Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills at a June 2017 press conference in Madison.
Photo: Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Sheriff behind ‘Lucifer’ comment looks to heat up Georgia statehouse

Somebody wants to heat up Georgia’s statehouse. 

Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, who compared Gov. Nathan Deal to Lucifer earlier this week, is now marveling at the state Capitol stir he’s caused.

On Thursday, Sills said the volatile reaction he’s received for criticizing the governor’s new bid to reform the use of cash bail requirements for minor crimes was a sign that other law enforcement officers should “immediately go directly to the public” with their concerns.

By way of background, here’s what Sills put in a first email broadside sent to law enforcement colleagues:

“This governor has done more for those who perpetrate crime than Lucifer and his demons combined, and every piece of his criminal justice reform that has been passed into law has complicated or burdened our duties and/or endangered the citizenry of our state.”

From the floor of the House, one member called for the Georgia Sheriffs Association to censure Sills. House Speaker David Ralston had this to say:

“When I read those comments this morning, I got sick to my stomach. Few things in my public career have I found as disgusting and deplorable as that statement made by a man who wears a badge,” said Ralston. “They are wrong, and they are an embarrassment to an honorable profession.”

Which explains this line from Sills on Thursday:

“The last thing the Speaker and many others at the Capitol want is to hear is an outcry from the public on this issue,” he wrote, adding: “We must actively, loudly, and very publicly stand up for the women and men of local law enforcement who are the first to respond and protect our citizens.”

Stacey Abrams is running for governor.

He added that he makes no apologies for criticizing the governor or his plan, but that he regrets “using Lucifer as a comparison.”

Sills proposed creating a new group -- he dubbed it the “Georgia Sheriffs’ Borax Squad” -- to oppose the governor’s cash bail program.

He described them as “sheriffs who will throw political correctness to the wind, speak as loud as God’s most ferocious thunder, and pull the heaviest train of truth about criminal justice and public safety ever towed and drive it from Trenton to Tybee and Bainbridge to Blue Ridge.”

On the other hand, it’s also worth noting that Georgia sheriffs are elected officials who are often in need of campaign contributions. And historically, one major source of this cash has been the bail bond industry.

More: Georgia governor’s last criminal justice push may be his toughest 


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