Hill seeking new trial in Tuggle case

By Curt Yeomans


The lawyer representing former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill is arguing that the $475,000 verdict issued by a federal jury -- in favor of his predecessor's brother last September -- is too shocking to be allowed to stand.

Hill owes more than $600,000 to George Mark Tuggle, whose brother, Stanley, was Clayton County's sheriff before Hill. The judgment was issued after a jury ruled in U.S. District Court that Hill had violated George Mark Tuggle's rights by having him arrested in 2005.

Hill's attorney, James Dearing, filed a motion Monday asking a federal judge to do one of three things: Issue a judgment as a matter of law; grant a new trial, or alter the jury's verdict and judgment.

"The jury's verdict was based upon their inflamed passions, and not upon the evidence at trial," Dearing said in his motion.

The new motion is the latest step in a case that has been going on for more than 4 years.

Hill had Tuggle arrested on Hill's second day in office in January 2005, after Tuggle had called the jail repeatedly to protest the firings of 27 deputies. The firings took place the previous day.

The charges against Tuggle were later dropped, and he sued Hill, claiming the arrest violated his civil rights and embarrassed him. A federal jury ruled in Tuggle's favor on Sept. 29 of last year.

In the motion filed this week, Dearing argues that any feelings of embarrassment experienced by Tuggle, because of the incident, "do not justify the jury's verdict." Dearing also argues that Tuggle lost no income because of his arrest.

Bill Atkins, Tuggle's attorney, said he did not have much to say that was not already said in a response he filed with the court in October 2008, after Dearing filed a notice of appeal in the case.

In that response from last year, Atkins said Hill abused his powers, and attempted to use Tuggle as an example to "silence further criticism of his administration."

Atkins has since argued that Hill has tried to avoid paying the judgment. "We're not surprised by this, and we're quite confident the judge will reject this request," Atkins said.

Hill filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in U.S. District Court on Dec. 30, 2008, citing more than $1 million in litigation charges that he owed to Tuggle and others.

On Feb. 4, Hill was ordered by a federal trustee to turn over $25,000 he had put in a day-trading account in Las Vegas. Hill had not reported the funds, because of a clerical oversight, his bankruptcy attorney, Shonterria Martin, told the Clayton News Daily on Feb. 5.

Martin said Hill planned to use the money to start up a day-trading company in Las Vegas, called Eagle Optional, LLP. Martin also said her client does not have the funds to pay his creditors. She said his Riverdale home is the most valuable piece of property he has left, and he could lose that if he does not find a job. The home is worth $225,000, according to court documents.

"He doesn't have much money, because he doesn't have a job," Martin said. "He has no prospects for a job, because of the economy."