Jury gets Victor Hill racketeering case

The jury in Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill’s racketeering case has finished it’s work for the day, after deliberating for roughly two hours.

Jurors will reconvene at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Today, the nine men and three women who’ve heard the case over the past 10 days are for the first time debating Hill’s guilt or innocence.

The prosecutor in the racketeering case against Hill urged jurors to ignore the emotional argument of defense attorneys and simply consider the documents and testimony and that will lead them to find him guilty.

“He does claim he’s a crime fighter. He wears the badge proudly. But that’s not the issue in this case. This case is about if he took the money that belonged to the county…. It’s about corruption,” Special Assistant District Attorney Layla Zon said in her closing argument that ended in the early afternoon.

Hill is charged with 27 felonies including racketeering, theft by taking, violating his oath and making false statements involving his use of Sheriff’s Office employees and county credit cards, cars and gas.

Defense attorneys argued in their closings — and presented evidence over six days of testimony, the case was politically motivated and pursued by employees Hill had fired in his first term. They also asserted that, as a sheriff, Hill is entitled to use county cars and gas for travel, even out of state, in case he is required to quickly return to the county.

“He’s charged with going on the trips and using the county assets, for taking the cars, taking funds out of the county treasure while we’re up here working to pay his salary,” Zon countered.

She said records support her argument.

“They can’t change the records. They can’t say what happened didn’t happen,” Zon said.

Prosecutors say after Hill lost his re-election bid in 2008 to Kem Kimbrough — the man he defeated last year to reclaim the office — he checked out and went on a series of out-of-state vacations, taking two sheriff’s office employees with him.

The charges also are that he stole from taxpayers when he had a subordinate — a “lady friend” — classified as on paid administrative leave so she could continue to get her county salary while she vacationed with the sheriff and that he stole from taxpayers when he ordered former aide Jonathan Newton to work on the sheriff’s autobiography during regular work hours.

Defense attorney Drew Findling, used the themes of race, fear of crime, attacks on one witness’ womanhood and political persecution in his closing argument to the mostly African American jury. And Findling repeatedly called some witnesses, especially former Hill spokesman Jonathan Newton, liars.

“There has been a sea of whiteness casting allegations against him,” Findling shouted.

Zon said Hill’s lawyers’ case was designed to distract jurors from the charges.

“There was a lot of emotion in that argument [and] a lot of things that weren’t presented in this case,” Zon said. “Why? They don’t want you to decide this based on the law. Whether you like him as sheriff is not what this case is about. It”s about whether he broke the law.”

Findling also reminded jurors that Hill was elected last year, despite the pending charges.

“The people knew what they wanted to do with crime and the community,” Findling said. “So now he stands before you, the sheriff, with the community (and) the constitutional rights of the people who chose to vote for him.”

Findling said a conviction on just on just one of the charges would mean Hill would not be sheriff.

“There’s no evidence in this case he’s done anything other than follow his path as a law enforcement officer,” Findling said.

Zon said an acquittal, however, would send a message “to the people in this county ‘we’re going to put up with corrupt thieves in people who are supposed to protect us.”