Haslam makes "first public comments" on Pilot J investigation in "five years"
Jimmy Haslam, owner of the Cleveland Browns and CEO of Flying Pilot J, made what he called his "first public comments in five years" about Pilot's rebate fiasco. They were made Friday at a Browns' press conference.
Haslam responded to Judge Curtis Collier's ruling Thursday that Mark Hazelwood's remarks on FBI informant tapes will be played in his court on Jan. 10th. Hazelwood is Pilot's former President and is on trial in Judge Collier's court for fraud, conspiracy, and tampering with a witness.
Collier said Thursday that Hazelwood's taped remarks were "vile", "inflammatory", and "beyond the pale". Collier is a Federal U.S. District Court Judge in Eastern Tennessee, Knoxville.
Here is how Haslam responded to Collier's ruling:
"I've said that since the investigation started five years ago, I wouldn't comment but the events that came out yesterday in the courtroom justify comments. And I'll just stand by what we said yesterday. None of those individuals work for us. Nobody who works for our company now was present at that event. That's not how we act and do things. Those kind of remarks are intolerable. And I'm actually glad you asked that question."
Haslam has no part in Hazelwood's trial.
Haslam said that neither he nor Flying Pilot J have been charged with any criminal wrongdoing. Haslam never received immunity and can still be charged. Flying Pilot J has already copped a plea. Pilot paid a $92 million fine to the U.S. Treasury in 2014. By paying the fine, the U.S. Justice Department's Criminal Division agreed to stop all further criminal proceedings against Pilot, the corporation. Pilot could have been prosecuted under racketeering, RICO statutes.
Also at Friday's press conference, Haslam failed to maintain his innocence of either himself or Hazelwood. They are innocent until proven guilty or plead guilty. However, Haslam did say Pilot would continue to pay Hazelwood's legal fees until such time Pilot's former President is found or pleads guilty. Haslam never mentioned Hazelwood's innocence.
Fourteen of Pilot's former employees have plead guilty to a variety of charges. Some are facing 20 years in jail. Some are testifying against Hazelwood with hopes of reducing their sentences.
Haslam hired Mark Hazelwood and promoted him three times. Hazelwood was paid $30 million a year at Pilot.
Haslam signed a 25-page U.S. Justice Dept. document admitting that Pilot Flying J stole $56 million from its customers, accepting criminal responsibility for Pilot's conduct. That document is available at:
According to the FBI, they gave defense counsel 200 hours of wiretap recordings which included Hazelwood's "inflammatory", "vile" and "prejudicial" comments made at company sponsored meetings, settings, and events. Hazelwood's attorneys knew what their client said on tape. They were unable to get their client to cop a plea.
Haslam's first public comments were made the day after the FBI and IRS raided Pilot. That press conference is in the second video.
Judge Curtis Collier