Pilot Trial May Go Into March; Court Faces Possibility Of Running Out Of Jurors

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The fraud trial of four former Pilot Travel Centers employees at Federal Court in Chattanooga may run into March, leaving the worry that the court could run out of jurors.

Judge Curtis Collier on Thursday afternoon pointed out that if the jury pool drops below 12 "the case would have to be tried all over."

Prosecutor Trey Hamilton was quick to say, "We don't want that."

The trial of Mark Hazelwood, Scott Wombold, Heather Jones and Karen Mann started in early November, but there was a break of over a month for the holidays.

There were initially four alternates in addition to the panel of 12. However, a female juror did not show up on a Monday morning and it was learned she was off on a week's pleasure trip without notifying the court. That left three alternates.

Judge Collier said it was just learned that one of the jurors has accepted a new job in Knoxville. Ironically, the trial was moved to Chattanooga from Knoxville, Pilot headquarters. She is to move to Knoxville in early February to start the new job.

That would drop the number of alternates to two.

Judge Collier said he wanted to hold court Jan. 20-27, but one of the jurors is asking off for that week. He asked his courtroom deputy to ask that juror if she could put off the time off, but the courtroom deputy did not look hopeful that the juror would be available then.

Attorney Rusty Hardin, of Houston, Tex., said he was going to ask off for Monday, Jan. 22. He said fellow attorney Andy Drumheller lost his home to the Houston flood and is due to move back in that day. He noted that attorney Drumheller has been unable to help on the case this week due to the flu. He said the defense team for Mark Hazelwood needs him back.

On Friday morning, Judge Collier said there will be no court in the case Jan. 20-27.

Prosecutor Hamilton said the state is nearing the end of its proof. He said it could finish in two more days if there were no cross-examination. However, there are lawyers for four defendants cross-examining most witnesses - sometimes extensively.

Among those who have not yet testified are Vincent Greco, a former top Pilot sales director who began working with the FBI and wearing a mic, and John Freeman, a former Pilot vice president of sales who has been mentioned often during the weeks-long trial. Greco was granted immunity. Freeman pleaded guilty.

Attorney Hardin said each defendant may have around five witnesses - for a total of around 20.

It will be Judge Collier who will be sentencing all the defendants in the case, including those who entered guilty pleas earlier.

Authorities said those pleading guilty face up to five years in prison, while those going to trial risk up to 20 years if convicted.

Pilot is paying the cost of the attorneys representing the four defendants who chose not to plead guilty. 


New Book Chattanooga In Old Photos Now Available At Zarzours; Enter Drawing To Win All 4 Photo Books

The new book Chattanooga in Old Photos, sponsored by Chattanoogan.com, is now available at Zarzours Restaurant on the Southside. The limited edition of 800 copies is printed by College Press of Collegedale. It is the fourth book in the collection called the Chattanooga Photo Books made possible by Chattanoogan.com. The others are The Remarkable Stokes Collection, Railroads ... (click for more)

Cody Tyler Appling, 31, Arrested In Bradley County For Aggravated Burglary

Cody Tyler Appling, 31, was arrested on Monday for aggravated burglary and other charges. Bradley County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a burglary in progress at a residence on Bates Pike early Monday morning. The homeowner called 911 after discovering his back door ajar, and Appling inside the home.  A fight ensued between the homeowner and Appling as Appling attempted ... (click for more)

Rhonda Thurman Was On Target On The Magnet Schools

I can remember Rhonda Thurman telling the other members of the School Board that she would love to go to Las Vegas with certain parents that won the right to go to a Magnet School because they beat all odds.  She also called Magnet Schools"Private Schools" long before anyone else did.  It is truly amazing what some people won't or don't hear.  I hope some ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Who Do You Trust?

About this time last month a 25-year-old kid with a fresh degree in “public policy” left me a phone call hoping to get my views. Joda Thongnopnua is the Democratic candidate for the State House in District 30 and he is like a load of other erstwhile politicians in my experience who I’ve never heard of but “really want to meet me” … this with less than a month before they “really” ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Red Wolves SC Opens Ticket Deposits

Chattanooga Red Wolves Soccer Club opened ticket deposits on Monday for its inaugural 2019 season of professional play in USL League One. Deposits ensure soccer fans get to pick their preferred seats early for group, season and individual tickets. By placing a deposit, fans will also have access to priority seating for the new soccer-specific stadium being built for the 2020 ... (click for more)

Baylor, GPS, CCS Advance To State Soccer Semifinals

Baylor traveled to Briarcrest in Memphis on Saturday to compete for a Division II-AA final four spot.  After play to a 0-0 tie in the first half, Baylor would find itself down 1-0 in the 63rd minute when Anna Strong scored off a corner kick.  That lead did not last long as Ara Rhodes scored the game tying goal one minute later off an Avery David corner kick. Two minutes ... (click for more)