Tennessee Grand Juries Co-Opted by Government, Operating Illegally
Saturday, 21 December 2013
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Tennessee Grand Juries Co-Opted by Government, Operating Illegally
Posted By Sharon Rondeau On Wednesday, December 18, 2013 @ 8:39 AM In National |
“THIS GOVERNMENT IS COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Dec. 18, 2013) — On Tuesday, CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.) went to the McMinn County, TN courthouse to submit a criminal complaint naming the grand jury foreman, court clerk, three Tenth Judicial District prosecutors and two criminal court judges as “illegally, individually and judicially selecting installing [sic] people into the grand juries,” thereby wielding undue influence in order to obtain specific outcomes.
Rhonda Cooley is the elected Circuit Court Clerk for McMinn County, and Atty. Jeffrey Cunningham, who is also a local bank official, is the appointed grand jury foreman.
Fitzpatrick had wished to explain to the grand jury that while the state attorney general’s office claims that the foreman is not a juror, but rather, a county employee, state law requires that the foreman must be a juror. Criminal court rules posted on the website of the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts state that “the foreperson shall possess all the qualifications of a juror.”
TCA 40-12-206 mandates that juries comprise 13 jurors and as many as five alternates. There is no mention in state code of a “foreman” who is injected into the grand jury or trial jury by the action of a judge, although the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts maintains that that process is legal. Local media have reported that “the foreperson is appointed by the judge and doesn’t necessarily have to come from the jury pool.”
Although the criminal courts in Tennessee have contorted the laws and court rules to allow the judges to choose the grand jury foreman, who often serves for years or decades at the judge’s behest, the District Attorneys General Conference has officially stated that the foreman is to be chosen from among 13 eligible citizens of the county who are selected by automated means.
Earlier this year, the Tennessee Attorney General declined to criminally prosecute District Attorney General R. Steven Bebb, who is named in Fitzpatrick’s current and previous complaints, after allegedly performing an investigation following extensive reportage at The Post & Email and The Chattanooga Times Free Press of Bebb’s alleged misconduct and criminal activity. The legislature, however, has taken action in an apparent attempt to remove Bebb from his post.
The Tennessee Supreme Court issued an opinion contending that a district attorney general “is answerable to no superior and has virtually unbridled discretion in determining whether to prosecute and for what offense.” Historically, the Tennessee General Assembly and the judiciary have acted at odds with and in contradiction to one another. The original 1796 Tennessee constitution contained no judicial branch, although the legislature later created one. Current General Assembly members are aware of the corruption within the grand juries and criminal courts.
Fitzpatrick’s four-page criminal complaint, dated December 16, 2013, can be read in its entirety here: 17DEC2013 GJCRIMCOM
Monroe County, TN has misrepresented the grand jury foreman as a juror and based criminal charges against Fitzpatrick and Darren Wesley Huff upon that false statement. On June 3, 2010, then-grand jury foreman Gary Pettway was described as “a juror” in indictments issued against both men signed by Angela Davis, who acted as foreperson for that day. Davis was herself serving illegally in a second consecutive term as a juror in violation of TCA 22-2-314.
On Tuesday and three previous occasions on which Fitzpatrick attempted to present criminal evidence to the McMinn County grand jury, the foreman, Jeffrey Cunningham, refused to recuse himself despite his having been named in the respective complaints. Instead, Cunningham brought the complaint in to the members of the grand jury and presided over them, then conveyed their “conclusion” to Fitzpatrick, as he did on Tuesday.
“This government is completely out of control,” Fitzpatrick said. “The grand jury is being controlled by the judges who appoint the foreman. Cunningham should not have been in the room today. He should have said, ‘I’m named in this complaint; I’m going to step outside and give it to Jack or Sally or whoever…You guys decide for yourselves…’ It’s astounding how serious this is; it’s breathtaking.
“Today was a special day because the report that I was bringing to them wasn’t my report; it was the report of the Attorney General‘s office for the State of Tennessee. They had a decision to make. I have very clearly demonstrated to them that Mr. Cunningham is not a juror, and they refused to look into this. The government is controlling the grand juries, and you cannot bring a complaint against the government because of people like Jeff Cunningham. It’s not just the foreman; it’s all of them. This grand jury is not protecting the people of the county,” Fitzpatrick said.
