Mark Hazelwood, the former President of Pilot Flying J, was recently sentenced to 12 ½ years in prison over his involvement in the infamous fuel rebate scam. He is supposed to report to prison at the end of the month, but he is now asking the judge to allow him to stay home with his family for Christmas.
While his request may sound outlandish, Hazelwood has reason to believe it might work. That’s because the judge already delayed his prison date to allow him to remain home for Thanksgiving.
Hazelwood is the highest-ranking executive at Pilot Flying J who was charged with a crime after being caught up in the fuel rebate scam. He was found guilty in February on charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and witness tampering.
U.S. District Court Judge Curtis L. Collier sentenced Hazelwood to 150 months in prison and ordered him to pay a $750,000 fine.
Hazelwood’s attorneys put forward a few different arguments to let him stay out of prison a little longer. They stated that since he was a man of “family values” and “a devout Christian,” he should be allowed to spend one last Christmas with his family.
As Judge Collier himself pointed out however; “Easter, the most important Christian religious holiday, would come just a few short months after Christmas.”
His attorneys also pointed out that two other former Pilot Flying J employees don’t have to report to prison until January 7th. But prosecutors responded that since neither of those two own a yacht or a private plane, face as lengthy a prison sentence, and don’t have the same millions of dollars at their disposal, they don’t pose the same flight risk as Hazelwood.
Hazelwood was one of the top executives at Pilot Flying J and was reportedly paid as much as $15 million per year. In addition to that, when he was fired following the FBI raid on the company’s headquarters, he received a $40 million check from the company. The company also agreed to pay all of his legal bills.
“I’m devastated I’m having to stand before you today,” Hazelwood said in a statement during his sentencing hearing. “I will be appealing my conviction. I do proclaim my innocence. We should have had policies and procedures to prevent this. We didn’t. I’m truly sorry.”
But Judge Collier has denied Hazelwood’s request to stay with his family through Christmas. So, as of now anyway, he will be navigating the appeals process from prison… starting just four days after Thanksgiving.