by Sharon Rondeau

(Dec. 17, 2018) — On November 5, 2018, a defendant in a 4+-year-long criminal case whose charge was ultimately dropped by the government last year filed a second complaint against a Roane County, TN assistant prosecutor after noting a stunning revelation discovered through a recent public-records request.

The former defendant, Roy E. Cook, alleged “irrefutable proof” to the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility (BOPR) that Ninth Judicial District Assistant District Attorney General Robert C. Edwards “lied” to two judges on two separate occasions about a partially-missing email generated by his accuser which Cook had requested repeatedly be produced.

Section 11 of the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Rules of Professional Conduct under “Disciplinary Enforcement” reads:

Section 11.  Grounds for Discipline

11.1.  Acts or omissions by an attorney, individually or in concert with any other person or persons, which violate the Rules of Professional Conduct of the State of Tennessee, including acts prior to surrender of a law license, suspension, disbarment, or transfer to inactive status on other grounds, and acts subsequent to resignation, suspension, disbarment, or transfer to inactive status which acts amount to the practice of law, shall constitute misconduct and shall be grounds for discipline, whether or not the act or omission occurred in the course of an attorney-client relationship.

 11.2.  Conviction of a serious crime as defined in Section 2 also shall  be grounds for discipline pursuant to the procedures set forth in Section 22.

11.3.  Adjudication that a lawyer has willfully refused to comply with a court order also shall be grounds for discipline.

Emails exchanged between the accuser and Edwards between 2015 and 2017 show that Edwards was made aware of a partially “redacted” email which at the time, Roy Cook believed might have contained the name of an FBI agent aware of the charge against him but reportedly unconvinced that enough evidence existed to pursue it.

There was, in fact, an FBI agent with whom Roy Cook spoke in 2015, Cook said.

The case began in January 2013 after Cook’s twin brother, Andrew Cook, reported to the Roane County District Attorney General’s office that a number of circuit boards belonging to his business disappeared and that Roy Cook attempted to “extort” $30,000 from him for their return.  In late June 2017, after finding inconsistencies in the documentation provided by Andrew Cook as evidence, amid other anomalies and difficulties, the prosecution informed Roy Cook that it would abandon the case, confirmed by a judge’s order days later.

As shown on page 2 here, Andrew Cook also communicated by email with then-Ninth Judicial District Detective Jeff Vitattoe about his allegations.  Neither Vittatoe nor then-Assistant ADA Bill Reedy was willing to present the case to the Roane County grand jury, Roy Cook said, as evidenced by Andrew’s testifying to the group himself.

Vittatoe moved to Montana in November 2013.

Roy Cook’s first complaint against Edwards, filed in August 2016 for Edwards’s alleged “withholding evidence,” was dismissed by the BOPR, as was a similar complaint against District Attorney General Russell Johnson.  After receiving the documentation responsive to his public records request made this fall and learning that his accuser had provided what he said was the missing information from the email in question, Cook renewed the August 2016 complaint on October 25.

The November 5, 2018 complaint is not an attempt to revive that renewal, Cook told the BOPR, but rather, a completely new complaint. When filing it by email, Cook included a ten-page document package extracted from the prosecutor’s office’s response to the public records request showing discussion between Andrew Cook and Edwards about the email.

evidence of redacted email

Ironically, Roy Cook said, Edwards was the individual who responded to his public-records request, which yielded a total of 265 pages.

Over the life of the case, Roy Cook was represented by a total of five attorneys:  1) Public Defender Walter Johnson, against whom he also filed a complaint with the BOPR in August 2016; 2) Joshua Hedrick, against whom he filed a complaint at the same time; 3) Alan Moore; 4) Jedidiah McKeehan, and 5) Stephen McGrath, who was considered “elbow counsel.”  Cook said he did not dismiss any of the attorneys, but that rather, they chose to withdraw.

Cook was insistent, while each represented him, that he subpoena all of Andrew Cook’s phone records and ascertain whether or not a forensic examination and report were ever done on the electronics seized from his home by search warrant on April 24, 2013 and retained for 20 months.

Russell Johnson and Edwards had termed the absence of conclusive documentation on the electronics “sloppy police work.”

Roy Cook also wanted each to file a Motion to Dismiss based on “prosecutorial misconduct.”  None did so, although Roy Cook eventually filed one himself.  In March 2017, the Motion to Dismiss was denied, but three months later, the prosecution dropped the charge.

