IN EERIE PARALLEL TO SURVEILLANCE WARRANTS FOR CARTER PAGE
by Sharon Rondeau
(Apr. 8, 2018) — On April 26, 2010, FBI Acting Supervisory Special Agent Mark A. Van Balen submitted a sworn affidavit to U.S. Magistrate Judge C. Clifford Shirley with knowingly false information in order to obtain an arrest warrant for Navy veteran and Georgia resident Darren Wesley Huff.
Six days before, Huff had driven to Madisonville, TN with the intention of attending an arraignment hearing for fellow Navy veteran LCDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret), a resident of Monroe County, TN at the time.
Madisonville is the county seat of Monroe County, which is located in Tennessee’s southeast corner not far from the Georgia line.
Beginning on April 19, 2010, the day prior to the hearing, pole cameras were assembled in the center of town for what was feared to be an encounter with “militia extremists” intent on effecting a “takeover” of the Monroe County Courthouse. According to then-Madisonville Mayor Allan Watson, two phone calls on April 19 and April 20, 2010, respectively, claimed that violence was planned as Fitzpatrick’s hearing was to take place on the morning of April 20, 2010.
Other preparations included the unprecedented dispatching of more than 150 local, county, state and federal law enforcement agents, including the FBI, to the small town. Law enforcers from seven surrounding counties, a SWAT team, bomb-sniffing dogs, snipers positioned on the roof of the courthouse, FBI and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) agents, and Tennessee Highway Patrol officers all contributed to the extraordinary police presence which saw an elementary school placed on lockdown and the judge escorted to his chambers by armed security.
In 2010, Robert S. Mueller III was FBI director.
Van Balen’s affidavit contained obvious errors such as the name of the county in which Madisonville is located (p. 6); Huff’s having been seen in Madisonville that day carrying a firearm along with “several individuals” “in the possession of openly displayed and concealed firearms”; an assertion that “Huff declined to relinquish his weapon but agreed to lock it in his tool box later when he approached the courthouse” (p. 8) when Huff had, in fact, locked his firearms in the toolbox in the presence of Tennessee Highway Patrolmen; and the date Fitzpatrick was arrested in Madisonville “while attempting to conduct a citizen’s arrest” (p. 4). Van Balen also stated Huff’s residence as having been in both “Dalton, GA” and “Dallas, GA” (pp. 5, 6).
Fitzpatrick’s attempted citizen’s arrest of the Monroe County grand jury foreman on April 1, not April 2, gave rise to the April 20 arraignment date.
The affidavit can be seen here: https://www.thepostemail.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Van-Balen-Arrest-Warrant-Huff-from-WBIR.pdf
On page 9, Van Balen asserted, albeit without having been an eyewitness:
Van Balen accused Huff of having made “threats of violence to take over the Madisonville, TN courthouse” (p. 9), of somehow having rearmed himself and approached the courthouse along with “a dozen” others, yet local contemporaneous news reports tell a very different story.
Despite the numerous errors and contradictions, Shirley, who is now retired, granted the arrest warrant, and Huff was arrested by federal authorities on April 30, 2010. He was charged with two federal firearms violations, one of which had never been invoked.
On April 4, 2018, Fitzpatrick made an in-person inquiry of the Monroe County Advocate & Democrat for any articles and/or photographs the paper might have published about his April 20, 2010 hearing in Madisonville. Later that day, reporter Tommy Millsaps responded to Fitzpatrick in an email:
Walt: I checked with Michael Thomason and checked our archives and this is the only photo we have available from that day in question. I made it a little large in one version.
I just cut and pasted the story from our website below.
I hope this is what you are looking for; it appears to be the best we can do, at least.
Thank you and best wishes!
Michael Thomason is a staff writer at the A&D.
The photo Millsaps provided is one of a heavily-armed guard at the main courthouse at 105 College Street, where Van Balen claimed Huff was gathered with “over a dozen armed members” of a militia group.
The stairway in the photo is at the back of the College Street courthouse and faces east onto Tellico Street.
The text of the article Millsaps provided is as follows.
By Michael Thomason
Was it an “over reaction” or did the presence of large numbers of law enforcement personnel prevent a tragedy Tuesday?
Walt Fitzpatrick was in Monroe County General Sessions Court on charges of inciting a riot, disturbing a meeting, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after he tried to make a citizen’s arrest of a grand jury foreman earlier this month.
Fitzpatrick’s appearance in the courtroom was very low key as he didn’t appear before Judge Reed Dixon. According to the Sessions Court clerk’s office, his case was reset after his attorney and the state agreed to reset his case for May 4 during a recess.
