Prosecution rests its case against Clayton Sheriff Victor Hill

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Secretly recorded tapes against Victor Hill played in court

On the fourth day of testimony, the prosecution rested its cast against Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill.

One of Hill’s four attorneys announced that they intended to put up a defense, which is not a requirement.

The first leg of the case ended with shouting and the judge hearing arguments at the bench, out earshot of spectators, the defense motion to declare a mistrial because of a comment Special Assistant Layla Zon made in reference to a former Sheriff’s Office employee who has not testified.

Judge Albert Collier said he chose to have the discussion out of ear shot because it involved a “private” matter.

The dispute between prosecuting and defense attorneys came when defense attorney Steven Frey was asking former Sheriff’s Office investigator Josh Waites about the reason a colleague, David Ward, left the Clayton County Police Department. Ward was a part-time investigator working with the Sheriff’s Office probe into Hill.

Frey asked “did he tell you he was fired from the Clayton County Police Department for making a racist comment?”

Zon angrily responded that the defense legal team could call Ward to testify if they wanted to get into that issue. That is when the defense took issue with the implication that they needed to call any witnesses to prove anything.

Waite testified that after Hill lost his bid for re-election in 2008, Hill set up companies in Nevada to funnel campaign funds into personal accounts, according to testimony in his theft and racketeering trial Tuesday morning.

The former Clayton Sheriff’s Office investigator walked through financial records and other documents that were used to bring 28 felony charges against Hill, accusing him of racketeering, theft by taking, and violation of oath of office and influencing a witness.

Waites, now police chief with the Georgia Department of Revenue, testified records showed Hill moved campaign funds to companies he set up in Nevada soon after he lost re-election. First Southern Resources Corp. was created and Hill was listed as the only officer, Waites said. Then Eagle Optional LLC was created with Southern Resources listed as the only partner, he said.

He used those companies to get campaign money into his personal bank accounts, which Georgia law prohibits, Waites said.

Waites also testified Hill racked up miles on his county-issued SUV and sometimes used his county credit card to put gas in it for a series of out-of-state trips he took, along with a subordinate, to console himself after losing his 2008 re-election bid.

Using maps propped on an easel and images of bank records projected on a screen, Waites tracked trips Hill took with now-former sheriff’s office employee Beatrice Powell to Miami, to a casino in Biloxi, Miss., and to a gambling cruise that left from the coast of South Carolina.

Hill paid for some of the expenses of the trips though he mixed up which charge cards he used to pay for the gas for the Ford Excursion. All the while, he put miles on the county-owned SUV.

As he set out on the first trip — the day after he lost the Aug. 5, 2008, Democratic primary runoff to Kem Kimbrough — he gassed up the Excursion at the pumps that provide fuel for county vehicles. Within a week, Waites said records showed, Hill had driven the SUV 1,660 miles. He said Hill’s home was about 10 miles from the Sheriff’s Office.

Waites also testified to records that showed Powell was with Hill when he went to Miami, Biloxi and the South Carolina coast where they caught one of the Little River Cruises gambling boats. There were three trips to the Beau Rivage in Mississippi.

The theft charges include allegations that Hill used the county’s cars and credit cards for trips. He also is accused of theft by taking for allegedly having Powell’s work status classified as paid administrative leave - usually applied when an employee is under investigation and could be fired — or sick so she could continue to get her salary while vacationing with the sheriff.

Hill has continually maintained his innocence and his lawyers say he is guilty of only wanting his job back. They say the investigation into his activities came only after he declared he would again seek the sheriff’s office by challenging Sheriff Kem Kimbrough who replaced Hill after defeating him in his re-election bid.

After Hill’s lawyers asked the judge to dismiss all the charges because the prosecution had not presented enough evidence to support them, judge Albert Collier agreed to drop the final count but leave the rest of the indictment intact.

The former 28th count said Hill had tried to influence former Sheriff’s Office employee and campaign worker Naomi Nash’s testimony before a special grand jury investigating her. She spent four days in jail for contempt because she refused to testify.

Hill had paid an attorney $500 to advise her to tell the truth. Hill’s lawyers said that the sheriff was not trying to discourage her or get her be favorable to him in her grand jury testimony.

To date, 10 of the original 37 charges have been dismissed or dropped.