Former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Keith Hill faces possible indictment on several felonies, including racketeering, when the grand jury meets Jan. 18.
Clayton County District Attorney investigators notified Hill, 46, Tuesday, of the pending presentment of evidence, a right afforded him under Georgia law as a former law enforcement officer.
Officers facing indictment also have the right to participate in the grand jury process. They do not, however, have to answer questions.
But Hill’s attorney, Steve Frey, isn’t 100 percent certain that Hill retains that right.
“I have not looked into his right to testify,” said Frey. “There have been a trend of cases in Clayton County that says, if an officer committed certain crimes, he was not doing his official duties. Until I get a better grip on that, I am not going to take a position.”
Frey said Hill maintains his innocence and denies any wrongdoing.
Hill said he plans to run a third time for sheriff this year. He served one term, 2005-2008, and failed to garner a second term. Sheriff Kem KImbrough, who also plans to run for re-election, declined to comment on the pending charges.
According to Clayton County Superior Court records, prosecutors plan to present evidence against Hill, for the alleged offenses of: theft by taking, false statements, violation of the oath of public office, influencing witnesses, and racketeering, a RICO allegation. Conviction could land Hill in prison for years.
Clayton District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson, who took office as Hill’s bid for re-election failed, recused herself from the case to avoid the accusation that the prosecution is driven by politics. She appointed Alcovy Circuit District Attorney Layla Zon to handle the case.
Zon is prosecuting a death penalty case this week in her circuit, comprised of Walton and Newton counties, and could not immediately be reached for comment. Lawson confirmed the pending indictment, but declined to comment further because of the recusal.
If Hill is indicted, it will mark the culmination of a series of actions taken by Lawson’s office over the past year. Naomi Simone Nash, 35, of Tallahassee, was jailed briefly in September for allegedly refusing to testify before a special grand jury convened to investigate Hill.
Nash worked for Hill during his term as sheriff. Hill’s election documents show that he paid Nash $15,000 and listed her as his campaign manager.
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 alleged 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 population, “Clayton County Progress.”
The indictment alleges that Newton stole thousands 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.