- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014
3 Pilot Flying J sales employees plead guilty

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Three former employees of Pilot Flying J, the truck stop owned by the family of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Tenn. Gov. Billl Haslam, pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges involving a scheme where trucking companies were cheated out of promised fuel rebates.

The three are among 10 former Pilot Flying J employees to plead guilty since federal agents raided the company’s Knoxville headquarters last year. They have agreed to cooperate with the government for a reduced sentence.

One of the former employees who appeared in court Monday is Brian Mosher, a former director of sales from Bettendorf, Iowa, who admitted to training other company employees on how to cheat customers.

“Brian Mosher has recognized and acknowledged a serious situation that developed at the company, and he’s doing what he can to help correct it,” said Mosher’s attorney, Chicago lawyer Steven Kowal.

Mosher faces a maximum of 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, although it’s unlikely he’d serve that amount of time.

Mosher, in his plea agreement, admitted to holding four break-out sessions during Pilot’s annual sales meeting in Knoxville in November of 2012 in which he showed employees how to defraud trucking companies without getting caught.


Opposing sides to vouchers speak out

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The debate over a school voucher program in Tennessee is heating up with groups for and against speaking out this week at the state Capitol complex.

Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence, a grassroots organization opposed to vouchers, held a press conference on Monday at the Legislative Plaza. And the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a free market think tank that is advocating for a broader voucher program, has an event scheduled for Tuesday.

The events are being held as Republican state lawmakers and Republican Gov. Bill Haslam try to reach a compromise on voucher legislation.

Last week, Republican lawmakers filed a school voucher bill they hope will be acceptable to Haslam, who has repeatedly said he favors a more limited version of the program that gives parents the option to move a child from a failing public school to a private school, with the state providing funds for tuition.

Haslam’s proposal is limited to students from low-income families attending the bottom 5 percent of failing schools. He had that measure withdrawn last year when Senate Republicans sought to expand to a larger number of children.

The measure now being proposed by Republicans would affect students attending the bottom 10 percent of failing schools.


Senate delays vote on latest AG election proposal

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The state Senate has put off a vote about a proposal seeking to change the way Tennessee’s attorney general gains office.

Under a proposed constitutional amendment sponsored by Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet, the attorney general would stand for popular election rather than being appointed by the state Supreme Court.

Critics say making attorney general candidates stand for statewide election would require them to seek heavy campaign contributions that could threaten the nonpartisan and independent nature of the office.

They also question the need for the latest proposal when the full chamber voted 22-9 last year in favor of a proposal to have the attorney general appointed by a joint convention of the General Assembly.

Beavers rescheduled her resolution for a Feb. 3 vote.


States consider reviving old-fashioned executions

ST. LOUIS (AP) - With lethal-injection drugs in short supply and new questions looming about their effectiveness, lawmakers in some death penalty states are considering bringing back relics of a more gruesome past: firing squads, electrocutions and gas chambers.

Most states abandoned those execution methods more than a generation ago in a bid to make capital punishment more palatable to the public and to a judicial system worried about inflicting cruel and unusual punishments that violate the Constitution.

But to some elected officials, the drug shortages and recent legal challenges are beginning to make lethal injection seem too vulnerable to complications.

“This isn’t an attempt to time-warp back into the 1850s or the wild, wild West or anything like that,” said Missouri state Rep. Rick Brattin, who this month proposed making firing squads an option for executions. “It’s just that I foresee a problem, and I’m trying to come up with a solution that will be the most humane yet most economical for our state.”

Brattin, a Republican, said questions about the injection drugs are sure to end up in court, delaying executions and forcing states to examine alternatives. It’s not fair, he said, for relatives of murder victims to wait years, even decades, to see justice served while lawmakers and judges debate execution methods.

Like Brattin, a Wyoming lawmaker this month offered a bill allowing the firing squad. Missouri’s attorney general and a state lawmaker have raised the notion of rebuilding the state’s gas chamber. And a Virginia lawmaker wants to make electrocution an option if lethal-injection drugs aren’t available.

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