New lawyer for ex-PFJ president seeks new trial, judge
September 16, 2019
•Land Line Staff
The new lawyer for former Pilot Flying J president Mark Hazelwood is seeking a new judge and a new trial.
In a brief filed Sept. 4 in the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, Hazelwood’s new attorney, Shon Hopwood, argues that a judge’s decision to play recordings of his client using racist and sexist language during a meeting with other Pilot Flying J executives prejudiced the jury against Hazelwood.
In the brief, Hopwood argues that the recordings should not have been admitted into evidence because they had nothing to do with the fraud cause and prejudiced the jury against his client.
Last November, U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Collier sentenced Hazelwood to 12 years in prison and fined him $750,000 after he was found guilty of fraud and conspiracy in connection with Pilot Flying J’s fuel rebate scheme. The scam, which was perpetrated by several high-ranking members of the company, involved fraudulent and false pretenses, promises and representations made to the targeted trucking companies, including fraudulently generated invoices and rebate amounts.
The conspiracy came to light in 2013 following a raid on the company’s Knoxville, Tenn., headquarters by the FBI and the IRS. Pilot Flying J’s board confessed to criminal responsibility and paid a $92 million penalty. The nation’s largest truck stop chain paid an additional $85 million to settle various lawsuits filed by customers.
In addition to the request for a new trial, Hazelwood’s attorney argues that a new judge is required to hear the case.
“Even now, the judge refuses modest adjustments to conditions of the ‘release’ that this Court ordered pending appeal…” the brief states, before noting that Hazelwood “sought the chance –without objection from the government or the probation department – to leave his home for three hours a day, three days a week, with a custodian, to attend church and get needed outdoor exercise” which the judge has refused.
Hazelwood remains on house arrest pending the appeals process.