FOUR-YEAR-OLD CASE CONTINUES WITH NO ANSWERS AS TO WHY EVIDENCE “EVIDENTLY” TAMPERED WITH
by Sharon Rondeau
Roy Cook was indicted by the Roane County grand jury nearly four years ago. Its foreman, Charles C. Snow, has held the position for more than two decades, a violation of the Fifth Amendment which Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III of neighboring McMinn County has attempted to bring to the public’s attention since September 2009. Fitzpatrick is now serving a three-year sentence for “extortion” and “aggravated perjury” for seeking a hearing before the McMinn County grand jury to testify about public corruption, including that alleged on the part of then-foreman Jeffrey L. Cunningham.
Tennessee lawmakers have refused to address the issue of longstanding grand jury foremen throughout the state and judges working outside of the confines of the state constitution, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. In 1919, the Tennessee legislature passed a law condoning the appointment of grand jury foremen by criminal court judges from outside of the jury pool which an 1883 state supreme court ruling did not contemplate.
The result is that every indictment issued by a Tennessee grand jury is questionable because of undue influence from the foreman, who in essence works for the judge.
The state’s mainstream media has been hesitant to report on the systemic corruption within the judicial system, perhaps out of fear of retaliation.
Roy Cook’s case, now entering its fourth year without resolution, raises a Sixth Amendment question regarding “the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”
While appearing in front of Judge Jeffrey Wicks on Friday, Cook, whose third attorney, Alan Moore, withdrew last week, submitted a Motion to Dismiss, citing a number of alleged violations on the part of the prosecution, which has been conducted by Ninth Judicial District Assistant District Attorney General Robert Edwards under District Attorney General Russell Johnson.
Roy Cook’s case was first assigned to public defender Walter C. Johnson, after which Cook accused Walter Johnson of having taken no action to defend him over a 14-month period. Last May, after Johnson withdrew, he declined comment to The Post & Email.
The case was then reassigned to private practitioner Joshua Hedrick of Whitt Cooper Trant & Hedrick in Knoxville at the county’s expense.
On August 24, 2015, at his client’s urging, Hedrick submitted three respective subpoenas to the Roane County court clerk seeking Yahoo emails exchanged between former Ninth Judicial District investigator Jeff Vittatoe and Cook’s accuser, his twin brother Andrew Cook; records from Proximiti Communications and Verizon Wireless. However, according to Roy Cook, Hedrick did not subpoena Vonage phone logs for calls made by Andrew Cook which Roy Cook believes would exonerate him of the extortion charge until Roy Cook “made an issue of it in front of Judge Eblen.”
Eblen served as a Tennessee judge for five decades before retiring on December 31.
“He [Hedrick] had originally agreed to do so in May (I have emails to prove it) but at a hearing on June 22 when I discovered he hadn’t I asked Judge Eblen to order him to do so and before the judge could respond he claimed he would do that in the next few days,” Roy Cook told The Post & Email on Tuesday.
Notably, Vittatoe had used a personal email address to communicate with Andrew Cook, as shown in initial discovery documents.
Earlier this month, the case was reassigned to Alan Moore of Lenoir City, Loudon County, who has now also withdrawn.
Roy Cook told The Post & Email that Hedrick failed to subpoena emails received by an FBI agent from Andrew Cook which allegedly show a contradiction between Andrew Cook’s story at the time and that which he told Vittatoe in 2013. As to the reason he believes Hedrick withdrew from representing him, Roy Cook said, “He withdrew because I refused to go to trial without the FBI agents’ records as well as the other subpoenaed evidence….I can’t seem to get an answer from him, or Moore either, as to why they won’t help me obtain the FBI’s records.”
Roy Cook recently found that Yahoo’s law enforcement compliance policy states that emails are preserved for a four-month period only.
On April 1, Roy Cook wrote the following to Hedrick:
…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.
More recently, Roy Cook told Moore:
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.
Roy Cook then wrote to Edwards and Moore:
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.
On Monday, speaking of Edwards, Roy Cook told The Post & Email:
Also, in court Friday he claimed he had never heard of any Vonage Logs before that day. I also attached an email I sent to him and Hedrick both where I state…. “In addition, I am attaching a phone record that references recorded phone calls however, 1 4 6 7 and 8 are missing. Please send the missing pages or an explanation as to why they are missing. Please also send the record these were obtained thru.”…… this email is dated 2/22/16 so what he said to the judge was a lie.
