As Browns owner Jimmy Haslam periodically opts to talk confidently about the legal issues embroiling the truck-stop company he runs, the prosecutors assigned to the case have remained eerily silent.
Eventually, they’ll speak via indictments and, ultimately, evidence introduced at trial. Haslam’s tightrope routine, balancing his company’s business interests against his personal legal predicament, has created the impression that, yes, something happened but that, no, he’s not responsible for it.
Whatever happened, David Lewen and Francis “Trey” Hamilton are working to get to the bottom of it. As explained by John Caniglia of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the pair of young, aggressive prosecutors quietly are leading the investigation.
“They’re excellent prosecutors, very knowledgeable and very diligent,” said Hugh Ward, a defense lawyer who previously worked with both men in the Knoxville U.S. Attorney’s office. “Both are good people, personally. They’re top of the line.”
Lewen, 37, has prosecuted drug crimes involving complex hierarchies. Hamilton, 41, prosecutes white-collar crime, like the ones that eventually could be alleged against multiple employees of Pilot Flying J.
John Sammon, a former IRS agent and retired federal prosecutor, explained the key similarity between complex drug crimes and white-collar prosecutions: “You work from the bottom to the top.”
With one Pilot Flying J employee already quoted in an affidavit as saying Haslam knew about the alleged rebate/discount scam, the prosecutors could be searching for and/or piecing together evidence that would prove conclusively that Haslam or other key employees at the precipice of the Pilot Flying J pyramid either condoned the alleged fraud or ordered it.
And that possibility should send a chill from the bottom to the top of Haslam’s spine.