The legal defense team for Mark Hazelwood announced it filed a brief presenting the court with newly found exculpatory evidence in support of his request for a new trial in the case surrounding truck stop chain Pilot Flying J.
The brief was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee by Walden Macht & Haran LLP on behalf of the former president of the truck stop chain. The attorneys claim the government used a “doctored and materially incomplete transcript of a critical recording.”
Hazelwood was found guilty by a jury in February of three out of the four federal charges brought against him – including conspiracy to commit mail/wire fraud and witness tampering – in connection with his alleged role in a multi-million dollar rebate scam to bilk customers out of $56 million. He was found not guilty on the remaining charge of wire fraud.
The Walden Macht & Haran press release said, “The new evidence reveals that the government, either intentionally or unintentionally, used a doctored and materially incomplete transcript of a secret and critical recording at trial, thus fundamentally misleading the jury. The doctored transcript was the single most important piece of evidence used by the prosecution to convict Mr. Hazelwood on charges of criminal intent to commit fraud. To view the correct, certified transcript filed with the court on August 31, click here.
“The presentation of an inaccurate and doctored transcript before the jury constitutes both misconduct by the prosecution and a gross miscarriage of justice. This discovery further augments a growing body of exculpatory evidence that has been presented to the court following the request on June 25 by Mr. Hazelwood’s lawyers for fresh proceedings on grounds of insufficient evidence, prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of former trial counsel.”
Walden Macht & Haran says the new evidence proves a witness transcription considered evidence was considered inaccurate and Hazelwood’s testimony was not shown in its entirety to the jury, WATE said. They said this new evidence proves Hazelwood did not believe or was unaware customers were being defrauded and confirms his innocence.
The Knoxville News-Sentinel on Aug. 14 reported that Hazelwood won a one-month reprieve from his sentencing hearing from Aug. 22 to Sept. 26 to give Walden Macht & Haran LLP, his new legal counsel, time to prepare. The team wanted to test fraud figures that will form the basis of the penalty range he faces for allegedly scheming to lure truckers to do business with Pilot Flying J by promising discounts and then shorting them.
Senior U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier had agreed to Hazelwood firing his former legal team; Walden Macht & Haran had promised it would be ready for the sentencing but later said it could not meet the deadline, the newspaper reported.
“Hazelwood wanted a four-month delay. Collier was having none of that and accused Hazelwood’s new defense team of betraying his trust by promising they would need no delay at all,” The News-Sentinel said.
On June 25, the defense filed a motion for a new trial on alleged grounds of insufficient evidence, prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of former trial counsel.
Walden Macht & Haran wanted “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,” WBIR said.
Hazelwood alleged in U.S. District Court filings in Knoxville that his former counsel did not do a good job and forgot to formally file a request for a new trial after Hazelwood was convicted in February.
“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 lawyers wrote in a release.