Prosecutors Say Judge Collier Should Not Step Aside In Pilot Fraud Case Retrial

Monday, June 7, 2021

Prosecutors said Judge Curtis Collier should not recuse himself from a retrial of the Pilot Flying J fraud case.

Former Pilot president Mark Hazelwood earlier said Judge Collier is biased against him and should not preside over his retrial.

Prosecutor David Lewen said the federal 6th Court of Appeals had already ruled on the issue. 

He said, "Specifically, the Sixth Circuit found that 'nothing in the record suggests that the district court would have substantial difficulty in setting aside previously expressed views' and that 'the record demonstrates the district court’s unwavering dedication to the integrity of the criminal justice process.' ” 

Convictions against Hazelwood were overturned by two members of a three judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals based on Judge Collier allowing the jury to hear racist songs and banter during a Pilot sales party attended by Hazelwood. 

New attorneys for Hazelwood said the recordings were highly prejudicial to Hazelwood and tainted the jury against him. 

Hazelwood, in a 29-page memorandum, said, "I believe the Court has a personal bias and prejudice against me and in favor of the government, and that a reasonable and informed person (a) would conclude that the Court has such a bias and prejudice, and (b) might question the Court’s impartiality." 

Hazelwood is now represented by attorneys Jim Walden and Bradley Henry of New York City and Robert M.

Cary of Washington, D.C.

The government is also opposing an attempt by defense attorneys to move the trial out of Chattanooga. 

Other defendants are Scott Wombold and Heather Jones.

Prosecutors say Pilot management bilked trucking firms out of millions of dollars of promised rebates.

The case was pushed back because prosecutor Lewen is the lead prosecutor in a complex, multi-defendant Vice Lord gang case scheduled for trial beginning July 7 before U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan in Knoxville. That trial is expected to last approximately 4-6 weeks. 


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