“MAKES THE NAV LOOK REALLY BAD”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jan. 2, 2017) — The one-star retired U.S. Navy admiral accused of “rigging a court-martial” in 1990 will be the guest speaker to the South Peninsula Area Republican Coalition (SPARC) on the topic of “Restoring Civility To Our Public Debate” on January 18.
The gathering, which requires the purchase of a ticket, will be held at 12889 Viscaino Place, Los Altos Hills, CA 94022 and begin at 6:00 p.m.
Bitoff, who is originally from the East Coast, settled in the San Francisco Bay area after leaving the Navy in the 1990s, where he was recruited to serve as Director of Emergency Services for the City of San Francisco.
He is now considered a “community hero,” notwithstanding the central role he played in the court-martial of LCDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.) which Bitoff himself admitted in 1999 unjustly ended Fitzpatrick’s Naval career.
The court-martial began with a false accusation made on October 13, 1989, just as Fitzpatrick was about to leave the West Coast for the Naval War College in Newport, RI upon his command’s order. Bitoff, too, had been directed to attend the College during his Navy career but reportedly “chose instead to delay in order to return to sea in command.”
Following Fitzpatrick’s “conviction” for misappropriating Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) funds which was arrived at “behind closed doors” before the formal proceedings even began, Fitzpatrick learned that someone had forged his name to a “confession letter” he never saw until after he began receiving responses to dozens of FOIA requests for the court-martial record. “I never laid eyes on that letter,” Fitzpatrick has told The Post & Email on many occasions, “and I have never been in the same room with the original.”
On September 5, 1997, an internal NCIS memo admitted that if Fitzpatrick’s claims of the forgery of his name proved to be true, it “makes the NAV look really bad.”
After interviewing then-Kitsap County, WA Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Anderson, who was Fitzpatrick’s defense counsel, the NCIS inexplicably closed its investigation into the forgery.
Anderson is now chief public defender for Kitsap County.
Fitzpatrick has observed that although members of the military are sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution, they do not receive the benefits of its protections, including that of a grand jury review of evidence prior to the filing of a formal criminal charge.
On April 30, 1999, Bitoff responded in a six-page letter to an inquiry from then-Rep. Norman Dicks, who Fitzpatrick had approached for assistance in clearing his name. Bitoff wrote, in part, “I brought the charges and I convened the court-martial in the proper conduct of my duties” (p. 5).
Bitoff also criticized Anderson’s actions on behalf of Fitzpatrick and expressed feigned concern at Fitzpatrick’s claim that his signature was forged to an official Navy document.
On page 6 of the letter, Bitoff told Dicks of the court-martial, “If there were procedural errors made by me, they were not intentional…” However, after leaving the Navy, Bitoff was given the case to review and render a judgment after Fitzpatrick appealed the conviction.
While Fitzpatrick has received hundreds of documents from the court-martial file over many years, he has not received any documents stemming from the denial of his appeal by Bitoff, who rendered the “decision” as a civilian.
Bitoff closed his letter to Dicks with:
In Fitzpatrick’s estimation, Bitoff’s actions also negatively impacted the career of Capt. Michael Nordeen, who received a non-punitive “Letter of Instruction” from Bitoff and did not promote to admiral, which Fitzpatrick said was both merited and anticipated at the time.
Members of Congress have remained silent on the matter when contacted by this writer in November 2013 in an effort to obtain the full court-martial file. According to Fitzpatrick, his court-martial is the “most-reviewed court-martial in United States military history” and JAG students are forbidden from discussing it in their classes.
In 2014, when this writer and Fitzpatrick were preparing a book about the court-martial for publication, Fitzpatrick contacted Bitoff at his home, after which he reported that Bitoff’s wife would not summon her husband to speak with him. “Why are you doing this to us?” Fitzpatrick quoted Bitoff’s wife as having said to him over the phone.
A decade earlier, Fitzpatrick’s life was threatened by four NCIS agents after he brought compelling evidence of the identity of the forger and requested that the agency consequently reopen its abandoned 1997-1998 investigation.
In SPARC’s announcement about Bitoff’s upcoming appearance, it described Bitoff as a “politico-military specialist.”
On September 28, 2010, Fitzpatrick told The Post & Email, “Bitoff is a political animal.”
In an interview on Monday, Fitzpatrick amplified on the biography Bitoff provided to SPARC in advance of his speaking engagement by explaining that Adm. William J. Crowe, who passed away in 2007, was a mentor to Bitoff while both were stationed in Washington, DC. While still a captain, Bitoff served as Executive Assistant to Crowe when Crowe was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1985, after which Bitoff was promoted to rear admiral.
“William James Crowe and John William Bitoff were denizens of the Pentagon from 1976 to 1980. They were co-workers in a number of Navy and Defense Department commands,” Fitzpatrick wrote. “William Crowe promoted to full admiral, four stars, on 28 March 1980. Thereafter, Bitoff served as an executive assistant to Bill Crowe in three separate commands: #1: From 1980 to 1983 (CINCSOUTH and CINCUSNAVEUR); #2: July and August 1985 (CINCPAC), and #3: September, October and November 1985 (Joint Chiefs of Staff).”
Of Bitoff’s invitation to speak at the SPARC event, Fitzpatrick said:
Bitoff did not promote to a second star, even though he was on a track to go higher. John Bitoff is the only flag officer in the history of the Armed Forces who was caught rigging a court-martial against a subordinate. Take a look at Kevin Anderson, the NCIS’s complicity, Kit Lange’s interview with Tim Zeller: everywhere you look, you find nothing but John Bitoff’s handiwork as it was carried out by Kevin Anderson and Tim Zeller. You don’t find that anywhere in the history of the Armed Forces.
No court-martial conviction has ever been overturned, and mine is the one that must be. That is going to be John Bitoff’s legacy: rigging a court-martial against a subordinate to exact revenge. And now he’s going to step in front of a bunch of Republicans a few days before the Trump inauguration and give his wisdom, insights and erudition on “civility?”