Clayton County set to be mocked nationally as legislators defend Victor Hill

I see little hope for harmony in the upcoming Session of the General Assembly if we can’t at least agree that it’s valid to ask if someone who is under indictment for 32 felony counts involving abuse of his former elected law enforcement office should be able to retake that office while the charges are still pending.

From an article by Rhonda Cook at the AJC:

The state’s sheriffs want Gov. Nathan Deal to start the process that could lead to Victor Hill’s suspension moments after he takes office as Clayton County sheriff in little more than a month. But several legislators from Clayton say that request is premature and they want time for Hill to resolve the 32 felony charges against him.

Hill is to retake the office he lost in the 2008 election on Jan. 1. “We won’t take any official action until he is sworn,” Deal spokeswoman Stephanie Mayfield said in an email.

According to Georgia law concerning indicted elected officials, the governor is to name a committee — in this case two sheriffs and the attorney general — to recommend if Hill should be suspended while his case is pending.

Hill is charged with racketeering, using his county-owned cars and credit cards for personal trips and requiring member of his staff to work on his failed 2008 re-election campaign while they were supposed to be at their jobs.

Soon after he was indicted in January, Hill lost his state law enforcement certification, which means he cannot make arrests or serve warrants.

Still, Hill defeated incumbent Sheriff Kem Kimbrough in a Democratic primary runoff in August and won again in November with almost 64,000 votes against nearly 17,000 for write-in candidate Garland Watkins, the current chief deputy under Kembrough.

To remove Hill is “totally disrespectful to the voters of Clayton County,” said Sen. Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale. “Allow the judicial system to do what they do.”

Rep. Darryl Jordan, D-Riverdale, has drafted a letter asking the governor to leave Hill alone until the criminal case is resolved with a trial.

“It seems to me, governor, that when certain people can’t get their wishes at the voting booths, then they employ raw, unmitigated, egregious and flagrant attacks on the Voting Rights Act,” he wrote. “This is unconscionable. The people of Clayton County are tired of this shabby and condescending treatment from people who don’t even live here.”

With all due respect, Rep. Darryl Jordan is an idiot if he thinks this is a Voting Rights case.

From Jim Galloway’s Political Insider:

Hill, you’ll recall, faces a couple dozen felony indictments for alleged misbehavior during his first stint as sheriff, which ended when voters booted him in 2008. Hill revived his law enforcement career by beating incumbent Kem Kimbrough in the Democratic primary this summer, and defeated a write-in candidate this month.

Once Hill takes his oath of office in January, Gov. Nathan Deal has the option of suspending Hill until his legal issues are resolved. The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association last week recommended the governor take that route, and even suggested a replacement.

[S]tate Sen. Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale. “I was appalled and taken aback when I heard the sheriff’s association giving a recommendation for a replacement of our sheriff-elect,” she said. “The voters were crystal clear when they elected [the] sheriff-elect. They were crystal clear when they rejected the former sheriff.”

Seay said the sheriff’s association had acted “prematurely,” and in “total disrespect to the voters in Clayton County.”

Two elections for Sheriff making news in Georgia

The dismissal of five felony counts in the indictment against former and likely-future Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill brings the tally to 32 remaining counts.

A Superior Court judge has dropped theft and racketeering charges against former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill, reducing the number of criminal counts Hill is facing to 32.

Hill, who is set to go to trial Nov. 26, is under criminal indictment on charges that he enriched himself with sheriff’s department resources and money donated to his failed 2008 re-election campaign.

The outside prosecutor handling the case, Layla Zon, the prosecutor in Walton and Newton counties, could not be reached for comment Friday.

One of Hill’s attorneys, Drew Findling, considers the dropped charges a victory in Hill’s fight to get all of the charges dismissed.

“This was a tremendous blow to the prosecution,” Findling said.

Late Thursday, [Judge] Collier dismissed two racketeering counts and three theft-by-taking charges because, he wrote, it was unclear who actually “owned” the campaign money. The theft-by-taking charges were the basis for the two racketeering counts.

“Georgia statutes do not establish the ownership of those funds,” Collier wrote.

The indictment accuses Hill of depositing $24,000 in checks to the Committee to Reelect Victor Hill Sheriff and eventually diverting the money to him.

Misuse of campaign funds is a misdemeanor, the judge noted; the two-year statue of limitations on that crime has passed. A racketeering charge requires at least two felony charges as a basis.

If convicted, Hill would be prohibited from taking the office on Jan. 1. And if he is acquitted, Hill will still have to persuade the Peace Officers Standards and Training Council to reinstate his suspended state law enforcement certification.

In Baker County, southwest of Albany, the election for Sheriff is struck from the November ballot and will be contested on January 8, 2013 due to possible corruption in the August 29th runoff. According to WALB,

Attorney Tommy Coleman tells WALB that citizens will vote on that date after Dougherty County Judge Loring Gray blocked the November election, after serious allegations of voter irregularities in the July Primary.

Incumbent Sheriff Dana Meade won the August runoff by 39 votes over challenger Tim Williamson.

After Williamson sued, the court found evidence of votes bought for $20 and free liquor.

There was also evidence of absentee ballots changed from votes for Williamson to votes for Meade.

An earlier ruling had placed a re-do of the August runoff on the November ballot.

Judge Gray ordered a new election held at the same time as the general election November 6th.

However, that creates problems for the election board, since early voting has already started.

Sheriff Dana Meade won the August runoff by 39 votes over challenger Tim Williamson. After Williamson sued, the court found evidence of votes bought for $20 and free liquor. There was also evidence of absentee ballots changed from votes for Williamson to votes for Meade.

Baker County Attorney Tommy Coleman is handing the case for the county elections board.

“That whole line, 14 of them was stricken through with one kind of ink, and remarked for another candidate. So it was clear that there was some sort of concerted organized activity,” Coleman said.

Caption contest: Victor Hill wins Sheriff’s race

Photo by HYOSUB SHIN / [email protected]

Photo by BOB ANDRES / [email protected]

Photo by BOB ANDRES / [email protected]