Victor Hill takes his oath of office as sheriff of Clayton County Dec. 15, 2004. (File Photo)
JONESBORO — A former Clayton County sheriff’s deputy fired on Victor Hill’s first day in office in 2005 is apparently endorsing his re-election, according to a press release issued Wednesday by Hill’s campaign.
Tina Daniel, now a lieutenant for the Clayton County Police Department, was one of 27 deputies fired when Hill took office in January 2005. The deputies hired an attorney, sued the county, got their jobs back — and split millions in a settlement over the firings.
However, Daniel and Hill continued to butt heads. He once disciplined her for making a “Halloween” face at him. Sometime later, she left the sheriff’s office for a job at the police department, where she ran the public affairs division.
The two became adversaries again in May, when both qualified, along with five others, to run for sheriff against incumbent Kem Kimbrough. Kimbrough narrowly defeated Hill in 2008. Although Hill was indicted in January on 37 felony counts for alleged crimes while he was sheriff and faces years in prison if convicted, he garnered enough votes to throw the election into an Aug. 21 run-off with Kimbrough. Daniel came in third behind the two and is now apparently supporting Hill’s re-election.
“I believe Victor Hill is the best choice to deal with the crime situation in Clayton County because the crime statistics were much lower while he was in office,” Daniel is quoted in Hill’s press release.
However, statistics retrieved from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports show that violent crime dropped from Hill’s 2005-2008 term to Kimbrough’s 2009-2010, the most recent data available. During Hill’s first year in office, there were 22 murders in Clayton County. In 2006, there were 34, followed by 35 in 2007 and 27 in 2008. There were 443 robberies in 2005; 544 in 2006; 605 in 2007 and 669 in 2008. In 2005, there were 525 aggravated assaults; in 2006, there were 506; 649 in 2007 and 654 in 2008.
Vehicle thefts were high in 2005 with 1,699 and steadily declined to 1,650 in 2006; 1,598 in 2007 and 1,442 in 2008.
During Kimbrough’s first year in office, there were 17 murders followed by 12 in 2010. There were 485 robberies in 2009 and 434 in 2010. There were 558 aggravated assaults in 2009 and 511 in 2010. Vehicle thefts continued to decline to 1,262 in 2009 but spiked again in 2010 with 1,303.
Statistically, murders were down 51 percent from Hill’s term to Kimbrough’s; robberies were down 19 percent; aggravated assaults were down 8 percent and vehicle thefts were down 20 percent.
Daniel could not be reached for further comment. Kimbrough declined to comment Wednesday.
Another former candidate is also endorsing Hill’s re-election, according to the press release. Rica Wright is a former Clayton County sheriff’s major and called Hill’s career “distinguished.”
“Hill is a better man because of his distinguished experience in law enforcement, and will be even more effective if elected,” said Wright in the release.
The 51-page indictment against Hill, 47, details charges 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.
The indictments include a charge that Hill repeatedly put an employee, Beatrice Powell, on paid administrative or sick leave so she could take personal vacations with him.
“He ordered that a sheriff’s office employee be placed on paid administrative leave so that she could travel with Victor Keith Hill on personal trips and still receive a salary,” according to the indictments.
Powell was indicted on three counts of perjury and one of theft by taking.
The indictments also allege Hill illegally profited from his position as sheriff through various means. The charges tie Hill directly to the May 2011 indictment of his former spokesman, Jonathan Newton, and that he illegally profited from a kickback scheme involving the publication of his newsletter, “The Star.”
“He illegally profited from his position as sheriff by allowing a sheriff’s office employee to receive payment from Clayton County in form of ‘kickbacks,’ from the company that printed a publication entitled, ‘The Sheriff’s Star,’” alleges the indictment.
The indictment charges Hill with multiple counts of theft by taking for allegedly taking personal trips in the county’s 2006 Dodge Charger and 2003 Ford Excursion to Helen, Ga., Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi, using county fuel or by using Clayton County funds to buy fuel out of town.
Hill is also 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 June 6, 2011, the indictment alleges Hill took a $2,000 contribution from Joon Co. Beauty Master-Morrow and deposited it into his personal Bank of America account.
Count 20 of the indictments allege that Hill directed Newton to work on his biography while on the county payroll: “He did unlawfully take the services of Clayton County Sheriff’s employee Jonathan Newton, the property of Clayton County, by directly and indirectly ordering Jonathan Newton, while said employee was on duty and while said employee was being paid by Clayton County, to work on a book that Victor Keith Hill was writing.”
Hill is also accused of ordering Newton to work on his campaign while on the county clock.
The indictment alleges Hill violated his oath of public office when he vowed to “take only my lawful fees.”
Nash, 35, reportedly testified before the grand jury, giving evidence against him. Hill’s indictment includes a charge he tried to influence Nash in September to not testify against him before a special grand jury.
“With the intent to deter Naomi Nash, a witness, from testifying freely, fully and truthfully to a matter pending in front of a Special Purpose Grand Jury of Clayton County, did unlawfully offer and deliver services of an attorney and assistance with personal tasks as a benefit, reward and consideration” after Nash was locked up for her refusal to testify, alleges the indictment.
According to Clayton County court records, there are no charges pending against Nash.
Hill maintains his innocence on all charges and claims the prosecution is politically-motivated. There is no trial date set but the next hearing on defense motions is Sept. 10.
Hill, who was born and raised in Charleston, S.C., has kept a low profile since losing the election in 2008. He declared bankruptcy and was forced to sell the Wicker Court home he bought after taking office in 2005. According to his declaration of candidacy and affidavit obtained by the Clayton News Daily through the Open Records Act, Hill has lived in Clayton County for 20 consecutive years. He listed a College Park apartment as his residence at the time of qualifying but left blank the spot for his employment.
His residency in the last six years has included addresses in Jonesboro and Riverdale. Hill stated that, since leaving office, he’s worked for Affinity Trading Group, Lexus of South Atlanta and Devcon Security Services.
Hill and Kimbrough will face off in an Aug. 15 debate sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club. Hill said he is looking forward to “exposing Kimbrough with the truth.”
“Any further comments will be saved for the debate,” said Hill.