Clayton DA drops case against two former sheriff’s office employees

The Clayton County district attorney has dropped charges against two key witnesses for the prosecution in the case against Sheriff Victor Hill.

District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson took that action 11 days after a Clayton County jury acquitted Hill of charges that he had used his office for personal gain. Lawson filed papers on Aug 26. to drop three perjury charges and one theft-by-taking charge against Beatrice Powell; and three charges of forgery, three charges of making false statements and seven charges of theft by taking against Jonathan Newton.

Powell is the former sheriff’s office employee who took several out-of-state vacations with Hill in 2008, trips that were part of the case against him. Newton was Hill’s spokesman who testified that he had been ordered to work on the sheriff’s biography and unsuccessful 2008 re-election campaign during county work hours.

Lawson said it was “out of fundamental fairness” that her office dropped both cases, since Hill had been acquitted of charges that were like the ones against Newton and Powell.

She said in an interview Thursday her decision also was based on their cooperation during the trial of Hill, who is now less than 10 months into his second term as sheriff.

Powell and Newton testified in Hill’s trial after getting a guarantee that anything they said from the witness stand could not be used against them.

Hill was initially charged with 37 felonies: counts of racketeering, theft by taking, influencing a witness, making a false statement and violating his oath. The judge dismissed some of the charges and the prosecutor dropped some, leaving 25 counts by the time the jury announced its not-guilty verdict on Aug. 15.

Powell was accused of lying to a special-purpose grand that was investigating Hill’s out-of-state travels after he lost his re-election bid in 2008. Powell, who worked at that time at the Clayton County Jail, was Hill’s traveling companion. Neither Powell nor her attorney could be reached for comment Thursday. Powell now lives in Florida.

Charges against Newton were that he inflated county invoices for the printing of a newsletter for Hill so the overage would be given to him. Newton also was accused of theft by allegedly working on Hill’s biography and re-election campaign during county work hours.

Attorney Brad Moody said Newton was happy with the decision and that he was working as a part-time paralegal and considering becoming an attorney.

“His case is gone,” Moody said.

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