Cleveland Browns owner loses round in deposition fight

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is a step closer to having to answer questions about fraud at the truck stop chain where he is president and CEO.

Haslam has denied any knowledge of the scheme that has cost Pilot Flying J $177 million in settlements with customers and the government since it came to light after federal agents raided the company’s Knoxville, Tennessee, headquarters in April 2013.

Pilot’s former president and seven others, including two former top executives, have been indicted and face trial next year on charges they conspired to cheat customers out of promised discounts and rebates. Another 10 former employees have pleaded guilty in the fraud. But Haslam has not been charged criminally and for three years has fought legal efforts by trucking companies to depose him.

While about 5,500 firms were part of a class-action lawsuit against Pilot that settled quickly, Mobile-based Wright Transportation is one of several that opted pursue their own lawsuits in state court. Haslam has been ordered to sit for a deposition in that case.

On Friday, Mobile Circuit Court Judge Sarah Stewart declined Haslam’s request to reconsider her order, according to But that does not end his attorneys’ efforts to stop the deposition. They have also filed a motion for a protective order, claiming the case should not move forward until jurisdictional issues are resolved. On May 13, the court will hear arguments on that motion.

Pilot is owned by Haslam and his brother, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who has said he is not involved with operating the company. It is the nation’s largest diesel retailer with $31.4 billion in revenue in 2014.

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