CHATTANOOGA - UPDATE, THURSDAY, 3:30 P.M.: Eight former Pilot executives and employees will face trial for alleged fraud beginning on Halloween in Chattanooga before a Chattanooga area jury.
Government prosecutors, defense attorneys and U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier reviewed case plans Thursday afternoon in a hearing at U.S. District Court in downtown Chattanooga.
Defense lawyers sought to move the case because of heavy pre-trial publicity.
Collier agreed the case could move to Chattanooga.
The trial is expected to take four to six weeks. The judge, however, would like to see it move much quicker.
"We will move along pretty quickly," he told attorneys.
Collier said the jury would hear evidence Mondays through Thursdays. He said he thought considering the length of the trial that it would be good for the jury to have Fridays off to tend to personal business.
The judge also said he planned to conduct voir dire - jury questioning - to help expedite the selection process.
Collier, who presides in Chattanooga, said the Pilot case had not gotten as much press attention here as it has in Knoxville. He noted sports fans in the area might be more cognizant of the case than anyone else because of CEO Jimmy Haslam's ownership of the Cleveland Browns.
He said he also he thought the privately owned fuel and truck stop firm had a lower business presence here than in Knoxville.
A pre-trial hearing is set for Oct. 3 in Chattanooga.
ORIGINAL STORY: Lawyers have endorsed holding the federal trial of eight former Pilot execs and employees in Chattanooga as a way to counter publicity about the high-profile case.
But a judge still wants to consider the idea.
On Thursday afternoon, attorneys for the eight are meeting at the federal courthouse in Chattanooga before Judge Curtis Collier. They're also expected to discuss deadlines for filing appropriate motions and records, although the trial still is expected to commence Oct. 31, 2017.
The eight including Mark Hazelwood, the former Pilot president, are accused of taking part in a multimillion-dollar scheme to cheat some trucking customers out of fuel rebates. They're charged with various counts of fraud.
Pilot CEO Jimmy Haslam is not under indictment and has said he knew nothing about the alleged scheme.
Related: New judge to hear Pilot case
Read more about the Pilot prosecution here.
In April 2013, federal agents raided Pilot's Knoxville headquarters in Bearden. They'd been working with a confederate who secretly recorded conversations during which Pilot employees allegedly talked about the scam and how to pull it off.
The eight were indicted in early 2016. They've pleaded innocent.
Ten other employees have pleaded guilty, are cooperating with the government and may end up testifying. They have yet to be sentenced.
On June 20, lawyers for the defendants awaiting trial filed a very brief "Joint Position Statement" about where to hold the trial. It stated in part "...they agree to conducting the trial in the Chattanooga Division of the Eastern District of Tennessee."
It's doubtful the defendants themselves will appear Thursday in Chattanooga. It's likely at least one of the attorneys will take part by phone, records indicate.
Those under indictment: Hazelwood; Scott "Scooter" Wombold, former vice president of national accounts; John ‘Stick” Freeman, former vice president of sales; account rep Katy Bibee; account rep Heather Jones; Vicki Borden, former director of wholesale and inside sales; Karen Mann, former regional account representative; and John Spiewak, former regional sales manager in Ohio.
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