Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill was cleared of the 25 felony charges against him Thursday, and Alcovy Circuit District Attorney Layla Zon, who was the special prosecutor in the case, said she respects the jury's verdict.
Hill was charged with racketeering, theft by taking, making false statements and violating his oath of office. In a 51-page indictment, he was accused of using "county cars for getaways and county credit cards for shopping sprees and tapping county employees for his own campaign and charity events. He also took money for himself from his re-election campaign account."
Additionally, indictments said that Hill "frequently drove a county SUV or Dodge Charger on personal trips to Florida, South Carolina and Mississippi. He used a county gas card to fuel those drives." The indictment further alleges that "he also used county funds to pay for a getaway in the North Georgia mountains. ... Hill allegedly used county credit cards on shopping sprees while on those trips."
The indictment said that Hill used roughly $108,000 in county funds for himself or his campaign and took about $80,000 from his re-election account. The 48-year-old faced up to 455 years in prison if convicted.
Zon, who is the District Attorney for Newton and Walton counties, was appointed special prosecutor in the case in January 2012 by Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson. In October of 2012, Zon appealed the court's decision to drop five charges against Hill, delaying Hill's trail for several months.
Hill was found not guilty on all charges Thursday.
"I believe that Chief Assistant DA Melanie Bell and I did the best job that we could do as outside, independent, prosecutors on this case and so I have no regrets," Zon said in an email Friday.
"I am appreciative of Tracy Graham Lawson, the Clayton County District Attorney, and her wonderful staff. This was going to be a tough case, we knew that going in, but what is great about this job as a prosecutor is you always have an opportunity to do the right thing.
"This case was important to Clayton County and needed to be resolved in one way or another. Our job was to present the evidence. After that, it is no longer in our hands; the jury decides the case and I respect the jury's verdict."