Judge Dismisses Flying J Charges

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A federal choose on July 28 granted a request by federal prosecutors to dismiss prison expenses in opposition to former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood and two different former firm executives, all of whom had been scheduled to be retried early subsequent 12 months on expenses associated to an enormous diesel gasoline rebate scheme.

Citing restricted authorities sources and witness credibility issues, federal prosecutors on July 27 filed a movement to dismiss the costs in opposition to the executives.

Hazelwood, former Pilot Vice President Scott Wombold and former Pilot account consultant Heather Jones had been convicted by a Tennessee jury in 2018 in reference to a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme to siphon gasoline rebates away from hundreds of truckers.

Mark Hazelwood

Former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood proven together with his spouse, Joanne, in September 2018. (Caitie McMekin/Knoxville Information Sentinel)

However a federal appellate court in October overturned the convictions on the grounds {that a} decrease federal courtroom permitted use of proof that ought to not have been admitted.

Of their movement to dismiss the 8-year-old case, prosecutors stated, “The federal government has decided {that a} retrial on this case would require the testimony of cooperator whose private circumstances trigger the federal government to conclude that it might be inappropriate to compel her testimony, and, in any occasion, forestall the federal government from being assured within the reliability of that witness’ recollection of serious info and circumstances.”

As well as, prosecutors stated, “The federal government seeks this go away in good religion, that’s with no intention of partaking in a ‘prosecutorial harassment’ scheme via a sample of dismissal and recharging. In that vein, the federal government consents to dismissal with prejudice.”

Since October, attorneys for the executives and federal prosecutors have been sparring by way of courtroom paperwork over the proof and the influence of the appellate courtroom overturning the case.

In reversing the convictions final 12 months, the U.S. sixth Circuit Court docket of Appeals remanded the case to the district courtroom for a brand new trial. In Might, attorneys for the three executives requested a Chattanooga, Tenn., federal choose for a change of venue to another state for that deliberate retrial. However with the choose’s order for dismissal, the retrial is now shelved.

The appeals courtroom stated the federal district courtroom wrongly admitted recordings of Hazelwood utilizing “deeply offensive racist and misogynistic language” on the idea that if Hazelwood was “reckless sufficient to make use of language that would threat public outrage in opposition to the corporate, he was a ‘unhealthy businessman,’ and as a nasty businessman, he was additionally reckless sufficient to commit fraud.”

In a associated affidavit additionally filed in Might, Hazelwood requested Senior U.S. District Court docket Choose Curtis Collier to recuse himself from the retrial, saying his actions in the course of the trial had been biased and that permitting the recordings to be heard by the jury confirmed that “an inexpensive particular person, if conscious of all of the related circumstances, would possibly query the courtroom’s impartiality.”

The case in opposition to the three executives and others started with a raid on Pilot’s headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn. Greater than 50 FBI and IRS brokers poured into the corporate’s three-story workplaces on the afternoon of April 15, 2013.

Previous to Hazelwood’s trial, 14 former Pilot gross sales executives had been charged, pleaded responsible and agreed to cooperate with the federal government whereas awaiting sentencing. Hazelwood originally was sentenced to 12½ years in jail and fined $750,000, however he by no means frolicked behind bars.

Pilot already has paid the federal government a $92 million penalty to take duty for the prison actions of the staff concerned, however the settlement didn’t preclude particular person prosecutions.

In November 2013, a federal choose in Arkansas approved an $84.9 million settlement supply from Pilot to reimburse as many as 5,500 clients included in a class-action lawsuit in opposition to the corporate.

Scott Wombold and Heather Jones


Jim Walden, Hazelwood’s lead legal professional, stated all alongside he has maintained the executives’ innocence.

“I’ve to restrain my feedback to what’s on the general public file,” Walden, an legal professional for the New York regulation agency of Walden Macht & Haran LLP, instructed Transport Subjects. “However I don’t assume it takes a lot creativeness to observe the breadcrumb path right here.”

Walden stated the prosecutors’ movement for dismissal coming so late within the case was uncommon.

“It was an extended journey. It was a tough journey,” Walden stated. “There have been paperwork that had been buried in a database that undercut the federal government’s core theories. I actually do consider that if all this proof had turn into identified earlier than the trial, there would haven’t been a conviction.”

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Lawyer’s Workplace in Knoxville, Tenn., declined touch upon the dismissal.

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https://www.ttnews.com/articles/federal-judge-dismisses-charges-against-pilot-flying-j-executives | Choose Dismisses Flying J Expenses


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