“A LIE BY OMISSION IS STILL A LIE”
by Sharon Rondeau
Roane County is one of four counties within the Ninth Judicial District led by District Attorney General Russell Johnson.
Roy Cook was first accused by his twin brother, Andrew Cook, in April 2013 of “extortion” involving missing computer circuit boards which were later located.
From the beginning, Roy Cook has maintained his innocence and conducted considerable research in his own defense, both while being represented by counsel and during times when he lacked representation.
His third attorney, Alan Moore, withdrew from the case in April, which followed the respective withdrawals of Joshua Hedrick and public defender Walter C. Johnson.
Following an April 15 hearing, Roy Cook told the presiding judge, Jeffrey Wicks, “I would like a competent attorney who is not corrupt.”
Roy Cook maintains that emails and phone calls which Andrew Cook provided to former Roane County investigator Jeff Vittatoe omit crucial exculpatory evidence, including emails exchanged between the brothers in January and February 2013 in which Roy Cook claims that he stated that no money was contemplated in exchange for locating the missing circuit boards.
Roy Cook has pointed out that some of the emails are missing information, which appears to have been purposely whited-out.
On April 24, 2013, Roy Cook’s three computers and cellular phone were confiscated with the declared intent on the part of the prosecution to conduct forensic analysis seeking evidence of the “extortion” of which he was accused. The Roane County grand jury did not indict Roy Cook until October of that year after Andrew Cook testified to them directly.
Shortly after learning of the case last summer, The Post & Email contacted Andrew Cook for an interview which did not materialize. The prosecutor, Ninth Judicial District Assistant District Attorney General Robert Edwards, thereafter pledged to speak with us but failed to follow through and has not replied to subsequent phone calls and emails requesting comment on the case.
The Post & Email was met with the same non-response from Vittatoe, who moved to Montana a month after the indictment was issued, and Harriman, TN Police Department Lt. Dan Schneider, who reportedly took possession of Roy Cook’s computers in May of 2013 to perform forensic analysi.
Schneider received the three computers and delivered them to Monroe County computer analyst Shane Harrold. Last month, Roy Cook issued a subpoena to Schneider to appear at the hearing on July 5, to which Schneider responded in writing via facsimile, “NO RECORDS TO PROVIDE.”
For its June 22 article, Roy Cook told The Post & Email that Vonage phone records he was able to obtain through a subpoena show that on September 9, 2013, Andrew Cook spoke with Harrold for 62 minutes and 30 seconds.
The Post & Email’s reportage of corruption in Tennessee began in Monroe County, which is one of four counties in the Tenth Judicial District, following Walter Francis Fitzpatrick‘s numerous attempts to obtain a hearing with the Monroe County grand jury and his subsequent discovery that Tennessee grand jury foremen are hand-picked by criminal court judges from outside of the jury pool and serve as long as the judge wishes.
Schneider’s signature does not appear on the “Evidence Room Receipt Log” for the computers, which were not returned to Roy Cook for 20 months. Roy Cook has never seen the results of the alleged forensic analysis, although he said it was never completed, according to Harrold.
Roy Cook’s new attorney, Jedidiah McKeehan, works for Tarpy, Cox, Fleishman & Leveille, P.L.L.C. He has produced a video detailing possible costs a person could incur after being arrested, including bond, hiring an attorney, court costs, restitution and probation.
Roy Cook said he has since communicated with McKeehan by email, telling him by introduction to his case, “You’re not going to want to hear this, but the prosecutors are corrupt.” As of this writing, Cook has not spoken nor met with McKeehan.
Of the July 5 hearing, Roy Cook told The Post & Email that Edwards told Judge Wicks that Roy Cook has been “delaying the case by switching attorneys.” Countering that, Roy Cook said he told Wicks, “Your Honor, if I may address that, Mr. Edwards is delaying this case because he’s failed to turn over exculpatory evidence. I have emails here – and my attorneys have refused to subpoena evidence – they told me they would and then changed their mind – but if you would like evidence of that, I have emails right here that I’d be more than happy to show you.”
Cook then said that Edwards responded, “I would like to address that when Mr. Cook has an attorney present.”
Of the remainder of the hearing, Roy Cook related:
I said, “Well, what would you like to address? Where is the forensic analysis of the computers?” I found out from Shane Harrold in Madisonville that he gave the forensic analysis, which he now describes as “two pages,” to Dan Schneider. Schneider was supposed to give it to Edwards, but why didn’t he give it to the court clerk? Evidently the prosecutor has it and hasn’t turned it over to the court clerk.
Harrold is now changing his tune. The last thing he said to me is that he would fax it to me on Friday, but he didn’t. So my question to him is, “You had a 62-minute conversation with Andrew Cook on September 9, 2013. Why did it take that long to discuss those two pages?”
[Editor’s Note: Our interview with Roy Cook took place on Wednesday, July 13, and referred to the fax as having been promised for Friday, July 8. In an update on Friday evening, July 15, Roy Cook told The Post & Email that he has not yet received the promised fax with the forensics results.]
He said he did not find any emails [pertinent to the case], but that can’t be true. He would have found something on there: the emails from January where Andrew admitted that I didn’t ask for money. We know Andrew turned those emails over to the FBI, because the FBI agent told him in January, “There’s no evidence of a crime. It’s a family dispute and there’s nothing there.” Andrew gave him the recordings and the emails.
None of the emails that Andrew supplied to the prosecutors have a January date on them; they’re all March or April. We didn’t hear from Andrew again until March 8 in an email that started the March and April emails in which he said to [my deceased brother] Tom and me, “I found the boards.” But he didn’t tell the prosecutor or the investigator that he found them. They found out about it when Tom and I told them that when they were here, and then Vittatoe sent an email back to Andrew saying, “Your brother said you found your boards; I have not heard that from you.”
It was never presented to the grand jury that Andrew was withholding information. Where are the January emails? Where are the Vonage logs? Where is the evidence log with the highlighted items that were given to Dan Schneider? Where is the forensic analysis of the computers? On April 15, I did not know of the existence of Shane Harrold; I couldn’t get the insider on the phone, and Schneider told me about him. That’s how I figured out that there was a forensic analysis done and who did it.
The other problem with the prosecution is that almost three years after I was indicted, I found out about a law enforcement official to whom Andrew had spoken. There are recollection issues almost three years later. Let’s say he didn’t find anything: that is exculpatory. But here we are, three years later: I can’t access two of the computers because Tom is dead and they were his; I can’t get Shane Harrold’s recollection because he’s having “memory issues;” he told me he did the forensic analysis in September 2013, the month before I was indicted, but he didn’t give anything he found to the grand jury.
If he had said, “We didn’t find anything,” the grand jury might not have indicted. A lie by omission is still a lie.
I think they found something on there: proof of my innocence.
According to Roy Cook, the prosecution has not yet produced a list of evidence supportive of their case, which would include:
- Andrew Cook’s Vonage call logs with highlighted calls
- The non-redacted email Edwards was ordered to turn over last November by Judge Eblen (now retired)
- The forensic analysis of the computers
- The evidence log that is not “doctored”
Of the last item, Roy Cook said, “Remember it says ‘all items highlighted have been released (5-21-13) to Lt. Dan Schneider for forensic analysis’…… it’s important to know what was released so we can question Harrold on what he found or why he didn’t examine them. Harrold did tell me he had my phone and some thumb drives, too.”