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Sheriff Hill must post bond in case

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Outgoing Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill has less than a week to post a $664,539.25 bond with the U.S. District Court, or his appeal of a verdict awarded in favor of his predecessor's brother will be dropped.

Hill is appealing a decision Sept. 29, in which a federal jury awarded $475,000 in damages to George Mark Tuggle, because Hill had him arrested in 2005 for allegedly making harassing phone calls on the sheriff's second day in office.

Tuggle's brother, Stanley, was Hill's predecessor. After his arrest, George Mark Tuggle spent 18 hours in jail before he posted bond, but the charges were later dropped.

The order to post the supersedeas bond came after Hill and his attorney did not respond to a motion for a bond filed a month ago by George Mark Tuggle's attorney.

"Defendant Hill has not filed a response to plaintiff's motion," U. S. District Judge Orinda D. Evans wrote in the order. "As no response has been filed, and plaintiff's motion is meritorious, the motion to require defendant Hill to post a cost and supersedeas bond ... is granted."

Hill, who leaves office on Dec. 31, has until Dec. 22, to pay the bond or his appeal will be dropped, notes Tuggle's attorney, Bill Atkins.

In addition to the $475,000 settlement, this case has resulted in $167,799.50 in fees and $13,798.83 in expenses, which have been incurred by Atkins. So far, totals pending are $656,598.33.

"This is designed to protect someone, like my client, in case the appeal fails," said Atkins. "The amount of the bond reflects [the $475,000 verdict], and the bill of costs."

Atkins also said Hill's lack of a response to the motion for the supersedeas bond is not common. "It's pretty unusual for a defendant to not bother to respond to a motion for a supersedeas bond," said Atkins.

Neither Hill, nor his attorney, James Dearing, could be reached for comment.

Michael Smith, the county's attorney, is not sure if the county will pay a portion of the bond.

Smith said county officials are pricing the bond and trying to see if they can get someone to post a percentage of it. "We'll end up checking to see if that can be done, and then, we'll go to the [Clayton County Board of Commissioners] with a recommendation," he said.

A day after U.S. District Judge Orinda D. Evans ordered Hill to post bond, Dearing filed a motion seeking an extension on the amount of time the sheriff and his attorney have to respond to Atkins' post-judgement interrogatories, document requests and deposition notice.

Hill's responses are due Thursday. His attorney wants the date pushed to Jan. 30, 2009.

"Defendant requests this extension because he is nearing the end of his term in office as Clayton County sheriff, and is working to transition from that office in an orderly fashion," Dearing pleaded.

However, Atkins filed a response to Dearing's motion Tuesday in which he called the sheriff a "recalcitrant litigant." He accused Hill of stalling. Atkins also included recent media reports saying Hill is out of the state, and not cooperating with Sheriff-elect Kem Kimbrough.

"We are 77 days removed from the jury's verdict and, more significantly, just 15 days away from the defendant's last day in office as sheriff of Clayton County, Georgia," Atkins said in his response. "The defendant's end game is plain for all to see. By delaying any meaningful progress towards disposition of post-trial motions, appeals and discovery, Hill plans to get to Dec. 31, whereupon he intends to tuck tail and run from this judgment."