As shown in the prosecution’s response to the Motion to Dismiss, referencing a November 16, 2015 hearing in front of Judge Eugene Eblen, Edwards wrote, “…The order of Judge Eblen regarding the production of any unredacted email has been followed to the best ability of the undersigned…”

Response.to Motion to Dismiss

In a letter dated September 16, 2016 to Roy Cook’s then-incoming defense attorney, Jedidiah McKeehan, Edwards denied having “additional email or unredacted copies of email” requested by the defendant.  “I have worked this question over and over with Josh Headrick [sic] and I cannot produce any more email,” Edwards wrote.  “Mr. Cook believes we have it but we do not and we do not intent [sic] to subpoena any additional email from any source…He questions whether a particular copy of a particular email was redacted to cover up the name of an FBI agent. He has a point in that the copy of the message does appear to have a blank where a name might appear…”

The initial complaint Cook filed against Edwards claimed that Edwards had not produced the partially-redacted email sent by Andrew Cook to Edwards even though Edwards allegedly had it in his possession.  Edwards responded to the BOPR in a letter dated both July 11, 2017 and July 12, 2017 (pp. 5-9).  bopr-responses-Hedrick-and-Edwards

On the second page of the response, Edwards wrote, “At no time was any evidence concealed from him,” referring to Roy Cook. He also attributed the unraveling of the case against him to “sloppy work” on the part of Vittatoe and perhaps the alleged “victim,” Andrew Cook, in assembling a record of phone calls pertinent to the case.

Page 4 of a seven-page public-records response indicates that on July 28, 2015, Andrew Cook provided what he said was the “missing text” of the email in question, to which Edwards is noted as having responded, “Can you let me know what this business about redacted emails is about? I have nothing in my file that I could conclude is a redacted email.”

On November 18, 2015, Andrew Cook mentioned “missing” materials from the discovery package on which he was relying to press the charge against Roy Cook (page 1).  evidence of redacted email

On page 4 of the email package, Edwards responded, “No attachments are visible.”

On April 14, 2016, Andrew Cook specifically advised Edwards to “make sure the defense has a copy (p. 5) of the complete original email.”

The following day, at a hearing in front of Judge Jeffery Wicks, Edwards told Wicks, “…But I’ve given him everything I have, everything Mr. Vittatoe has, everything the victim in this case, Andrew Cook, tells me he has.”

Roy Cook believes that had the email been produced in court, it would have shown that Andrew Cook and Vittatoe did not communicate for more than two months after Andrew filed his initial criminal complaint.  During that specific time frame, Andrew Cook admitted in writing to having located the missing circuit boards in his new apartment.

In an arguably friendly email dated March 17, 2017, Andrew Cook referenced a “response” of some type from Edwards appearing to reference missing information. “Thanks. Your response is concise and to the point. Even if everything he claims is true, it doesn’t matter. The information he claims is being withheld is either a) irrelevant, b) not exculpatory, or c) something he already has,” Andrew Cook began his email.

His second paragraph reads, “I forgot to ask, but has Roy’s complaint with the BOPR against you, Hedrick, and Walter Johnson been resolved yet?”

Edwards responded to the BOPR’s first letter of inquiry on Roy Cook’s behalf with the claim that “at no time was any evidence concealed from” Roy Cook.

After receiving the 265 pages of documentation in which the redacted email was discussed between Edwards and Andrew Cook, Roy Cook sent an October 23, 2018 email titled “i think there is a problem you may want to address” to District Attorney General Russell Johnson, copied to Judge Wicks and this writer, which reads, in part:

in the emails I obtained under the Freedom of Information Act I discovered the now infamous “non redacted email”…..

the first 2 pages is an email sent to Edwards on 11/18/15….2 days after Judge Eblen ordered him to turn over the non redacted email…..I now see why they whited that portion out….it was a combination of revealing Andrew had no contact with Vittatoe from 1/30/13 to 4/9/13….I know why 4/9/13 is important now….look at the phone records and you should realize it too but if you can’t figure it out….give me a call…..the email string jumps from 1/30 to 4/9.

page 3 email from Andrew Cook to Edwards dated 10/15/15….Andrew mentions email and promises to send it.

page 4  email from Andrew to Edwards dated 7/28/15….claims he has email and even tells him what’s in the redacted portion…..

