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Attorney says Hill's trying to avoid settlement

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Bill Atkins, the attorney for George Mark Tuggle, said he was not surprised that former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday.

"I wasn't surprised by this. I would expect no less from Victor Hill," Atkins said. Tuggle, whose brother, Stanley, was Hill's predecessor, has been locked in a two-year legal battle with Hill. The former sheriff lost the case, and, on Dec. 15, a U.S. District Court judge ordered him to pay a $665,000 supercedeas bond. The bond was designed to protect Tuggle in case Hill failed in his appeal of the judgment. Hill asked for an extension on Dec. 22, to pay the bond.

Hill then filed the bankruptcy petition in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, a day before his term as Clayton County's sheriff came to an end.

"It's clear to me that Victor Hill wants to make sure he never has to pay a penny to Mark Tuggle, and it's becoming just as clear to me that we will use all legal means necessary to make sure he does not avoid this settlement," said Atkins.

Atkins said the bankruptcy petition slows efforts to collect the money Hill owes on the bond, because the attorney had placed a lien on the former sheriff's Riverdale home. Tuggle cannot collect money on that lien as long as Hill has bankruptcy protection, he added.

Shonterria Martin, Hill's bankruptcy attorney, could not be reached for comment.

At the center of the quarrel between Hill and Tuggle is a Jan. 4, 2005, incident in which Hill had his predecessor's brother arrested for making what Hill considered to be harassing phone calls to Hill's office. Hill lost that legal battle when a federal jury awarded Tuggle a $475,000 judgment.

Atkins said he could still get some money from the county by going after the sheriff's office, but he, and his client, do not want to burden new Sheriff Kem Kimbrough with paying for Hill's actions. On Monday, county attorney Michael Smith said he does not believe it is the county's responsibility to pay the settlement for Hill.

According to bankruptcy court documents, Hill has $237,150 in assets, including $2,000 in clothing; a $200 glock handgun, and a $50 shotgun. The former sheriff's $225,000 home in Riverdale was also listed, as was $6,400, which was spread between two checking accounts and a savings account.

Hill listed $3,500 in home furnishings, such as a pool table; card table; four televisions; three bedroom sets; dining room furniture; living room furniture; a couch; love seat; chair; computer desk; book case, and a washer and dryer unit. He did not list a vehicle among his assets, although he listed $350 in expenditures for "transportation."

By contrast, the ex-sheriff claimed he has $2 million in liabilities, including $1.73 million in medical bills, legal fees, and court settlements.

Atkins said the judgment in favor of his client is the only case he was aware of which would directly touch Hill, since the county has insurance funds to cover the other lawsuits, mostly by former employees.

"... All of the insurance fund for the year, which my client would fall under, was used up in the settlement with the 27 deputies fired on his first day in office [which cost the county $6.5 million]," said Atkins. "So, the fact that he's claiming those other lawsuits as liabilities is phantom, it's [expletive]."

Hill also claimed his gross income as Clayton County's sheriff was $8,041.34 per month -- before taxes. After taxes, the ex-sheriff claimed he took home $4,640.70 each month. He claimed he had $4,380 in monthly expenditures, including $2,400 in "rent or mortgage payments," $400 for food, $140 for home maintenance, $150 for laundry and dry cleaning, $150 for a cell phone, and $130 for cable TV and Internet service.

The court documents also show that Hill had two business ventures in Las Vegas, Nev. The ex-sheriff has a more than 5 percent stake in a limited liability partnership called Eagle Option, LLP, and a management group called Southern Resources Management. Sept. 1, 2008, is listed as the beginning date for both ventures.

Atkins said he reviewed the petition through the U.S. District Court's online document system, but he expects to formally receive the paperwork within the next week.

"Once we receive that notice, we going to waste no time filing our response," said Atkins.