Too expensive to try again the former president of the pilot company

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The US Department of Justice has said it does not want to waste taxpayer dollars on a second lawsuit against trucking industry mogul and former pilot company chairman Mark Hazelwood.

Acting U.S. Attorney Trey Hamilton filed a motion Tuesday in Knoxville U.S. District Court, seeking “court leave” to dismiss all charges against Hazelwood and two Pilot Company subordinates already tried and convicted in a conspiracy to defraud the truck stop giant’s trucking customers. An appeals court overturned the convictions.

The Justice Department does not need the approval of U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier to drop the case as the agency vows to never seek further prosecution of Hazelwood and two former staff convicted of various counts. accusation at his side.

The motion is largely a courtesy and is designed, in part, to prevent Collier from exercising his authority to force a lawsuit over the Department’s objections.

Hamilton cites three reasons for this unexpected move: the “personal circumstances” of former Pilot Company sales managers and staff who pleaded guilty and many of whom spent time in jail; the “challenge” of resuscitating the case; and “limited government resources”.

Hazelwood was convicted in 2018 after a four-month trial for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and witness tampering.

He was the highest ranking Pilot Flying J employee convicted in the conspiracy. Two subordinates were convicted of various crimes alongside him and 14 others pleaded guilty. Two were granted immunity. The board of directors of Pilot Flying J has also acknowledged its criminal liability.

A federal appeals court overturned the convictions of Hazelwood and two of his former employees last October, ruling that a judge was wrong to allow jurors to hear tapes of Hazelwood making racist and sexist remarks.

Former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood enters the Chattanooga Federal Courthouse on Wednesday, September 26, 2018.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals – in a 2-for-1 decision – overturned the convictions of Hazelwood and former employees Scott Wombold and Heather Jones in a multi-year program to defraud trucking companies doing business with the nation’s largest diesel fuel retailer. by reducing some of the discounts promised.

Decision:Former Pilot Flying J Chairman Mark Hazelwood Wins Appeal Against Racist Tapes

After the ruling, Hazelwood’s legal team promptly issued a statement: “Mark Hazelwood’s nightmare is now over. We believed in his innocence from day one. We are delighted that the Department of Justice has agreed that dismissal is the only appropriate remedy. We look forward to seeing the next chapter in Mark’s life surrounded by his wife, Joanne, and loving family, and are honored to have been able to tell his whole story the truth. Mark is innocent. ”

Lawyers Ben Vernia and Cullen Wojcik made the following statement: “Heather Jones has maintained her innocence since this ordeal began over 8 years ago. She is deeply satisfied with the government’s dismissal motion, and looks forward to the court ruling on it. so she can finally put this whole thing behind her and move on with her life. It has been an honor for my co-counsel Ben Vernia and I to represent Ms. Jones, and we couldn’t be happier for her. “

The Justice Department did not immediately comment. Wombold’s attorneys declined to comment.

Underlings remain criminals

The nightmare for 14 of Hazewood’s underlings – offered by the same Justice Department to testify against their former boss – is not over.

Each of them will remain marked as criminal. Most have now served a prison sentence. All have waived their right to appeal.

According to Hamilton’s motion, the Hazelwood defense team are now claiming that many of these former minions are unwilling to testify. A few, he wrote, now claim to have been falsely accused and, therefore, would not be “credible” on the witness stand.

“This situation, coupled with the fact that the government’s case concerns facts and circumstances that occurred almost a decade or more ago and which can only be presented by overcoming the challenges of obtaining continued assistance from serving co-operators, some of whom have allegedly made statements since conviction that would negatively impact the credibility of their testimony at a retrial, ”Hamilton wrote.

It’s the unexpected end of a case that began dramatically on Tax Day 2013 when federal agents entered the Pilot Company headquarters on Lonas Drive in Knoxville armed with search warrants.

Jimmy Haslam, owner of the Cleveland Browns, was then the CEO of the Knoxville-based trucking giant. He said he was stunned and promised to get to the bottom of it.

The Justice Department, in turn, made public the search warrant application – a rarity amid an ongoing lawsuit – which detailed a plan to get small trucking companies to do business with Pilot in their own right. offering the same discounts on diesel fuel given to large corporations.

Scholars would then save pennies on that promised rebate, believing that small businesses would never know they were being cheated. And, in fact, they did not, as evidence at trial showed.

Until the FBI persuaded a Pilot sales manager to secretly tape meetings and trainings. Hazelwood was captured on those recordings hurling racial slurs at the Browns and their fans, as well as on plans to expand the rebate program offered to small trucking companies.

Pilot’s board of directors admitted its sales division was involved in the scheme and paid $ 92 million in criminal penalties. The board of directors also spent some $ 85 million to settle the lawsuits over the scheme. The board also agreed to pay Hazelwood $ 40 million in an employment contract in which the ex-president promised to remain silent about these racist tapes if they were made public.

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