The ex-leaders of the Pilot Flying J truck stop company accused of orchestrating a multi-million dollar rebate fraud scheme want a federal judge to move their trial away from Knoxville, thanks to extensive ongoing media coverage.
In a filing Thursday, attorneys for former Pilot President Mark Hazelwood, former vice presidents Scott "Scooter" Wombold and John "Stick" Freeman and other ex-employees asked a federal judge for permission to file a lengthy request to change the location of their trial.
Requests to change trial locations are typically made when defendants believe jurors have been overly exposed to details of the case. The filing said "pretrial publicity in this case has been extensive," noting there have been "hundreds of pretrial newspaper and television media reports" about the case.
Pilot had nearly $23 billion in revenue last year according to Forbes and is owned by the family of Gov. Bill Haslam. It garnered considerable attention when FBI agents raided the company's Knoxville headquarters in 2013. The company has already paid more than $170 million in settlements, fees and fines in connection with allegations top executives orchestrated a scheme where rebates were offered but never paid to Pilot customers.
Hazelwood, Wombold, Freeman and all of the defendants in this specific case have pleaded not guilty. Ten former Pilot officials have already pleaded guilty in charges related to the alleged scheme.
Jimmy Haslam, who leads the company and owns the Cleveland Browns, has denied knowing about the scheme. He is not referenced in any of the filings in this case.
The office for the U.S. attorney in Knoxville did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A trial in the case is set for Oct. 2017.
Reach Dave Boucher at 615-259-8892 and on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.