…Edwards claims he can’t find the non-redacted email. why can’t he subpoena it from EarthLink like I am trying to do??? I can’t get it now because Demarkis at EarthLink won’t discuss it with me but with an attorney only and although I have multiple emails where Hedrick said he would call Demarkis, he never did. they must really not want me to have that email.
After the extortion charge was issued against Roy Cook, his computers were confiscated by Vittatoe and not returned for 20 months. However, when Roy Cook asked for a computer forensics report on Friday, he related that “Edwards the prosecutor actually admits he knows nothing about any forensic analysis or Andrew’s Vonage logs.”
During the hearing, Roy Cook observed that an individual who pleaded guilty to “tampering with evidence” received two years’ probation but that prosecutors who commit the same crime, which is a felony, enjoy “prosecutorial immunity.”
“Right before I got up there, here this poor girl is, getting two years’ probation, then Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, meaning Bob Edwards, the prosecutor, and Alan Moore, are before the judge…and the judge was not even aware that Alan Moore had filed a motion to be removed on Wednesday. He probably didn’t have my Motion to Dismiss, either, because I only served that Tuesday afternoon. That’s why Alan Moore decided to resign. So Alan Moore went on, and he said, ‘We came to an impasse…’ because he didn’t want to file the Motion to Dismiss, the FBI agent’s statement, or anything. Then the judge looked at me and said, ‘What do you have to say?’ and I said, ‘Your Honor, I know this looks like I’m the bad guy here, but every attorney I’ve had, from Walter Johnson to Josh Hedrick to Alan Moore, didn’t do anything. They have been part of an ongoing campaign to conceal evidence. The reason they’re concealing the evidence — they don’t care whether or not it proves me innocent, but if it proves me innocent, it would expose the prosecution as being corrupt in concealing evidence, which could affect cases down the road.’ There was a big audience behind me, including Hedrick and Walter Johnson. I said, ‘Your Honor, I have been told by my last two attorneys that a contradictory statement made by the plaintiff to an FBI agent is irrelevant to my case. Can you please explain to me why that is irrelevant? I don’t understand that. My twin brother told one story to an FBI agent and another story to the Ninth District prosecutor, and this is not pertinent information? They didn’t find the FBI agent, Your Honor; I did.'”
Roy Cook also said that he told Wicks that Walter Johnson and Hedrick violated attorney-client privilege. “On November 16, we were sitting in the hearing in front of Judge Eblen, and Eblen ordered Edwards to turn over the non-redacted email. Isn’t it important to know who whited out the email?” Roy Cook said he asked Wicks. “Your Honor, they haven’t turned it over; they claim they can’t find it; OK…everything they’ve used against me is emails and phone records, but I’m not being allowed to submit emails and phone records in my defense.”
Roy Cook said he further told Wicks:
Either Edwards knew about the FBI agent before I discovered him, or Josh Hedrick ratted it out and broke privilege. Because Bob Edwards stood up there on November 16 in front of Judge Eblen and then, referencing the redacted email, he said, “Your Honor, it wouldn’t matter if the name on that email was an FBI agent or other law enforcement agency.” I said, “Where did he get ‘FBI’ from, Your Honor? The only thing mentioning anything about the FBI was between me and my attorney. So Hedrick ratted me out. I have an email from Hedrick to me that will prove that these guys are pursuing this case because I did an interview. They’re saying I forced their hand because they don’t want to look bad, so they are going to prosecute a case they know is bogus because I exercised my First Amendment right.
And the judge said, “Do you want to represent yourself?” and I said, “Your Honor, I would like a competent attorney who is not corrupt.”
“So are you saying we have corruption?” the judge responded. Then Edwards chimed in with, “So Walter Johnson, Josh Hedrick and myself are all corrupt?” and I said, “Yes,” and I looked at Edwards and said, “Explain to me why the emails would be whited out? Where is the forensic analysis of the computers?” and he said, “There was no forensic analysis,” although according to the Evidence Log there was.
The case has been continued to July 5.
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.