- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014
APNewsBreak: Tennessee brings back electric chair

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee has decided to bring back the electric chair.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday signed a bill into law allowing the state to electrocute death row inmates in the event the state is unable to obtain drugs used for lethal injections.

Tennessee lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the electric chair legislation in April, with the Senate voting 23-3 and the House 68-13 in favor of the bill.

Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said Tennessee is the first state to enact a law to reintroduce the electric chair without giving prisoners an option.

“There are states that allow inmates to choose, but it is a very different matter for a state to impose a method like electrocution,” he said. “No other state has gone so far.”

Dieter said he expects legal challenges to arise if the state decides to go through with an electrocution, both in terms of whether the state could prove that lethal injection drugs were not obtainable and on the grounds of constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

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Man pleads guilty to killing 2 postal workers

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A former corrections officer pleaded guilty Thursday to fatally shooting two workers at a rural Tennessee post office in a deal that allows him to avoid the death penalty and spend the rest of his life in prison.

Chastain Montgomery, 50, changed his plea to guilty in a deal with prosecutors during a hearing before U.S. Senior District Judge Jon P. McCalla in Memphis. The deal was authorized by Attorney General Eric Holder, said Edward Stanton, U.S. attorney for West Tennessee.

Montgomery will be sentenced to life in prison Aug. 12. There is no parole in the federal system.

Montgomery struggled to answer several questions from McCalla during the hearing, consulting with his lawyers for guidance. But when he was asked by the judge if he felt OK, Montgomery smiled and replied, “I feel pretty good.”

Montgomery was charged with shooting Paula Robinson and Judy Spray during an October 2010 robbery of the post office in Henning, about 45 miles northeast of Memphis. Their relatives stared sternly at Montgomery during the hearing.

Prosecutors said Montgomery and his 18-year-old son tried to rob the post office, but they became angry and began shooting after they realized it had just $63 to steal.

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More departures from Haslam-owned truck-stop chain

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - With a year-long federal fraud investigation looming over it, the huge truck-stop chain owned by the family of the Cleveland Browns owner and Tennessee’s governor is doing some housecleaning at its highest levels.

Several top executives at Pilot Flying J, including the president, abruptly left this week, more than a year after FBI agents raided the Knoxville, Tennessee, headquarters of the nation’s largest diesel retailer. Ten former employees have previously pleaded guilty to helping cheat trucking companies out of promised rebates and discounts.

Those cases and this week’s departures, observers note, could indicate that prosecutors are entering the final phase of a methodical probe that has included records suggesting Pilot CEO and Browns owner Jimmy Haslam knew of the scheme, something he denies. One expert said Haslam might be cutting ties with his senior staff in a bid to persuade prosecutors not to charge the company his father founded decades ago, one in which his brother, Gov. Bill Haslam, still holds an undisclosed stake.

Pilot President Mark Hazelwood and Scott “Scooter” Wombold, vice president of national accounts, left the company Monday, with Haslam sending a company-wide email thanking Hazelwood for his service but saying nothing about why or how he was leaving. Tuesday saw the departure of five more members of the sales team.

Dennis B. Francis, a Knoxville attorney who has worked in federal criminal defense for 40 years, said the only way this week’s departures make sense to him is if some of the people leaving are cooperating with prosecutors.

For a defendant to get a lighter sentence than federal guidelines mandate, prosecutors have to file court papers saying that person provided substantial assistance to the government. Once prosecutors have the evidence they need to convict, they no longer offer any promises of special consideration.

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A timeline of the Pilot Flying J investigation

A timeline of events in the federal investigation into rebate fraud at the Pilot Flying J truck-stop chain owned by the family of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and his brother, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam:

- May 4, 2011: An informant contacts the FBI about a regional sales manager’s statement that Pilot is cheating customers out of contractually set rebates.

- Aug. 2, 2012: Jimmy Haslam buys the Cleveland Browns for $1 billion.

-Sept. 11, 2012: Haslam steps down as CEO of Pilot Flying J to concentrate on rebuilding the NFL franchise. He remains board chairman.

- Oct, 4, 2012: A Pilot regional sales manager agrees to cooperate with FBI investigators and record conversations with colleagues.

Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.

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