Victor Hill scores another court win

Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill scored a second court win in two days Tuesday when the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled in his favor on a procedural challenge concerning a trial court judge’s decision to dismiss five of the original 37 felony charges brought against him last year.

Unless a special prosecutor appeals the decision to the Georgia Supreme Court, Hill can go to trial on the remaining 32 counts. They include charges of racketeering and theft involving allegations that he used his county-issued car and credit card for personal benefit.

Last fall and just weeks before the trial was to have begun, Judge Albert Collier dismissed a racketeering charge and theft charges concerning Hill’s use of contributions to his failed 2008 re-election campaign. Collier said the funds belonged to Hill and so he could not be charged with stealing the money.

The case was put on hold for months while the prosecution appealed. The special prosecutor, Layla Zon, used a new procedure laid out in a law that took effect July 1 that allowed her to appeal Collier’s decision directly to the state Court of Appeals.

The appeals court said Tuesday that Zon could not apply that law retroactively. Hill was indicted Jan. 18, 2012, on allegations stemming from when he was sheriff from Jan. 1, 2005, to Dec. 31, 2008.

Zon could not be reached for comment, so it is not known whether she will appeal Tuesday’s ruling or take the remaining counts to trial.

Defense attorney Drew Findling said he would be “shocked” if Zon appealed to the Supreme Court. “It was an open and shut issue,” he said.

On Monday, a Fulton County Superior Court judge dismissed a Clayton County resident’s lawsuit trying to force the governor to appoint a review panel to recommend whether Hill should be suspended while his criminal case is pending. Judge Kelly Lee said that law did not apply because Hill was already indicted when he was elected in November. Lee said Georgia law requires the governor to act only if a public official was indicted after taking office.