It was outside the courtroom, in the streets of Madisonville, where everything was happening. Or not happening, depending on your point of view. After reports that as many as 50 people would show up to support Fitzpatrick, around 20 were reported to have come to town.
Law enforcement vehicles from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, the Madisonville Police Department and the Tennessee Highway Patrol drove the streets on regular sweeps and there were even members of a SWAT team, reportedly from Bradley County, guarding the Courthouse. Madisonville Police Chief Gregg Breeden he’d like to detail what all was done, but as it looks like it will all have to be done again on May 4, he doesn’t want to give away any tactical details. “Was it an over reaction?” he wondered.
“Maybe, maybe not. Was everybody safe at the Courthouse and on the streets? Of course they were. Was it because of our presence? That’s harder to answer.”
Even though Fitzpatrick was scheduled to be in the Sessions Court above the jail, the main Courthouse on College Street was heavily guarded and everyone entering was being led through a metal detector.
Monroe County Mayor Allan Watson said there had been a couple of threats phoned in to the Courthouse. “I don’t know all the details of the threats,” Watson said, “but I was told one threat came in Monday night and there was another one Tuesday morning.”
Even though Watson came in and opened the Courthouse Tuesday, he had his staff stay home.
Monroe County Circuit Court Clerk Marty Cook said she sent her staff home a little after 1 p.m.
“We did have a murder trial set for Tuesday, but it was reset, so we didn’t have any official business that was affected by the closing,” Cook said.
Watson said he didn’t know if the Courthouse would be shut down again on May 4 when Fitzpatrick comes back to court. But as he and others have pointed out, May 4 is the primary election day.
Monroe County Director of Schools Mike Lowry said extra safety precautions were taken at the schools in Madisonville in particular simply as a precautionary measure.
An in-depth article dated April 21, 2010 by Mark Boring of The Monroe County Buzz similarly reported no arrests or law-enforcement confrontations that day. “Fitzpatrick’s court date had been rumored to be a focal point for several militia organizations and other out-of-state groups disgruntled with the government, and local law enforcement beefed up security around Madisonville and near the interstate with assistance of other agencies including Homeland Security,” Boring wrote on page 2.
In the first paragraph, Boring said that “twenty or so supporters” arrived to observe the hearing. On page 2, he included a photo he took himself showing unarmed men, including Fitzpatrick; women and children with some smiling into the camera. All were unarmed.
The report states nothing of arrests, citizens sighted carrying firearms, or any action taken by law enforcement to disperse the group, and Huff does not appear in the photo.
Law enforcement produced no photos or names of anyone arrested, confronted, or questioned in connection with Fitzpatrick’s arraignment hearing, a fact larger mainstream media ignored.
As Boring stated, Fitzpatrick’s hearing took place at an adjunct courthouse, the Beecher Witt Government Building, located at 405 Tellico Street, not the main courthouse at 105 College Street. Eyewitnesses have said, including through sworn affidavits, that Huff never went to the Beecher Witt building on April 20, 2010, instead opting to patronize Donna’s Old Time Café across from the main courthouse and leaving town uneventfully that evening.
An inaccurate report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said that Huff was “taken into custody by state police in Tennessee before ever reaching his target.” Although not on the ground that day, The Knoxville News Sentinel reported:
As it turned out, Fitzpatrick’s supporters were outnumbered by law enforcement. They spent the day largely holed up at a Madisonville diner, where Huff gave a speech. He wasn’t the only citizen armed that day, but he was the only one captured on law enforcement video bragging about the weaponry, including an AK-47 assault rifle, he had in his truck and the only person charged federally.
Ten days later, Huff was arrested while traveling through Knoxville and temporarily jailed. The charges against him were “carrying a firearm in interstate commerce with the intent to use it in a civil disorder” and “traveling in interstate commerce with intent to incite a riot.”
Huff denied both charges and faced trial 18 months later. Former Monroe County, TN Sheriff Bill Bivens, who is again seeking that office this year, and other “law enforcers” who testified did so knowing that no violence, or even a confrontation between law-enforcers and citizens, took place on April 20, 2010. Witnesses who could have provided exculpatory testimony were not summoned, and Fitzpatrick, jailed for an unrelated reason at the time, was transported to the hearing but never called upon to testify.
Despite those factors, the jury acquitted Huff on the first of the two charges and was “hung” on the second. When U.S. District Court Judge Thomas A. Varlan received the jury’s decision, he advised them to “go back and try again.“
Varlan was then provided the “guilty” verdict he was apparently seeking, and Huff was sentenced to four years in federal prison for a crime that “never happened.”
