Roane County, TN Prosecution of Extortion Case Nearing Its Fourth Year

THREE ATTORNEYS REFUSE TO FILE MOTION TO DISMISS

by Sharon Rondeau

(Apr. 13, 2016) — On April 25, 2013, Roane County, TN citizen Roy Cook was indicted by the county grand jury on one count of “extortion,” a charge brought forward by his twin brother, Andrew Cook, who resides in Costa Rica.

Roane County is part of Tennessee’s Ninth Judicial District, whose District Attorney General, or chief prosecutor, is Russell Johnson.  The Roane County grand jury foreman, Charles C. Snow, has been serving for more than two decades after having been appointed by now-retired Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood in 1990.

At the time of The Post & Email’s last report on the case in late September, Roy Cook was awaiting a hearing on November 16, at which time he expected his then-attorney, Joshua Hedrick of Whitt Cooper Trant and Hedrick (WCTH), to make the case that the prosecution had committed Brady violations.  Hedrick was Roy Cook’s second attorney, as his initial counsel, public defender Walter C. Johnson, withdrew from the case after Cook demanded to know why he had taken no action on his behalf during a 14-month period.

Roy Cook alleges that the location of the missing computer circuit boards over which his brother, Andrew Cook, filed the extortion complaint against him were not reported to the prosecutor’s office.  Andrew Cook had charged that Roy had attempted to “extort” $30,000 for the return of the circuit boards in emails sent to the original investigator, Jeff Vittatoe, who has since relocated to Montana.

In the uncommon event that a prosecutor, judge or attorney is disciplined in Tennessee, behavior which adversely affects defendants rarely ends or impairs the practitioner’s career.  However, last August, four cases were overturned by Tennessee appellate courts resulting from what was identified as prosecutorial misconduct.  The Tennessee judicial system has been termed “hopelessly corrupted” by an out-of-state attorney who once represented Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, then of Monroe County in the nearby Tenth Judicial District.

After Walter C. Johnson withdrew from Roy Cook’s case, Roane County assigned it to Hedrick, a private attorney, with the county assuming the expenses for Hedrick’s services on Cook’s behalf.  In a recent interview, Roy Cook told The Post & Email that Hedrick withdrew from the case after failing to follow up on subpoenas issued last fall.  “Hedrick withdrew with less than two months to go,” Cook said, referring to a scheduled April 15 trial date.  He also asked rhetorically why Hedrick failed to “subpoena the FBI agent” who received emails which Roy Cook said would show that a statement made by Andrew Cook contradicts another of his statements made to Vittatoe in 2013.

Portions of emails exchanged between Andrew Cook and Vittatoe as part of discovery in the case appear to have been whited out without explanation.  Roy Cook claims that a considerable amount of exculpatory evidence has been withheld by the prosecution.

Judge Jeffery H. Wicks assumed the bench in the Ninth Judicial District by gubernatorial appointment to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge E. Eugene Eblen, whose career spanned five decades.

Roy Cook believes that there is insufficient evidence for the prosecution to go forward and criticized Russell Johnson’s office for misspending taxpayer funds in continuing to prosecute it.  “I found out the defense attorney is paid $40/hour, $50/hour when he’s in court and capped at $2,000.  How much is the prosecution paid?  We know they’re making over $120,000/year.  What’s their actual hourly rate?  Fifty dollars an hour for a 40-hour week is $100,000/year.”

A Bill of Particulars was requested by Hedrick in May 2015 and not produced by the prosecution until February.

On March 7, Roy Cook, Hedrick, Walter C. Johnson and the prosecutor, Robert Edwards, appeared in front of Wicks.  “Walter Johnson and Hedrick helped choose Alan Moore. Even Edwards was up there looking at business cards on the bench,” Roy Cook told us.  “They weren’t being specific as to why I was switching attorneys, and I said, ‘Your Honor, let me tell you why.’ ‘Oh, no, we’re not going to talk about that,’ the judge said.  ‘You need to learn to get along with your attorney,'” Roy Cook told us.

