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Hill jury seated Thursday, testimony begins in Clayton County Superior Court

Testimony begins in criminal case

Court reporter Barbara Cooley, in center, is flanked by defense attorney Steve Frey and prosecutors Melanie Bell and Layla Zon to her left and defense attorneys Drew Findling, Musa Ghanayem and Marissa Goldberg to her right during a sidebar with Collier Wednesday afternoon.

Court reporter Barbara Cooley, in center, is flanked by defense attorney Steve Frey and prosecutors Melanie Bell and Layla Zon to her left and defense attorneys Drew Findling, Musa Ghanayem and Marissa Goldberg to her right during a sidebar with Collier Wednesday afternoon.

JONESBORO — A race bias question was raised by special prosecutor Layla Zone when a mostly black jury was seated Thursday morning to determine the fate of Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill.

The panel of 12 jurors and two alternates is made of 12 blacks, one white and one Asian. There are three females, all black.

Defense attorney Drew Findling argued that Zon used all her “strikes” on black jurors, in other words, to excuse them from the panel. Zon countered that the defense used its “strikes” to rid the panel of 75 percent — three of four — of the white jurors.

Zon said she used what she had to work with.

“All our strikes were based on the jury pool we had,” she said. “All were African Americans with the exception of four Caucasians.”

Clayton County Superior Court Judge Albert Collier held a brief hearing on the issue before seating the 14 jurors. He ruled that the defense was race-neutral in making its choices.

Opening statements started at 10:40 a.m. with Zon addressing the jurors.

“What is a thief?” she said. “Everyone knows what a thief is, we don’t have to define it. A thief is someone who takes property that belongs to someone else on purpose. That’s all this case is about.”

Hill was indicted in January 2012 on 37 felonies — largely theft by taking — but is being prosecuted starting Thursday on 28 counts because Collier agreed to drop nine charges.

Hill took office in January 2005 as the county’s first black sheriff. He lost a re-election bid in 2008 but ran last year under indictment and ascended to office again in January.

The charges largely involve Hill’s alleged misuse of taxpayers’ money to pay for vacations with two women, one who worked for him and one who was his alleged campaign manager. He is also charged with trying to influence one of the women when she was subpoenaed to testify before a special purpose grand jury convened to investigate Hill.

To that end, said Zon, “The defendant, Victor Hill, is a thief.”

She cautioned jurors that the case is not about whether Hill is a good man or not a good man, or whether he was or is a good sheriff. It’s not, said Zon, about how high or low the crime rates are.

“He exercised control over his department and abused that control,” she said. “He had an employee come to his house to write a biography for the sheriff.”

That employee, Jonathan Newton, was also indicted, for allegedly taking kickbacks from the publication of Hill’s monthly newsletter, “The Star,” and is reportedly prepared to testify against Hill under the promise of immunity.

The employee who traveled with him, Beatrice Powell, was also indicted for lying to the grand jury about her trips with Hill. Powell is also expected to be granted immunity in exchange for her testimony.

Zon said she doesn’t expect the defense to challenge much of the case since there is no question that Hill took the trips to Helen and surrounding states.

“At the end of the day, it happened, he went on those trips,” she said. “He took the county car. He took county fuel. What is disputed is his intent.”

Defense attorney Steve Frey told the jury that Hill had every right as sheriff to take a county vehicle out of town and use county fuel to get him there.

“He’s the sheriff, 365, 24/7,” said Frey. “If he goes out of town and gets a call he has to return immediately. Going to the Delta counter and asking for a seat on the next flight out is going to cost way more than filling up a county car.”

Frey said Hill enjoyed the perks of being sheriff and having access to county vehicles.

Frey also characterized the case against Hill as being a politically-motivated, mean-spirited attempt to keep him from running for office. The chief investigator on the case, David Ward, was one of 27 deputies Hill fired on his first day in office in January 2005. Ward sued Hill and the county with the other deputies, and won a settlement and a chance to get his job back.

Ward opted to work for the Clayton County Police Department, said Frey, and was fired for lying about a “secret” email account. Ward returned to the sheriff’s office after Hill lost to Kem Kimbrough and began “spying” on Hill and investigating his life, said Frey.

“He began spying on his nemesis, Victor Hill,” said Frey, about an investigation that resulted in Hill’s indictment by the grand jury in January 2012.

Thursday afternoon the state was slated to call its first witness.

Comments

MD 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Victor has an answer for everything doesn't he?

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OscarKnight 8 months, 1 week ago

....(("Victor has an answer for everything doesn't he?"))

....Maybe for the fools & morons in his lopsided flea circus. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, chances are it's probably a duck.

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OscarKnight 8 months, 1 week ago

....Quote : (( "The panel of 12 jurors and two alternates is made of 12 blacks, one white and one Asian. There are three females, all black." ))

...Victor Hill received 63,936 votes during the General Elections, on November 6, 2012, which equates to 76.46 % percent of the registered voters that voted during the General Elections in this county. Need I say more ?

