Updated:CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga.,None —
A grand jury indicted former Clayton County sheriff Victor Hill on 37 counts, alleging he used county cars for getaways and county credit cards for shopping sprees.
Hill’s charges include theft by taking, making false statements and violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, wrapping up a nearly year-long investigation.
A hearing was immediately held for Hill where a judge set bond at $50,000 and ordered the former sheriff to surrender his passport, remain in Georgia and not to contact any witnesses. Hill was still behind bars the next morning. His attorney said bonding companies want no part in the case.
“I’ve had them tell me they will not for fear that they will be decertified from being able to have bonds at the Clayton County Jail in the future,” attorney Musa Ghanayem said.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne talked to Hill before he addressed the grand jury panel Wednesday. Hill maintained his innocence and said he still plans on running for sheriff again.
“Looking forward to defending myself. I think everyone knows it’s politically motivated and we’re ready to get back on the campaign trail,” Hill told Winne.
The grand jury started an investigation into Hill in April, and prosecutors finished their presentation on Wednesday afternoon. Hill then had the option to make a final statement before the panel voted on the charges.
Sources told Winne the special grand jury looked at the use of county credit cards, the handling of campaign finances, if there was personal travel using county equipment, if county employees engaged in campaign or personal business for Hill.
Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough has been critical of Hill, whom he won against in 2008. Kimbrough said he takes no joy in Hill’s downfall but considers it vindication.
“It is not politically motivated. It is all about accountability and the integrity of the offices we hold,” Kimbrough told Winne.
Kimbrough said he would be ready for Hill in another face-off.
“This is how I'm going to campaign against him,” Kimbrough told Thomas, holding a copy of the indictment against Hill. “Not only was he a poor sheriff, but he broke the law.”
Beatrice Powell, a former Clayton County corrections officer, was also indicted on perjury and theft by taking charges in connection with Hill’s case. Investigators said they contacted her last summer about her friendship with Hill.
Investigators said they wanted to know if Powell campaigned for Hill on county time and whether he allowed her to get paid on the county’s dime. Powell told investigators she committed no crime.
Hill's attorney, Steve Fry, said he will fight the charges and Hill has not violated the law.
Hill is currently being held in the Gwinnett County Jail instead of the Clayton County Jail for security reasons.
He has been unable to post his $50,000 bond because local bondsmen have refused to help the former sheriff.
"I've had them tell me they will not (help Hill) for fear that they will be decertified from being able to have bonds at the Clayton County jail in the future," attorney Musa Ghanayem said.
Ghanayem said he believes Kimbrough has the motivation to keep Hill in jail.