NFL News: Federal Grand Jury Investigating Pilot Flying J

The hits keep coming for new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. Cleveland’s NewsChannel5 is reporting that a federal grand jury is hearing testimony from witnesses connected to the alleged rebate fraud. Spokesmen for both the US Attorney’s Office and Pilot Flying J declined to comment. For those us who are legally challenged, what does this mean, exactly? From the Federal Judicial Center:

A criminal case formally begins with an indictment or information, which is a formal accusation that a person committed a crime. An indictment may be obtained when a lawyer for the executive branch of the U.S. government–the U.S. attorney or an assistant U.S. attorney, also referred to as the prosecutor–presents evidence to a federal grand jury that, according to the government, indicates a person committed a crime. The U.S. attorney tries to convince the grand jury that there is enough evidence to show that the person probably committed the crime and should be formally accused of it. If the grand jury agrees, it issues an indictment. After the indictment is issued, the accused person (the defendant) is either summoned to court or arrested (if not already under arrest), depending on the severity of the crime.

A grand jury is different from a trial jury, or petit jury. A grand jury determines whether the person may be tried for a crime; a petit jury listens to the evidence presented at the trial and determines whether the defendant is guilty of the charge. Petit is the French word for “small”; petit juries usually consist of twelve jurors in criminal cases. Grand is the French word for “large”; grand juries have from sixteen to twenty-three jurors.

I’m sure it’ll be fine…

This is just more bad news for Haslam. Five former Pilot Flying J executives have pleaded guilty and are working with federal investigators. The Wall Street Journal has reported that Pilot Flying J is roughly 4 billion dollars in debt and rumors continued to swirl that, due to financial issues and the ongoing investigation, Haslam might have to sell the Browns (he has explicitly denied that the Browns are for sale).

Browns’ training camp begins on Wednesday, July 25th. I imagine Mr. Haslam can’t wait until the Browns start making some news on the field.

[Related: Browns to officially enter the 21st century with in-game upgrades]


  • EdgewaterJoe

    There’s no way in Hell he’ll be able to keep the Browns. Better to just sell the damn team ASAP. What an embarrassment for the NFL – aren’t they supposed to be able to find this stuff out?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Tears of a clown!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Whether it was the expansion franchise sold in a hurry to the guy who was partial owner of the previous team that just picked up and left to the cookie cutter slapped up stadium to this latest debacle I think it’s clear how much the NFL values the brand of the Cleveland Browns. That and they are a bunch of greedy SOBs who think the brand NFL is Godlike and unable to do wrong.

  • Scut_Farkus

    “But mainly you used the grand jury to indict people, and in the famous phrase of Sol Wachtler, chief judge of the State Court of Appeals, a grand jury would ‘indict a ham sandwich,’ if that’s what you wanted.” – Tom Wolfe

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    From the same judge:
    Q: And the death penalty?
    A: I referred to it in a speech once as being the chicken soup of politics– it can’t hurt.

    Say whatever else you want about Judge Wachtler, but he stays in his wheelhouse of food-based jurisprudence.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Isn’t this just a normal next step in a case like this?

    In general, the one aspect of the hubbub around this case I don’t get is that literally (no, really, I mean literally) nothing has changed since it started. There has not been one new piece of evidence or even a claim made that has changed since this started. That doesn’t mean it’s not serious; it doesn’t mean he couldn’t be in major trouble. But there’s nothing different between a while ago and now, yet it’s consistently presented by media et al as “mounting issues” and “more and more problems” when it’s just not the case. If anything, that out of the 7,000 customers “only” 17 filed lawsuits it’s a relatively good sign for Haslam and points to a more small-scale issue, and makes it more likely it was confined to a few bad apples as opposed to some vast conspiracy including him.

    Also, $4B in debts (most of which are scheduled to be dealt with already down the line) for a company that size simply isn’t that bad at all. Coca-Cola added $3.5B in debt just in 2012 and has $25B in debts on $48B in revenues.

  • Toddyus

    Your analysis is good, but I’m upvoting you on the basis that you used correctly the term, literally. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves. It’s one thing when random Netizens use it, but I was watching some sports show the other day and the commentator said, “My head literally exploded.” Wow. Really?