JONESBORO -- Clayton County's former sheriff Victor Hill will be facing Newton County District Attorney Layla Zon when he has his day in court.
Hill was indicted Wednesday on 37 counts of alleged wrongdoing during his tenure in office from 2005 to 2008.
Zon, who has been District Attorney for the Alcovy Circuit which includes both Newton and Walton counties since 2010, was tapped as special prosecutor in the highly publicized case by Clayton District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson.
Lawson recused herself from the case, saying she wanted to avoid the accusation that the prosecution is driven by politics.
Hill's defense counsel, Musa Ghanayem, made the allegation nonetheless.
"Even though a special prosecutor was brought in to present this to the grand jury, the indictment was handed down in Clayton County. It was investigated in Clayton County. It was written by this county's district attorney," Ghanayem said. "The air of impropriety is so thick, it's making me choke."
Ghanayem said Hill maintains his innocence, and as he was led from the courtroom to jail Wednesday, Hill pledged to continue his run for sheriff this year.
The 51-page indictment against Hill details the charges that date back to 2007, but include allegations as recently as last summer. Special prosecutor Zon has presented evidence that Hill ran the sheriff's office as an "enterprise" engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity.
The charges also confirm rumors that swirled around Hill during his stay in office, including that he repeatedly put an employee, Beatrice Powell, on paid administrative, or sick leave, so she could take personal vacations with him.
"He ordered that a sheriff's office employee be placed on paid administrative leave, so that she could travel with Victor Keith Hill on personal trips and still receive a salary," according to the indictments.
The indictments also allege that he illegally profited from his position as sheriff through various means. The charges tie Hill directly to the May indictment of his former spokesman, Jonathan Newton, and that he illegally profited from a kickback scheme involving the publication of "The Star," his newsletter.
"He illegally profited from his position as sheriff by allowing a sheriff's office employee to receive payment from Clayton County in the form of 'kickbacks,' from the company that printed a publication entitled, 'The Sheriff's Star,'" alleges the indictment.
The indictment charges Hill with multiple counts of theft by taking, for allegedly going on personal trips in the county's 2006 Dodge Charger, and 2003 Ford Excursion, to Helen, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi, using county fuel, or by using Clayton County funds to buy fuel out of town.
Hill is also accused of using campaign funds for his personal use. Specifically, Hill is charged with paying Naomi Nash $15,000 from his campaign account purportedly for her services as his campaign manager. Prosecutors allege that most of the money was returned to Hill after the funds were deposited, and then withdrawn from Nash's personal account. The indictment alleges that Hill took $22,000 in campaign funds from Aug. 14, 2008, to Nov. 17, 2008.
On June 6, the indictment alleges, Hill took a $2,000 contribution from Joon Co. Beauty Master-Morrow, and deposited it into his personal Bank of America account.
Newton Citizen News Editor Barbara Knowles contributed to this story.