Photo by Heather Middleton
By Kathy Jefcoats
Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson was tight-lipped Monday, on whether last week's indictment of a former sheriff's employee may lead to other arrests.
"I cannot predict or make conjecture," said Lawson. "I can't talk about the case at all, or whether there may be other arrests or other charges." She confirmed that her office began investigating Jonathan Yusef Newton this year.
Newton, 38, was arrested Friday on a bench warrant, while at his job as a Palmetto police officer. A secret grand jury returned a 12-count indictment Friday morning, outlining an alleged pattern of theft and forgery, while Newton worked for the Clayton Sheriff's Office, under former Sheriff Victor 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 -- "Clayton County Progress" -- targeting the county's black population. He also published the "Palm Beach Progress," when he lived in Florida. That paper, too, is defunct. In 2008, he made an unsuccessful bid for the state representative's seat in District 78.
The indictment alleges that Newton stole thousands in 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.
"He then used the money for either the 'Clayton County Progress,' or himself," said Lawson.
The last count of the indictment alleges that Newton accepted a county salary while also working the polls during the 2008 re-election campaign for Hill, and while working on Hill's autobiography. Lawson declined to comment on whether that accusation could translate into trouble for Hill, who was Newton's immediate supervisor at the time.
Newton is being held on $120,000 bond at the jail where he once worked. There is no information on whether he has an attorney.
Hill lost his bid for re-election in 2008, to Kem Kimbrough. Lawson said Kimbrough is assisting her office in the case against Newton. Kimbrough said Monday he had no immediate comment on Newton's arrest.
Newton became a police officer in July 2009, after completing the Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council's law enforcement certification. Two months later, he was hired by the Morris Brown College Campus Police Department, according to POST records. He left there in February 2010, and took at job at the Palmetto department, in November.
Palmetto Police Deputy Chief John Cooper confirmed Newton's employment, saying he was a patrolman.
"The chief said while he was here, he was a good officer," said Cooper Monday. "We aren't familiar with anything that was going on in Clayton, but apparently he was being investigated by the authorities for a while."
Cooper said Newton has not been terminated. "There's been no decision on that," he said. "He's still an employee pending the outcome of an investigation. I can't answer whether or not he's still getting paid, I don't know, and I don't think that's important."
Public records show Newton has a shaky financial background. According to the Georgia Ethics Commission, Newton owes a $750 fine for failing to file 11 reports connected to his unsuccessful state runs. Jonathan Newton was also evicted from two separate business locations, in 2007 and 2008, according to Clayton Magistrate Court records. The Florida Department of Revenue also shows an active judgment lien against Newton and his ex-wife, Janet Newton, for $2,327.39.
Clayton County court records show Janet Newton filed for divorce in April 2008, and it was finalized a month later.
Newton operates a web site promoting a book he's authored, "How to Train your Dog (Oops) Man." On the site, Newton says he wrote the book to give to his daughter when she turns 16, "to help her deal with the many challenges men will present to her." On the site, he states he is self-publishing the book and solicits donations.