Judge won’t dismiss courthouse riot charges

October 6, 2010
MADISONVILLE, Tenn. – An East Tennessee judge has refused to dismiss charges against a military retiree and a former militia group member accused of causing a riot at a courthouse after a grand jury refused to charge President Barack Obama with treason.

Circuit Judge Jon Blackwood refused to dismiss felony and misdemeanor charges that include civil-rights intimidation, inciting a riot, disrupting a meeting and disorderly conduct.

Blackwood dismissed a defense motion contending that retired Navy Lt. Commander Walter F. Fitzpatrick III, 58, of Monroe County and former Georgia militia group member Darren Wesley Huff, 40, of Dallas, Ga., were indicted by a “tainted” grand jury process. The judge said they will go on trial Dec. 1.

Huff, who also faces related federal charges, was among about a dozen armed people who gathered at the courthouse in April. Court records show that Huff earlier the same day had a pistol during a traffic stop and told officers he also had an AK-47 in his truck. Records state that Huff had said he and others planned to take over the Monroe County Courthouse and arrest “domestic enemies of the United States engaged in treason.”

An FBI agent’s affidavit said Huff told officers that he and others were traveling to Madisonville to assist Fitzpatrick in making citizens arrests.

Both are charged with disrupting a closed April grand jury meeting in Madisonville in a failed attempt to arrest the foreman, Gary Pettway, who they contend was serving as foreman unlawfully for almost three decades.

Fitzpatrick’s attorney, Stephen Pidgeon, said at the hearing that Angela Davis, the woman who served as grand jury foreman in June when the indictment was signed, also was not a qualified grand juror. He said her appointment was unlawful because she previously served on another jury in 2009, making her ineligible for recall to jury service for at least two years.

The judge disagreed but gave no explanation.

Fitzpatrick, who has been trying to get the grand jury to attempt to remove Obama over claims he is not a U.S. citizen, wore his white Navy uniform to the hearing and questioned the judge when told he would not be allowed to wear it at the trial.

“I am not arguing,” the judge said.

Huff said after the hearing that in April he was a “member of a militia” but that his actions were not related to any group and that he had no intention of trying to take over any courthouse.

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