page 5 email from Andrew to Edwards Andrew says i’m still complaining about redacted email and tells Edwards he sent it to him in December….even says…”you might want to make sure the defense has a copy.”……btw…this was the day before the hearing where that hobbit Alan Moore resigned and I have the transcript and on that day Edwards not only denies the existence of the forensic analysis twice but says he doesn’t have the non redacted email.

page 6  and 7  email exchange between Edwards and Andrew…. Edwards sends him the response to my motion….Andrew responds and says its “concise and to the point”

also Edwards emails McKeehan (attorney 34) when he sends 2nd discovery package (and no its not in there either)….on 9/16/16 and says he has worked this question over with Hedrick and he can’t produce any more emails….

there are other documents where Edwards denies he has it but I think you should really read the response to my Motion to Dismiss ..paragraph 3 Edwards claims he and Andrew have discussed it and can’t find the non redacted email.

An email from Roy Cook to the BOPR dated November 5, 2018 reads:

I submitted a complaint against Edwards last week…..per your message below you would review it.  this is NOT an appeal of the prior complaint from last year.  I have recently received irrefutable proof Edwards lied to Judge Eblen on 11/16/15 and to Judge Wicks on 4/16/16 and 3/31/17.  This was in reference to a copy of  an email that had a portion of it whited out.  Edwards lied when he told Judge Eblen on 11/16/15 that he didn’t have it and couldn’t get it. He was still ordered by Judge Eblen to obtain it and turn it over to the defense.  On 4/16/16 he lied to Judge Wicks when he said he didn’t have it.  the evidence I sent you clearly shows he received it on 11/18/15.  Also in the evidence is an email from Andrew Cook to Edwards reminding him that it was sent to him months earlier.  Also, in Edwards response to my Motion to Dismiss he again claims he doesn’t have it and says he has discussed it with Andrew Cook and they don’t have it and cannot get it…..i’m not sure if I sent it to you but I also have an email exchange between Andrew Cook and Edwards where Edwards sends Andrew Cook a copy of his response to my motion and Andrew Cook responds that it is “concise and to the point” which indicates he solicited Andrew Cook’s compliance in his deceit which is also an ethical violation because he requested a witness (in this case the alleged victim) assist him in his deception on the court.

I also supplied you with Joshua Hedrick’s statement to the BOPR where he claims Edwards told him he didn’t have it as well as a letter to Jedidiah McKeehan (attorney #4) where he says he’s worked it over with Josh and he cannot produce a non redacted copy.  Edwards even admitted in my 6/5/17 meeting with me that he now believed the email was whited out.  if you need it let me know and if you want corroboration I can get it from the private investigator who recorded it.  PI Craig Ward was also in the meeting and had the recorder in his pocket and he produced the CD with the recording.

At what point is anyone going to start holding prosecutors accountable?  BS like this is how innocent people get saddled with felony convictions…..if I had been given that non redacted email when Judge Eblen ordered Edwards to turn it over my case would have been resolved much earlier as it reveals the true intention of the alleged victim.  What the redacted portion reveals is that Andrew Cook had no contact with investigator Vittatoe from 1/31/13 till 4/9/13 and it paired with the phone records reveal the true motive for the complaint.

If Andrew Cook and Edwards claim it was not exculpatory then why didn’t they turn it over when Judge Eblen ordered it?  not that it matters because when a judge orders an attorney to do something and he lies about it to avoid complying with the order, that is an ethical violation no matter how you slice it.

I think its also noteworthy to point out Edwards never replied to Andrew’s inquiry about the email in question by email…..clearly an attempt to try and conceal his activities regarding it…..

also you will notice after the 4/14/16 email Andrew Cook never mentions it again…..i’ll be if we review the phone records there will be a phone call between the 2 of them that week.

so anyway….tell me at what point you are going to do something….otherwise just put a statement on your site that says “attorneys don’t have to abide by judges orders or rules of ethics”…because by taking no action, that is exactly what you’re saying.

Roy Cook

In a letter addressed to Edwards dated December 10, 2018, a copy of which Roy Cook received on December 12, Beverly Sharpe, Director of Consumer Assistance for the BOPR wrote, “Our office has heard from Mr. Cook again.  He has read through more documentation in his case.  He believes you had unredacted email which would have been helpful to his defense, but denied that you had it.  Further, he claims the judge ordered you to turn it over and you did not.”


The letter asks Edwards to respond to the complaint within ten days.

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