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Attorneys for former Pilot Flying J president file for new trial, citing insufficient evidence

Hazelwood faces years in federal prison for his role in a diesel fuel rebate scheme and turned to new legal help last month.
Credit: WBIR
Former Pilot Flying J president Mark Hazelwood

The new legal defense team for Mark Hazelwood, the former president of Pilot Flying J, said Monday that it filed a motion for a new trial in the case.

Hazelwood faces years in federal prison for his role in a diesel fuel rebate scheme and turned to new legal help last month.

He was convicted Feb. 15 of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit mail/wire fraud and witness tampering. The government alleged he led a team that worked together to cheat some diesel fuel customers of promised rebates.

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The new defense team, which is led by Jim Walden and Georgia Winston of Walden Macht & Haran and Bradley Henry of Breeding & Henry, demands "fresh proceedings on grounds of insufficient evidence to prove the charges against Mr. Hazlewood, prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective assistance of former trial counsel and legal errors."

Hazelwood alleges in U.S. District Court filings in Knoxville that lead counsel Rusty Hardin of Houston, Texas, didn't do a good job, forgetting in fact to formally file a request for a new trial after Hazelwood was convicted in February by a jury in Chattanooga.

"This extraordinary combination of factors denied Mr. Hazelwood his constitutional right to a fair trial and an adequate defense, and sets a concerning precedent for anyone seeking impartial justice in this country," his new defense team wrote in a release Monday.

During the trial, the government presented secret tape recordings made by a Pilot employee working with the government that showed Hazelwood engaged in racially charged conversation with other executives at a gathering at a private home.

His attorneys believe the admission of that recording was a fundamental error and said Hazelwood regrets the language he used.

“I am extremely ashamed of myself that I used this language, and I sincerely apologize for it. This language is inconsistent with my views on race and gender, my equal treatment of people, and the respect I have for all people, regardless of race or gender," Hazelwood said in a statement provided by his attorneys Monday.

A new trial would delay Hazelwood's scheduled sentencing later this summer.

He is supposed to be sentenced in August in the first of a series of sentencing rounds of former Pilot employees convicted in the sales scam. Fourteen former employees previously have pleaded guilty, and Hazelwood and two co-workers were convicted at trial Feb. 15.

Hazelwood faces an estimated 10 to 20 years in prison.