JONESBORO — A sheriff’s candidate facing a 37-count felony indictment for alleged criminal activity related to his previous term in office has apparently garnered enough votes Tuesday to challenge the incumbent to a runoff.
At press time, with 58 of 60 precincts reporting, none of the eight candidates vying for sheriff had enough votes to claim victory but preliminary numbers put Sheriff Kem Kimbrough in a run-off with former Sheriff Victor Hill. Hill faces years in prison if convicted on charges that include theft by taking, lying, racketeering, violation of oath of office and influencing a witness.
Kimbrough was hopeful late Tuesday night that he can avoid a run-off once all the votes are tallied.
“I think the results tonight show the majority of the people of Clayton County recognize the work we’re doing,” he said. “We’re close to carrying this off without a run-off. If not, we’ll be able to pull it off with a run-off.”
Kimbrough said he is surprised at the votes Hill generated.
“His litany of misdeeds is long and, I thought, well-known,” said Kimbrough. “For the people of Clayton County to disregard that and accept his fluff without substance is disheartening.”
Kimbrough said he is thankful to his supporters.
“That’s why I do what I do,” he said. “I put this in their hands.”
As Hill left Clayton County Superior Court in January after learning he’d been indicted, he vowed to campaign for a second term.
“All I am going to say is I am still running for sheriff,” he said at the time.
Hill could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
At press time, Kimbrough had 42.18 percent of the vote against Hill’s 37.76 percent. Tina Daniel was in third place with 12.92 percent, followed by Jon Antoine with 1.93 percent; Ricky Redding with 1.54 percent; Lawrence Ethridge with 1.48 percent; Rica Wright with 1.29 percent and Dreq Newsome with .9 percent.
To avoid a run-off, a candidate must win 50 percent of the vote plus one.
The 51-page indictment details the charges against Hill that date back to 2007 but include allegations as recently as last summer. Special prosecutor Layla Zon of the Alcovy Circuit, presented evidence that Hill ran the sheriff’s office as an “enterprise” engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity.
Hill is accused of using campaign funds for his personal use. Specifically, Hill is charged with paying Naomi Nash $15,000 from his campaign account purportedly for her services as his campaign manager. But prosecutors allege that most of the money was returned to Hill after the funds were deposited and then withdrawn from Nash’s personal account. The indictment alleges he took $22,000 in campaign funds from Aug. 14, 2008, to Nov. 17, 2008.
On his first day in office, Hill fired 27 deputies, posting armed snipers on the roof of the courthouse to counteract any violence. The deputies sued and collected a multi-million dollar settlement. They were also rehired.
When Hill was indicted, Kimbrough blasted him for allegedly exploiting the sheriff’s office.
“Somewhere along the road, he lost himself and he lost perspective in terms of being in a law enforcement agency,” said Kimbrough in January. “He operated the sheriff’s office for his own gain, for personal and political ends. If anyone has exploited the sheriff’s office, Victor Hill has.”
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