Valdosta Daily Times

National, International News

November 3, 2012

In Ga. county, sheriff hopeful under indictment

ATLANTA — A self-proclaimed Batman-loving lawman who says he is tough on crime stands a good Election Day chance of regaining the Atlanta-area sheriff’s seat he lost four years ago. The catch? He’s charged with more than two-dozen felonies that could ultimately lead to him being suspended or tossed from office.

Victor Hill was indicted in January and faces 32 felony counts stemming from his first term as Clayton County sheriff from 2005 to 2008. The indictment accuses him of taking money from his failed re-election campaign in 2008, as well as using county resources for vacations. Defense attorneys have said during court hearings that the accusations are attacks by political rivals.

Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, who is president of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, said he could not recall an instance of someone under indictment being elected sheriff in the state.

In 2008, Hill was unseated by current Sheriff Kem Kimbrough, a Democrat, in the county of about a quarter-million people just south of Atlanta. However, Hill thwarted Kimbrough’s bid for re-election in an August runoff, defeating him by more than 1,000 votes. He will be the only candidate on the ballot Tuesday, and his chief rival is a write-in candidate: current Clayton County Chief Deputy Garland Watkins.

In Clayton County, the sheriff’s department has typically carried out court functions, such as serving warrants and running the jail. A county police force handles other law enforcement duties.

But Hill took a tough-on-crime stance and boasts on his campaign website of efforts to crack down on drugs and prostitution. He used a tank owned by the agency during drug raids (he says it was already owned by the agency and he was merely putting it to use). On his campaign website, he mentions his affinity for the superhero Batman in refuting a rumor that he had a life-size figure in his office: “Victor Hill had several Batman figures in his office that were given to him as gifts from citizens and employees who knew he was a Batman fan. None of them were life size.”

Hill became mired in controversy the day he took office in 2005, when he fired 27 deputies, including Watkins. He says there were valid reasons for each firing, though a judge later ordered that they be reinstated.

A phone listing for Hill was disconnected, and he did not respond to an email message sent to his campaign. Calls to a handful of Hill’s campaign donors were not returned or the number was disconnected. One declined comment.

Watkins, who has 26 years with the sheriff’s department and became chief deputy under current Sheriff Kimbrough, said he decided to launch his longshot bid when Hill won the primary. He said he thinks low voter turnout played a role in the outcome.

“Right now, I just don’t believe that Victor Hill is what this county needs,” said Watkins, 50, of Jonesboro. “Being a sheriff, you are a reflection of the people you serve. It is embarrassing. I don’t know any other way to say it.”

Even if Hill is elected, it’s possible he could be tossed out of office under Georgia law. If the charges aren’t resolved by Jan. 1, the governor would appoint a panel of two sheriffs and the attorney general to determine if he should be suspended. If that panel recommends that the sheriff be suspended, the governor can then decide whether to follow that recommendation. If he were to be suspended, a temporary replacement would be appointed.

Under Georgia law, anyone convicted of a felony cannot hold the office of sheriff — meaning it’s possible Hill would be tossed from office if convicted of even one charge. Hill’s certification as a peace officer also has been suspended. State law requires sheriffs to obtain that certification within six months of taking office.

With Hill the only candidate on the ballot, Watkins has mounted an aggressive grassroots campaign. On his campaign website, Watkins talks about how he will restore the agency’s focus on serving warrants, which he says is critical to getting criminals off the streets. He also notes he is not facing a felony indictment.

Watkins acknowledges the long odds and says he’s been relying on small and in-kind donations to help keep his campaign running.

“I’ve been only able to get a small amount of money. But we’re going to push on,” Watkins said.

When asked how Hill may have been able to overcome the stigma of a felony indictment, Sills repeated advice he gives other newly elected sheriffs: Sheriffs are never better than the people that elect them. Sills said he frequently interacts with the people in his community and that he is the person they look to for protection — meaning he and other sheriffs must be held to a higher standard.

“If I did some shenanigans like that, Lord have mercy,” he said. “You couldn’t survive it. There’s no way you could survive. I don’t care if you caught (Osama) bin Laden.”

 

1
Text Only
National, International News
  • Boston Marathon Bombi_Rich copy.jpg Questions linger year after Boston Marathon bombs

    A surveillance video shows a man prosecutors say is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev placing a bomb near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, just yards from where an 8-year-old boy was killed when it exploded.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP120401029 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, April 15, the 105th day of 2014. There are 260 days left in the year.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Space Station_Rich copy.jpg NASA OKs space station visit despite dead computer

    NASA is pressing ahead with Monday’s planned launch of a supply ship despite a critical computer outage at the International Space Station, promising the situation is safe.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fatal Shooting Kansas_Rich copy.jpg 3 dead after suburban Kansas City shooting

    A man opened fire outside a Jewish community center on Sunday, killing two people before driving over to a retirement community a few blocks away and killing someone else, authorities said.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Seven Dead Babies Arr_Rich(1) copy.jpg Utah woman arrested after 7 dead babies found

    A Utah woman accused of killing several babies she gave birth to over 10 years was arrested Sunday after police discovered seven tiny bodies stuffed in separate cardboard boxes in the garage of her former home.
    Megan Huntsman, 39, who lived in the Pleasant Grove home until three years ago, had the infants between 1996 and 2006, investigators said.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP110714053482 copy.jpg Today in History for Monday, April 14, 2014

    Today is Monday, April 14, the 104th day of 2014. There are 261 days left in the year. The Jewish holiday Passover begins at sunset.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Range Showdow_Rich copy.jpg Feds release cows gathered in Nevada roundup

    Federal land managers confirmed Saturday that they released all 400 or so head of cattle rounded up on public land in southern Nevada from a rancher who has refused to recognize their authority.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Ukraine_Rich copy.jpg Uniformed men occupy Donetsk police HQ

    Men in the uniforms of Ukraine’s now-defunct riot police on Saturday occupied police headquarters in Donetsk, the eastern city that is one of the flashpoints of a wave of pro-Russia protests, hours after armed men seized local police headquarters and a local branch of the Security Service in a nearby city.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Australia Malaysia Pl_Rich copy.jpg Long hunt for missing jet looms as pings go silent

    After a week of optimism over four underwater signals believed to be coming from the missing Malaysian plane, the sea has gone quiet and Australia’s leader is warning that the massive search will likely be long.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP82016106626 copy.jpg Today in History for Sunday, April 13, 2014

    Today is Palm Sunday, April 13, the 103rd day of 2014. There are 262 days left in the year.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

What you think about school and workplace rules about Facebook friends?

There have to be rules.
No need for rules, just use common sense.
If people want to be friends, what is the big deal?
Nobody uses Facebook anymore.
     View Results