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OscarKnight 8 months, 1 week ago

....It appears to me that Victor's Defense Team has a pocket full of trump cards on this jury. I hope that my gut instincts are wrong about this.

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OscarKnight 8 months, 1 week ago

....Military Occupation In Clayton County ?

.....In Victor Hill's own words.

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OscarKnight 8 months, 1 week ago

....Serving The People of this county, or Serving Himself ?

"Former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill Files Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition"

http://www.georgiabankruptcyblog.com/archives/northern-district-cases-former-clayton-county-sheriff-victor-hill-files-chapter-7-bankruptcy-petition.html

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OscarKnight 8 months, 1 week ago

....Victor Hill's Pay Raise :

....Quote : "Sheriff Hill's white opponent, the incumbent, Stanley Tuggle, for the $86,000-a-year post"

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9406E1DF1F39F933A25752C0A9639C8B63&pagewanted=1

....Some of Our Legislators, from Clayton County, gave Victor Hill a pay raise after his fiasco on the "Snipers on the Roof Top" incident, which resulted in a 7 million dollar lawsuit .

.......House Bill 704

......By: Representatives Darryl Jordan of the 77th, Heckstall of the 62nd, Celeste Johnson of the 75th, Georganna Sinkfield of the 60th, and Roberta Abdul-Salaam of the 74th

(( "The sheriff of Clayton County shall receive a total annual salary of $122,200.00 including any supplements and additional compensation for services which are paid pursuant to state law or county ordinance, which are being received on March 15, 2007, and which are paid from the funds of Clayton County. This shall not prohibit the governing authority of Clayton County from increasing the amount of any supplement or compensation for additional duties which the governing authority may lawfully pay to the sheriff on or after July 1, 2007." ))

http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20072008/HB/704

......The Snipers on the Roof took place on Victor Hill's first day as The Clayton County Sheriff, in JANUARY 2005. For that incident, some of our Representatives still thought that he deserved a increase in pay. I may be wrong about this, but, this still puzzles me.

......Would anyone Please sort out this puzzle ?

http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20072008/HB/704

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OscarKnight 8 months, 1 week ago

........Hill was using his Deputies to dehumanize the citizens of Clayton County, during routine traffic stops and road blocks. These Deputies was jumping calls, crashing police vehicles, and creating an unsafe environment on our public streets. We had several friends and relatives, from out of town, that was afraid to come to our home in fear of by random searches by Hill's Deputies or one of Hill's Check Point Charlie Road Blocks.

http://www.news-daily.com/news/2012/jan/19/hills-tenure-sheriff-fraught-controversy/?c=120874

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OscarKnight 8 months, 1 week ago

...Smoke, Mirrors, and Gaining Power :

.....Hill had already painted the Sheriff Vehicles Black, and changed the Deputy Uniforms to mimic that of The Clayton County Police, but he wanted more :

Quote : ((" According to Hill, the "next step" toward consolidation is a voter referendum. Hill is the only elected official in Clayton County who has publicly promoted or supported the idea of giving the sheriff's office more power through the elimination of the police department."))

http://www.news-daily.com/news/2008/jun/06/consolidation-question-goes-to-democrats-on/?templates=desktop

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OscarKnight 8 months, 1 week ago

....When Victor Hill replaced all of the old tan and brown uniforms with dark navy uniforms that resemble police uniforms :

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OscarKnight 8 months, 1 week ago

....Should we snap to attention, click our heels together, and say "Hail To Victor Hiil", our Supreme Ruler ?

http://www.news-daily.com/news/2005/may/18/sheriff-responds-to-recent-letter-writer/?c=120890

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Robert 8 months, 1 week ago

Hial Hitler, er, I mean Victor.

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OscarKnight 8 months, 1 week ago

Quote : (("President Lincoln knew we would have a stronger, more efficient country if we were united instead of having two separate nations, and he fought to see it happen. I know we can have a stronger and more efficient law enforcement agency if we consolidate our forces and like President Lincoln, I will fight for consolidation until it is achieved. If you cross the county line into Fayette County, which is now home to many former Clayton County residents due to our increase in crime, you will find that there is"))

......Is Victor Hill comparing himself to President Lincoln ?

......Riddle me with this question :

.......What was Victor Hill doing while Kem Kimbrough was the Sheriff ?

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MD 8 months, 1 week ago

The real question is. Who is paying the fees for Victor Hill's lawyers? He has no money, no assets. Someone is set on getting him off these charges for a reason. Someone with allot of money. Hmmmmmmm?

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OscarKnight 8 months, 1 week ago

....MD; I asked the same question on another News Forum yesterday.

.....Talking about Hung Juries :

.....If this trial results in a Hung Jury, there would be a retrial.....Having a retrial would be more legal expenses for Victor Hill, or those that is footing his legal costs. Who has this much money, in this county, to throw away without cause ?.......This shouldn't take a rocket scientist to solve this riddle.

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OscarKnight 8 months, 1 week ago

....It's no mystery why the Clayton County Voters has become the laughing stock of our State.

http://www.news-daily.com/users/photos/2012/dec/10/59873/

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