First offender act leaves Clayton Sheriff Hill without criminal record

The use of Georgia’s First Offender Act helped Clayton Sheriff Victor Hill walk away Tuesday without a criminal record from an accidental shooting he was involved in last year in Gwinnett County.

“It’s like it never happened,” Hill’s attorney Mike Puglise said Tuesday. However, it remains to be seen if Hill’s peers at the Peace Officers Standards and Training Council will be so forgiving.

Clayton's sheriff pleaded no contest Tuesday to misdemeanor charges of reckless conduct in the May 3, 2015 shooting of Gwenevere McCord. McCord was shot in the stomach and critically injured as the two practiced police maneuvers at a vacant model home where McCord worked as a real estate broker. Both Hill and McCord have called the shooting an accident. McCord, who has recovered from her injuries, had asked authorities that Hill not face charges for the shooting.

Under the First Offender program, Hill is essentially exonerated from any charges connected to the shooting, Puglise said. Once he paid the $1,000 fine Tuesday, it effectively dismissed all charges in the case as well as erased his 12-month probation. He has no convictions in connection with the shooting, Puglise said.

“The case is officially closed. It is done. We handled it all this morning upon resolution of the plea agreement,” Puglise said of the 15-month-long saga. “The probation’s closed up. He’s met all the requirement of the sentence and the First Offender program kicked in which effectively ends this case.”

While Gwinnett may be through with Hill’s case, POST spokesman Ryan Powell said Tuesday, “The POST investigation will continue now and findings will be presented to the POST council for any possible sanctions.”

Puglise acknowledge the possibility of the Post inverstigation. “But in light of (Tuesday’s action), I expect their findings will conclude this will be an accidental shooting and sanctions will be avoided.”

Puglise called the Gwinnett shooting “unfortunate” and said Hill “feels sort of relieved that this (plea) has brought closure to this case.”

It's the second time Hill has walked away from criminal charges. Three years ago this month, a Clayton jury acquitted the lawman of 27 felony charges, including accusations that he used county credit cards and vehicles for personal reasons during his first term in office.

While he has not been found criminally liable, some of the sheriff's separate actions have been costly in civil court.

Earlier this month, Clayton County agreed to pay $750,000 to settle a nearly three-year-old federal lawsuit brought by three former sheriff's department officers who accused Hill of creating a hostile workplace and discriminating and retaliating against them.

Previously, in January 2005, Hill fired more than two dozen sheriff’s deputies and other employees on his first day in office. They were escorted out of the building under heavy guard and the watchful eye of rooftop snipers. A judge later reinstated the workers to their jobs and the county had to pay out $7 million to settle that case.

Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner declined Tuesday to comment on the disposition of the Hill shooting. Turner did say however the county will not be responsible for Hill’s legal fees associated with the Gwinnett shooting.

When asked if Hill could use money from his department’s budget to pay his legal bill, Turner said “Not to my knowledge. It was not related to his job so I don’t think he can go into his sheriff’s department budget to pay for it.”

The county funds Hill’s budget.

Puglise would not say how his legal fees will be paid.

Efforts to reach Hill, McCord and Porter were unsuccessful Tuesday.