Judge Collier, In 18-Page Ruling, Defends Allowing Racially-Charged Tape In Pilot Trial

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Judge Curtis Collier, in an 18-page ruling, defended allowing a racially-charged tape recording in the Pilot Travel Centers trial.

The jury in Chattanooga earlier was allowed to hear brief excerpts of the secretly-recorded tape made at a lake house at Rockwood, Tn.

Judge Collier noted that a number of direct sales employees were there for a management meeting to plan a larger sales meeting and training at Pilot headquarters in Knoxville in November 2012. Mark Hazelwood, Pilot president at the time, arrived at the lake house later in the evening.

The judge said the three recordings that were played for the jury "included defendant Hazelwood and a number of his subordinates using racist epithets, listening to a song defendant Hazelwood suggested be played containing racist and sexually explicit lyrics, and making various comments and jokes about sensitivity training, Pilot's human resources department, Pilot's board, and other subjects."

Judge Collier said he allowed the evidence "to rebut defendant Hazelwood's evidence of the character trait of sound business judgment."

The government had sought to introduce the evidence, alleging that attorneys for Hazelwood "had introduced evidence of his character for sound business judgment, in the sense that he would not participate in or allow dumb activities by his subordinates, such as lying to customers in a small part of the business, that would risk bringing down the business he had done so much to develop."

Hazelwood is charged along with Scott Wombold, Heather Jones and Karen Mann as part of a scheme to defraud trucking companies by promising them certain discounts, but paying them less.

All defense attorneys sought to have the evidence excluded.

Judge Collier said it should be sufficient that he instructed the jury that it was to be considered against Hazelwood only and not at all against the other three.

Defense attorneys maintain the evidence was more prejudicial than probative and quoted one prior case as saying "the most unfairly prejudicial and dangerous evidence in a trial is that of racial bias and prejudice."

An attorney for several media outlets is asking Judge Collier to unseal motions and rulings relating to the tapes as well as transcripts of its full contents. He has not yet ruled on that issue.



Dalton Police Seek Identity Of 2 Outback Steakhouse Thieves

The Dalton Police Department is asking for the public’s help with identifying two thieves who apparently were able to watch key strokes on a computer to steal an employee’s password and use it to break into a cash register at Outback Steakhouse. The suspects were recorded by the restaurant’s surveillance system. The theft happened on Tuesday  shortly after  8:30 ... (click for more)

Catoosa County Arrest Report For May 18-24

Click  here  for the Catoosa County arrest report for May 18-24. (click for more)

Speaking Of A Cove

Mr. Sole Commissioner Whitfield,   I live in  a cove in western most Chattanooga. My back yard is woods. My front yard is woodland too. My neighbors and I had chance to voice our disagreement in 1996 to the proposed sale of a portion of the farm that dominated this cove and we did. There weren’t very many of us. One member of the group that listened to ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: 'Don't Dare Endorse Me!'

When Joe Smith, a member of the Hamilton County School Board, met with officials of the UnifiEd political action committee on Tuesday, his instructions to his somber listeners were very specific. He told the leaders of the now-tainted education non-profit group. “Do not endorse me. I extended the courtesy of answering your questions … I am eager to do the right thing. But I am saying ... (click for more)

Baylor Wins D-II State Baseball

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Baylor School baseball team has been on a tear these past couple of weeks as they’ve been averaging double figures in runs scored and base hits. It's become quite a winning combination. That trend continued here at MTSU’s Reese Smith Jr. Field on Thursday afternoon in Baylor’s biggest and most important game of the season. Facing the Memphis University ... (click for more)

Baylor Wins Fourth Straight State Softball Title

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Baylor Lady Red Raiders and the GPS Bruisers have had some classic battles on the softball field in recent years, many times in the championship game of the Division II-Class AA portion of the state tournament. They met again on Thursday night on Starplex Field No. 3. Baylor won for the third time this year, but there’s really no way to adequately ... (click for more)