After Cunningham re-emerged from the grand jury room, which is also the office of U.S. Congressman Chuck Fleischmann, he informed Fitzpatrick that the grand jurors would not take action on his complaint and had asked that a deputy escort Fitzpatrick out of the building.
On December 7, 2011, Fitzpatrick observed Judge Amy Armstrong Reedy, who is named in the complaint submitted on Tuesday, peruse slips of paper containing the names of prospective jurors and choosing those she wanted, a fact which was presented to the appeals court on November 20 by Fitzpatrick’s attorney, Van Irion, who is defending him against the charge of “tampering with government records.”
One of the three appeals court judges appeared incredulous when Irion stated that Fitzpatrick had witnessed Reedy hand-picking jurors in open court. Fitzpatrick describes what Reedy did as “one example of how the system is vulnerable to human agency; picking your grand jury by pre-selecting them and knowing exactly what you’re going to get.”
The Tennessee constitution requires that evidence of a criminal nature be presented to a grand jury before a presentment against the person initiating a charge can be issued.
“This was historic. This grand jury in east Tennessee was shown unarguable, unassailable, unquestionable evidence that their foreman is not a juror, and they walked away from it, refusing to give their names. This is the kind of thing that would go into the history books when they used to be reliable.”
Tennessee state law requires that 13 people comprise a grand jury, but only 12 members routinely serve on a grand jury. Since the foreman is not a juror, but rather, represents the interests of the state, no grand jury in Tennessee can be operating impartially as is required by the Fifth Amendment to the Bill of Rights.
“This is the control that the government exercises over our jury system now. The jury system is completely unreliable and taken over. We don’t have any better example of that than what happened today. This is extraordinary. The person who was criminally accused, their buddy, the guy they’ve worked with all year, was standing in the room with them. The conflict here is just overwhelming,” Fitzpatrick told us.
Fitzpatrick has presented evidence to the local FBI in Knoxville as well as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), both of which have chosen not to act.
When The Post & Email asked Fitzpatrick if he believed that the grand jurors did not want to know the facts about their proper function and that of the foreman, he responded, “It’s not that they don’t want to know; it’s that they have been told not to act. ‘Do not do anything at all. You’ve been picked for a special purpose; you are not to act against the government. Cunningham is your foreman; that’s that; live with it. If you don’t like it, leave, and we’ll get somebody else.’”
At 6:35 in the following recording, Cunningham states that he was serving as the foreman on Tuesday, despite having been named in the criminal complaint: 17 DEC 2013 FIRST CONTACT WITH CUNNINGHAM
Fitzpatrick said that the inaction of the grand jury on Tuesday “washes over every grand jury that’s had a court-appointed foreman for the last unknown number of decades. There was no more clear a case than the one that walked in the door today, and they said, ‘We’re not interested.’”
Cunningham did not make copies of the complaint for the grand jurors, but rather, “read it to them” while he stood in the room, where Fitzpatrick was not allowed to enter. Cunningham also told Fitzpatrick that he “did not appreciate” that Fitzpatrick had accused him of “blocking” criminal complaints from reaching the grand jury. “His physical presence is an influence; it cannot be argued,” Fitzpatrick said. “He’s the one who broke the seal on the package, even though it said, ‘Do not open unless you are a grand juror.’ He knew that he was named in the complaint, and he should have said at that point in time, ‘I’m sorry, but I know I can’t be in the room.’”
“This is exactly the function that these foremen have been serving for decades throughout the entire state of Tennessee. This is the reason that the judicial system is so highly successful in bringing in the amounts of money that they have been generating and sending people to jails and prisons for untold years.”
Cunningham did not return Fitzpatrick’s complaint or provide him with a signed statement from the grand jurors. 17 Dec 2013 PET 0838
Cunningham told Fitzpatrick that he “had made that mistake once and wasn’t going to make it again” when he provided Fitzpatrick a copy of the grand jury’s decision not to review his complaint containing their signatures. Tuesday’s “decision” was said to be “unanimous.”
At slightly past halfway in the following recording, Cunningham refused to return Fitzpatrick’s paperwork and contended that Fitzpatrick’s claims against him were “absolutely false.” Cunningham then said that “the grand jury would like for him to leave” and asked a deputy sheriff and chaplain to escort Fitzpatrick out of the building.
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