Attorney Says Some Defendants In Pilot Case Received Death Threats After Playing Of Racist Recording

Friday, January 12, 2018

An attorney in the Pilot Travel Centers fraud case said Friday that some defendants have received death threats after the playing of a racist tape in court.

Attorney Cullen Wojcik said the issue "has exploded on social media" since Judge Curtis Collier allowed the jury at Federal Court in Chattanooga to hear portions of the secretly recorded tape. He said, "On Twitter there have been hundreds and hundreds of posts."

He said one poster declared, "They should all die."

Attorney Wojcik said two of those charged with defrauding trucking companies, Karen Mann and Heather Jones, were not at the Rockwood, Tn., lake house of former Pilot sales vice president John Freeman when the recording was made and have nothing to do with it.

However, two other defendants, Mark Hazelwood and Scott Wombold, were present when the David Allan Coe song "My Wife Ran Off With A N-----" was played during a late-night drinking session and when there were numerous raucous comments about it.

There were also taunts about blacks in Oakland and in Cleveland, where Pilot CEO Jimmy Haslam owns the Browns football team. Also ridiculed were the rabid "Dawgs" fans of the Browns as well as a couple of Pilot board members. There were repeated chants of "Dawgs," Dawgs."

It was difficult to hear some of the recordings in court or to make out who was talking. Attorneys said on the transcripts some speakers are identified while others could not be made out.  

Attorney Wojcik said attorneys are seeking a mistrial over the issue.

The comment came at an afternoon hearing on the request of several media outlets for transcripts of the recordings played in court as well as the recordings themselves.

The request is also for the unsealing of motions and court orders dealing with the issue.

Judge Collier has given attorneys seven days to state their positions on the request to unseal the motions and orders.

He said he would issue an order later on that issue and the request for the transcript and recordings.

Attorneys said the transcripts were not entered as evidence, but just as aids to the jurors.

Attorney Rick Hollow of Knoxville, representing the media outlets, made a lengthy presentation about the rights of the media to public documents in a timely fashion.

Attorney Rusty Hardin said if the documents are released, it should not be until the trial is over, which could be in March.

He said release of the documents would increase the chance that comments and furor about them would reach the jurors, who are allowed to go home each night but are instructed not to read or watch anything about the case.

Attorney Hollow said jurors have consistently said they have not had anyone try to talk to them about the case.

Judge Collier allowed the tape after the Hazelwood defense portrayed him as an excellent company president. He said it was evidence to refute that portrayal in that Hazelwood risked that word of the conduct at the sales meeting would get out to the public and to Pilot customers.  

Judge Collier, who is black as is one alternate on the jury, clarified that earlier he had not expressed any opinion on the content of the tapes, but quoted some of the remarks of attorneys in motions that had been filed. That included attorneys characterizing the content of the tapes as "vile" and "beyond the pale."

Darren Seay, a top Pilot accountant, said soon after the April 15, 2013, FBI raid of the Knoxville headquarters that a thorough audit began to determine which trucking companies had been cheated and how much.

The total amount was over $56 million.

BP Express was defrauded of $218,463 in rebates it was promised, but not paid. The Loss to JTL Carriers was $119,222 and to another trucking line was $131,188.

Ryder Truck Rental was shorted $82,236 and Queen Transportation wound up being owed and paid $60,656.

Mr. Seay said the job was so large that accountants from Nashville and Knoxville were brought in to help in the examination of all customer accounts.


OLD PHOTOS: More Cameron Hill Pictures

Here are more photos of historic Cameron Hill (click for more)

Hamilton County Clerk's Office Honors Donors With Donate Life Flag

Hamilton County Clerk Bill Knowles announced his office will raise the Donate Life Flag during the month of April.  Blue and green flags will be flying outside courthouses and county office buildings around Tennessee in recognition of National Donate Life Month.  This is an effort by county clerks to bring attention to the importance of organ and tissue donation.  ... (click for more)

Tax All County Property Owners Once For School Safety

Our School Board, Sheriff Hammond, school administrators and the community are thoughtfully considering how to maintain safety in classrooms. Currently, discussions indicate more funding will be needed to ensure school safety. If schools are not safe and more money will change that, by all means let’s move to fix the problem.   There are many caring and knowledgeable ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: ‘In God We Trust …And Protecting Our School Children

On a day that the Tennessee Legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill that would prominently display the words “In God We Trust” in every school building in the state, the Hamilton County School Board gave my boy Bad Little Johnny cause to get a magic market and scribble underneath, “but ‘Everybody Else Is Gonna’ Need A Pistol!’” Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond, who was ... (click for more)

Ooltewah, Meigs County Post Wins In Ooltewah Invitational Softball

(Story will be updated) On the first full day of play in the Ooltewah Invitational, the host Lady Owls and two-time Class A state champion Meigs County posted impressive wins at The Summit. Ooltewah’s Hadley Morrow overcame a rough start and scattered seven hits, Kayla Boseman smacked a two-run home run in a three-run fourth inning, center-fielder Addy Keylon made a ... (click for more)

Currie To Get $2.5 Million In UT Separation Agreement

The University of Tennessee announced it has completed an amicable resolution parting ways with former Tennessee Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics John Currie. The University has agreed to pay John Currie $2.5 million payable as follows: Currie will be paid $2,220,454.60 no later than April 1, Currie has already been paid his salary for December 2017 through February ... (click for more)