Clayton DA names prosecutor in Hill investigation

The Clayton County District Attorney has appointed an outside prosecutor to head up a special grand jury investigation into former sheriff Victor Hill, and his administration.

Hill was subpoenaed Friday to testify before that grand jury, but because his attorney, Steve Frey, was unavailable to provide counsel, Hill did not give evidence, said Frey.

Frey has been in Clayton Superior Court all week defending a woman on multiple murder charges.

"Victor Hill showed up, and questions arose as to his appearance," said Frey. "Due to his attorney's unavailability, he was excused until further notice."

It is unclear when Hill will return for questioning.

District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said Layla Zon, district attorney for the Alcovy Judicial Circuit, will take over the investigation into allegations of wrongdoing by Hill.

"In order to remove any questions by citizens if this investigation is politically motivated, another DA is now in charge of the investigation into Victor Hill and his administration," said Lawson.

Lawson said she cannot comment on the nature of the investigation.

However, Naomi Simone Nash, 35, of Tallahassee, was jailed in September for allegedly refusing to testify before a special grand jury convened to investigate Hill.

Nash worked for Hill, who spent one term in office during 2005-2008. Hill's election documents show that he paid Nash $15,000 and listed her as his campaign manager.

After about a week in the Clayton County Jail, Nash told Superior Court Judge Matthew Simmons there was a miscommunication about her intentions.

"I want to testify as soon as possible," said Nash at the contempt-of-court hearing in September. "I never said I would wait, that's misinformation."

Another former Hill employee, Jonathan Yusef Newton, 38, was arrested in May on a bench warrant, while at his job as a Palmetto police officer. A secret grand jury returned a 12-count indictment outlining a pattern of theft and forgery while Newton worked for the Clayton County Sheriff's Office under Hill.

Newton, who has a background in publishing and graphic design, was responsible for the layout and design of Hill's official newsletter, "The Star." In addition to his job at the sheriff's office, Newton started a now-defunct newspaper targeting the county's black residents, "Clayton County Progress."

The indictment alleges that Newton stole thousands of dollars of county taxpayers' money in connection with the publication of Hill's newsletter. Lawson said Newton took layout pages to the printer, Advantage Fulfillment Services Inc., and got an e-mailed invoice in return. Lawson said Newton then altered the invoice for more money, and turned in that higher invoice.

She said he took the county's check reflecting the higher amount to the printer and asked for a refund check for the difference. Two months after Newton's indictment, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that special purpose grand juries are not authorized by statute to return criminal indictments.

Lawson has continued her special grand jury investigations, but until the ruling is reversed, that body has no indictment powers.