administrative Policies and Procedures” booklet dated March 15, 2015 which consists of 26 pages of policies relating to “Inmate Programming (Jobs/Classes/Treatment).  TDOC Commissioner Derrick Schofield approved the regulations.

On page 5, the handbook states that anyone 62 years of age or older or those “that will qualify for disability benefits upon release from incarceration may sign Wavier [sic] of Placement in the Adult Basic Education Program.”

Born in January 1952, Fitzpatrick is 63 years old and before his imprisonment was receiving a disability payment from the U.S. Navy for a shoulder injury he incurred when the helicopter in which he was flying on July 31, 1987 crashed in the waters of the Persian Gulf, killing the co-pilot.

On June 27, Fitzpatrick completed a release of information form to be sent to Villanova Preparatory School to obtain proof of his graduation in 1969, which he was told was required to opt out of Adult Basic Education.  But according to the “Administrative Policies and Procedures” booklet, proof of a high school diploma or GED is not required for those 62 years of age and older or individuals eligible for federal disability stipends once their sentences are served.

On July 20, Fitzpatrick completed an “Inmate Inquiry – Information Request” form directed to “School Principal Lanier” to obtain an update on his request to be dropped from ABE:

Lanier’s response was to advise Fitzpatrick to “get with CCO Avery fill out a release form for verification of education” [sic], which Fitzpatrick had already done at the end of June.  At the time, Fitzpatrick had complimented CCO Lori Avery on her professionalism in seeing that the proper form was completed and dispatched to Villanova without delay.

In a 44-page letter received from Fitzpatrick on Wednesday, he elucidated on what he has described as a “prisoners-for-profit” operation utilizing inmates’ enrollment in classes to garner large sums of money from the federal government.  He began his letter by referencing a July 24, 2015 violent altercation among gang members resulting in a “hard lock-down.”

The Post & Email recently published two letters from NWCX inmate Bryant K. Lewis not only describing gang violence at the facility, but also expressing his concern for the safety of the corrections officers, who are reportedly working under very unfavorable conditions.  Lewis has sent three letters to Schofield as to how he believes the prison environment might be made safer for both inmates and staff to which he said he received one response.

Fitzpatrick has formally requested to be dropped from ABE:

Fitzpatrick’s letter received on Wednesday begins:

Later in his letter, Fitzpatrick related that an infirm man in his 80s is enrolled in ABE.  At the top of page 5 (not shown), Fitzpatrick wrote that “At this writing…I’m under orders to return to the NWCX schoolhouse to sit in the ABE/GRE course once we are released from lock down.  These orders are issued under extreme duress and despite my unending, relentless attempts to be dropped from the ABE/GRE course of study.”

More of Fitzpatrick’s revealing letter will be published in subsequent articles.


Editor’s Note:  This story was updated on August 8, 2015 at 1:10 p.m. EDT with the addition of the completed Waiver of Placement form.

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