Prosecutor Melanie Bell shows witness Naomi Nash documents during her testimony in Clayton County Superior Court Friday afternoon. (Staff photo: Kathy Jefcoats)
JONESBORO — A tight smile flashed across Naomi Nash’s face as she recalled the day five years ago she was able to buy her daughter a pricey MacBook Pro for her 16th birthday.
However, that smile disappeared a few minutes later when she remembered how Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill forced her to return the gift the same day and give him the refunded money, according to her testimony Friday afternoon.
“He was of the strong opinion that I spent too much money and should have bought a laptop that was more reasonable,” she said. “He requested I go and get it back from her and get something more reasonable.”
Nash said she returned to the house where the teenager lived with her father and took back the laptop and accessories.
“He went with me,” said Nash. “We returned it to Best Buy for a refund. I got the part of the refund for the accessories but the refund of the purchase price of the laptop and warranty went to Victor Hill.”
To corroborate her testimony, a Best Buy employee identified copies of receipts that showed Nash got a $160 cash refund for laptop accessories and Hill got a company refund check for the laptop and two-year warranty.
Defense attorney Steve Frey tried to elicit testimony that the refund check was made to Hill because Nash didn’t have identification but the employee said he had no information to prove that assertion.
Nash took the stand in the case against Hill. Hill is accused of 28 felonies, mostly theft by taking charges. However, a count involving the alleged laundering of $15,000 in campaign funds was among nine dropped before the trial started this week.
Prosecutors allege Hill claimed Nash was his campaign manager so he could pay her in donations and use her to filter the money back to him.
Nash testified to first meeting Hill before coming to work for him at the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office in 2007. At some point, she said she moved into his house. She also traveled out of town with Hill and another female employee, Beatrice Powell.
She left the job in the spring of 2008 and became Hill’s campaign manager, Nash testified.
“I don’t remember the exact wording of how I came to be his campaign manager,” she said. “It was my understanding that I was his campaign manager.”
Nash said there was no agreement on her salary but that Hill paid her $15,000. She testified that she bought a cashier’s check for first and last months’ rent and a security deposit for an apartment outside of Miami, Fla., in Hill’s name.
She said she bought a computer and other items.
“The rest of the money went to Victor Hill,” said Nash.
Bank records showed a Sept. 3, 2008, withdrawal of close to $6,000, said prosecutor Melanie Bell.
“Who ended up with most of that money?” Bell said.
“Victor Hill,” said Nash.
Nash said of the $15,000 paid to her as salary for being his campaign manager, she was allowed to keep about $1,000.
“The rest of it went to Victor Hill,” she said. “The rest of it went to Victor Hill.”
Three years later, Nash was subpoenaed to testify before a special purpose grand jury investigating Hill. Hill lost a re-election bid in August 2008 and was no longer in office.
She was jailed in Clayton County for refusing to testify in 2011 and Hill hired a Riverdale attorney to visit her. That attorney, Hillman Toombs, took the stand after she did and confirmed the incident.
Toombs fought testifying because he said it violated attorney-client privilege. However, Judge Albert Collier said that, because Toombs didn’t assert that privilege when he testified before the special purpose grand jury in 2011, it was considered waived.
Toombs testified that Hill paid him $500 to visit Nash in jail and tell her the immunity was “OK.” After the visit, Nash agreed to testify and was released from jail.
However, prosecutors deemed the action Hill’s attempt at influencing a witness and indicted him on that charge and 36 others in January 2012. He won re-election months later and returned to office in January 2013.
Hill maintains his innocence and has supporters who believe he is a political target. Some of those supporters have been in court every day since jury selection began Monday.
A Cobb County-based organization, New Order Human Rights, issued a statement this week demanding that Hill’s charges be dropped.
“Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill, a man of honor, strength and discipline who has been such a great influence and protector is being falsely accused,” said spokesman Gerald Rose. “New Order Human Rights Organization has seen how Mr. Hill has proven greatness and New Order shows support for him during this time. Mr. Hill has served the community by cleaning up the streets and desires to continue to serve his community. New Order asks that these charges be dropped against Mr. Hill immediately so that he can continue his work in the community.”
Testimony will continue in the case Monday.