Following Huff’s sentencing in May 2012, the FBI hosted a radio broadcast in which FBI Case Agent Scott Johnson falsely boasted of the bureau’s apprehension of Huff as well as having “set precedent for case law in future domestic terrorism cases throughout the United States.”
Those who called in the false reports to Mayor Watson’s office have never been questioned or prosecuted, although at least one has identified himself as having participated.
As Monroe County Deputy Sheriff J. Moses put it in February to Fitzpatrick, the April 20, 2010 experience was “good for training” and nothing more.
In response to a March 2012 FOIA request from this writer for documents memorializing the FBI’s role in the April 20, 2010 law enforcement presence in Madisonville, an FBI FOIA officer claimed that no documents existed. Upon appeal, the Justice Department contradicted the FBI by stating that in fact, documents did exist but were non-releasable because of “privacy” concerns.
Mueller was still FBI director at the time, having had the customary ten-year term extended by Congress by two years at Obama’s request.
As present-day Special Counsel, Mueller has led a wide-ranging probe into whether or not Russian operatives interfered in the 2016 election and whether or not anyone from the Trump campaign “colluded” with Russia to tip the election in Trump’s favor.
As reported on March 22 by investigative journalist Sara A. Carter, Mueller’s allegedly sterling reputation is marred by his time as Assistant U.S. Attorney and Acting U.S. Attorney in Boston during the 1980s when he accepted the word of dishonest FBI agents in the arrests of four men for murder, three of whom were convicted and given the death penalty.
Decades later, all four convictions were overturned, two posthumously. The remaining two were eventually awarded $100 million between them as compensation for their wrongful incarcerations.
In an editorial at The Huffington Post dated June 6, 2017, just three weeks after Mueller was appointed Special Counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, former FBI Special Agent and Minneapolis Division legal counsel Coleen Rowley wrote that “Robert Mueller And James Comey Aren’t Heroes” and that the former FBI directors, though “hailed for their impeccable character by much of official Washington,” “presided over post-9/11 cover-ups and secret abuses of the Constitution, enabled Bush-Cheney fabrications to launch wrongful wars, and exhibited plain vanilla incompetence.”
Evidence has come to light that rather than the Trump campaign having “colluded” with the Russians, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, now retired, and “senior Obama officials used unsubstantiated evidence to launch allegations in the media that the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.” In her article, Sara Carter cited “documents obtained by congressional investigators” who are currently carrying out their own probes into “collusion” allegations and election interference.
Some of the same congressional investigators have discovered that between October 2016 and June of last year, the FBI and Justice Department prepared four successive applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) for a warrant to gather the communications of Trump campaign informal advisor and U.S. Naval Academy graduate Carter Page for alleged improper connections with various Russian figures.
Documentation provided by the DOJ and FBI to the FISC reportedly consisted mainly of the now-infamous and politically-motivated “Trump/Russia dossier” which Comey had told Trump in January 2017 contained “salacious and unverified” claims. The FBI and DOJ applications were reportedly signed by Comey, Rosenstein, former Acting Attorney General Dana Boente and current FBI Special Counsel, and now-fired Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
Within days of Trump’s firing of then-FBI Director James B. Comey on May 9, Rosenstein hired Mueller to serve as “Special Counsel” despite his longstanding acquaintance with Comey, whose actions are under scrutiny for what appear to be contradictory statements during testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3, 2017.
Just last week, documentation came to light as a result of a lawsuit by an individual targeted by Mueller’s probe, Paul Manafort, that Rosenstein gave a more detailed directive to Mueller on August 2, 2017 to delve into Manafort’s alleged ties to Russian operatives when it had not been within the scope of Rosenstein’s original Special Counsel directive.
Chairman of the House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence (HPSCI) Devin Nunes has said that as a result of the FISC having granted the requested Page warrants to the FBI and DOJ, not only were Page’s communications swept up, but also anyone with whom Page communicated during that time frame, including members of Congress.
In a March 1, 2018 letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Nunes wrote that the use of “unverified information” as the basis for a FISA warrant could have violated a rule contained in the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG).
The Electronic Communication (EC) which initiated the FBI’s counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign as well as the unredacted FISA applications for surveillance of Page has not been released to Nunes and other members of his committee or Congress despite a subpoena issued for the documents last August. On Thursday, Nunes threatened to take the matter to federal court should his demands not be met by the Justice Department and FBI by Wednesday, April 11.