The Gwinnett County case against Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill will be presented to a grand jury, officials announced Thursday.
Hill was arrested and charged with reckless conduct on May 6, three days after shooting and critically wounding friend Gwenevere McCord inside a Lawrenceville-area model home. The charge is a misdemeanor, meaning it typically would be handled through an accusation filed by the county’s solicitor-general and therefore not presented to a grand jury.
Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said in a statement released Thursday, however, that taking the case to the grand jury was “the best course of action.”
Georgia statutes say a law enforcement officer charged with a crime during the performance of their official duties is entitled to have that case presented to a grand jury, Porter said. Whether or not Hill — who reportedly drove a county-owned vehicle to the model home — should be considered on-duty during the shooting is still being debated, but Porter said he wants to play it safe.
“There’s enough of a question here that [Gwinnett County Solicitor-General Rosanna Szabo] and I decided that the safest way to go was to present the case to the grand jury, so later on down the road [Hill] can’t come back and say it should’ve been,” Porter told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
McCord, a 43-year-old real estate agent from Jonesboro, and Hill were alone inside the model home on Britt Trail Drive when she was shot in the stomach on May 3. Hill called 911 to report the shooting — and claimed he and McCord were practicing “police tactics” when she was shot — but refused to cooperate with officers called to the scene.
McCord has corroborated Hill’s statements, and her father called the shooting a “freak accident.”
Porter said the case will be presented sometime in September, and that the grand jury will be given options for charging Hill — meaning the reckless conduct charge currently filed against the sheriff could, at least theoretically, be upgraded to a felony, such as aggravated assault.
Porter said he would expect McCord to be called to testify. Hill cannot be called by the prosecution, but does have the right to make a sworn statement, which will not be subject to cross-examination, Porter said.
Hill’s attorney in the case, Mike Puglise, said late Thursday afternoon that he hadn’t been made aware of Porter’s decision and declined to comment, saying it would be “improper” to do so.
Hill is no stranger to controversy. His second term as Clayton County sheriff began Jan. 1, 2013 and, later the same year, he was acquitted of racketeering charges related to the use of his county-issued credit card.
Hill was also sheriff from 2005 to 2008. On his first day of that term, he fired 27 deputies, who later sued for wrongful termination. They won their jobs back and settled for $7 million.
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