Recordings released in Pilot Flying J trial include racist remarks

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.-- Explosive audio recordings were released from the fraud trial of several executives of Pilot Flying J, the same company controlled by Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam.

The tapes reveal racist comments as well as conversations mocking the Browns.

Last month, Pilot Flying J’s former president Mark Hazelwood was found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, and one count of witness tampering. Two other executives were convicted as well.

The executives for the truck stop chain and nation’s largest diesel fuel retailer were convicted in a rebate plot to rip of trucking companies. The Haslam family has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

During the trial, the federal judge in Tennessee allowed jurors to read transcripts of secretly recorded audio tapes.

Prosecutors said it showed the executives using vile and racist language, and disparaging the Cleveland Browns organization and the city of Cleveland. Prosecutors claimed the tapes were crucial to demonstrate the executive’s character.

Over objections from the defense, the judge allowed the jury to hear some of the tapes. After several news organizations requested the actual recordings, the court released them Thursday afternoon.

One excerpt reads:

HAZELWOOD: “You know who’s number one, hadn’t won in 20 years, number one in off, off-field sales? The Browns are second from last. You know who’s number one?"
HAZELWOOD: "They’re two. Raiders. I said, 'Who buys the Raiders s***?'"
RALENKOTTER: "Brothers."
HAZELWOOD: "N******. I said, 'You think they’re gonna wear somethin’ that says the f***** Browns on it?' (Laughter)"
RALENKOTTER: "Maybe you oughta put 'Da Browns' on it."

Read the transcripts here, here and here.

Pilot Flying J re-released a statement from January when the tapes were first revealed in court.

"As we conveyed in January when the tapes were played in court, we are very disturbed and appalled by the extremely offensive and deplorable comments recorded over 5 years ago involving a small group of former sales employees. This kind of behavior is reprehensible, not tolerated, nor reflective of the guiding principles of Pilot Flying J and does not represent the values of the dedicated 28,000 team members that we have today.

“As soon as the Company was made aware of these tape recordings, immediate action was taken. The employees who participated were held responsible and are no longer with the Company. No current team member of Pilot Flying J was present or participated in this incident."

Continuing coverage of this story here

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