An attorney for Victor Hill argued Monday some of the charges against the once and possibly future Clayton County sheriff should be dropped because his personal use of county-issued cars and spending campaign money for non-election reasons was little more than stealing from himself and not crimes.
Special prosecutor Layla Zon described those arguments made by Steven Frey on behalf of Hill as absurd and incredulous.
For almost three hours Monday, Frey offered up several reasons as to why some of the 37 felony charges against Hill should be dismissed.
The judge said he would rule later.
If the decision goes against Hill, he goes on trial Nov. 26 on racketeering, theft and other charges. If he is acquitted, Hill most likely will retake the office he lost in 2008 on Jan. 1.
Hill, a popular but polarizing and controversial figure, won the Democratic nomination in the August primary runoff. There is no Republican running and only one write-in candidate has filed the required notice.
If he is convicted, state law prohibits him from taking office and another sheriff will have to be elected.
Clayton County Superior Court Judge Albert Collier said an extra0rdinary number of prospective jurors would be called because he expects trouble finding 12 jurors and two alternates who know little about the case or who have not been influenced by the significant media coverage of the case laid out in an indictment in January.
The trial should take less than two weeks once a jury is seated.
Prosecutors say Hill, who did not attend court Monday, did not limit his use of several sheriff’s office cars to law enforcement purposes. He also drove them to vacations in the North Georgia mountains, South Carolina, Florida and Mississippi.
He also is accused of diverting money from his failed 2008 re-election campaign to himself.
“He is essentially taking from himself and therefore cannot be guilty of a crime,” Frey argued.
Zon, the district attorney for Newton and Walton counties was appointed special prosecutor in this case.“It’s not his money. The fact that he keeps arguing the campaign money is his is absurd,” she said.
She said she found it incredulous that Hill would claim it was his to do with as he wished.
“The campaign belonged to Victor Keith Hill. He can’t seal from himself,” Frey answered.
The 37-count indictment, based on an investigation by a special grand jury, says Hill used his county cars and county-issued credit card to take vacations to the North Georgia mountains, South Carolina, Florida and Mississippi, sometimes taking one of his employees. He also is charged with using campaign funds for personal reasons.
Hill allegedly assigned employees to work on his campaign when they were on the county’s time. He also is charged with making it a condition of employment that the agency’s spokesman ghost write Hill’s autobiography during the hours he was supposed to be doing his job at the sheriff’s office.
The same grand jury investigation that led to Hill’s indictment also is responsible for charges against the agency’s former spokesman, Jonathan Newton. Prosecutors say it was a condition of his employment that Newton ghost write Hill’s autobiography. His is charged with profiting from a kickback scheme involving the publication of a newsletter. Beatrice Powell — the former Clayton County corrections officer — is charged with perjury and theft by claiming sick pay for the days she allegedly was away from work and on vacation trips with Hill.
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