Alan R. Moore of Lenoir City was assigned to defend Cook.

On March 18, Roy Cook prepared a detailed document arguing that his case should be dismissed, asking Moore to act upon it.

Roy Cook motion to dismiss 03-18-16

On April 1, Cook wrote in an email to Moore and Edwards, attaching the document in the link below:

Gentlemen:

There is a “no contact order” in place that was directed at me in June 2015 because the plaintiff lied and said I was harassing him. That order works both ways, if you care to review Judge Eblen’s order.  Attached is evidence of the “friend’s request” sent by Andrew Cook to me just days ago thru Facebook.  So please Mr. Edwards; tell your plaintiff to leave me alone and obey the no contact order. In addition to that would you please tell him to stop contacting my employer.  I have evidence of dozens of phone calls to them.

Secondly, there is the issue of multiple pieces of exculpatory evidence being withheld and concealed. Judge Eblen ordered Edwards to turn over the non-redacted emails last year and we still do not have them.  I doubt very much Edwards looked too hard like maybe requesting it from the plaintiff.  In addition to the emails, the prosecution needs to turn over ALL evidence it has withheld including but not limited to the following.
1. The Vonage phone logs supplied to the prosecution by plaintiff as well as page 2 of the “Vonage phone records from Andrew Cook-victim”
2. The results and dates of the forensic analysis of the computers and other electronic devices that were seized from my home.  I believe it was Lt. Dan Schneider that did the analysis.
3. The names of all other law enforcement agencies and their employees that plaintiff made statements to including but not limited to FBI agent Clay Anderson in Knoxville Tn.  I only reveal this now, because of the statement Edwards made at the 11/16/15 hearing,  I’m sure he already knows about him.  I would just like to know if he always knew or if Hedrick violated attorney/client priviledge. I would welcome a response to this query by Mr. Edwards.
4. A legitimate Bill of Particulars that shows specifically each piece of evidence you have to support each allegation. The one that was put together in a rush on 2/15/16 is insufficient.  Especially since it was originally requested 9 months earlier.
5. Any records or communications between the prosecution, defense, and plaintiff pertaining to cancelling of a phone number issued from Vonage in an attempt to conceal exculpatory evidence from the defendant.

Also, Mr. Moore, you can consider this a formal request for you to follow up on the subpoenas that I requested.  If these documents disappear because of your lack of action then I will be filing a complaint with the Board of Professional Responsibility against you as well as Hedrick and Walter Johnson, since none of you can seem to give me a valid reason why you won’t or didn’t follow up on them.  Hedrick and Johnson had months to follow up and Hedrick kept promising he would do so.

In addition to all of the above, Mr. Moore and Mr. Edwards, I need to schedule a time to review the prosecution’s file and ALL the evidence in your possession as well as discuss why the prosecution has failed to abide by the rule to supply all exculpatory evidence to the defense.

Roy Cook facebook screenshot

Late on Monday, Roy Cook informed The Post & Email that Moore may be withdrawing from the case. “He is refusing to file motion to dismiss and says if I try to argue it he will resign as my attorney…..I told him to go for it….,” Cook wrote in an email.  “Moore claims one reason he wants to withdraw is I am demanding to be present when he speaks to Edwards….or be conferenced in or at least copied on emails….he has refused to abide by this rule.  Moore also refused to even contact Clay Anderson to inquire about the statement.  he wants to file a motion demanding the prosecution investigate my discoveries.  so he wants the corrupt investigator that has concealed evidence to now investigate honestly,” Cook added.

Roy Cook believes that at least one of his three successive attorneys has conducted prohibited conversations with Edwards.  “How did Edwards find out about the FBI agent?” Cook asked rhetorically on Tuesday night.

On Tuesday evening, he reported, “I just got back from dropping off the subpoenas that Hedrick never followed up on and I also dropped off my motion to dismiss.”

Responding to the latest developments in his case, Roy Cook told The Post & Email, “I don’t think any defendant in the 9th district should trust their attorney if it is a public defender or someone appointed by the court or PD’s office.”

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