Opening statements begin in trial of Victor Hill - Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Opening statements begin in trial of Victor Hill

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CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. -

The prosecution kicked off opening statements at the corruption trial of Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill, calling him "a thief who stole taxpayer money for his personal use."

Hill is accused of using his office and equipment for both personal and financial gain. The state says Hill stole from taxpayers during his first term in office when he allegedly abused the use of county vehicles, credit cards and employees. The defense team says the whole case is nothing more than vengeful politics.

Opening statements got underway shortly before 11 a.m. Thursday at the Clayton County Courthouse.

"The defendant, Victor Hill, the evidence is going to show, is a thief," said special prosecutor Layla Zon. "Most of the counts of the indictment address the taking of your money – the county's money – when he was sheriff back in 2005 to 2008."

Zon says Hill was despondent after he lost his re-election bid to rival Kem Kimbrough. The prosecution says Hill was depressed and began traveling to gambling casinos and mountain resorts with two women -- one of whom they say was on the county's payroll.

Both women will testify for prosecutors.

Zon said that one of the women, Beatrice Powell, was placed on paid administrative leave while she traveled with Hill after he lost the 2008 primary.

The defense countered by saying that when Hill – the county's first African-American sheriff -- was elected, the tone in Clayton county changed. They say many people began to resent the new sheriff, especially when he fired 27 deputies. Those deputies later won lawsuits against the county.

Defense Attorney Steven Frey says the tide turned against Hill when he wanted his job back.

"At the end of the day, Hill is guilty of one thing: wanting his job back. That's it. He's guilty of being hated too," Frey said.

Powell took the stand late Thursday. She admitted there was no county business going on during the trip.

"It was like trying to cheer him up. It was depressing to me," said Hill. "It had an element of pleasure because me and Naomi, we walked the beach...He pretty much stayed to himself in the room."

Ten witnessed testified on Thursday. Prosecutors say the trial should last about two weeks.

Last Friday, prosecutors agreed to drop four theft charges against Hill, but the sheriff still faces 28 counts accusing him of theft and corruption.

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