Victor Hill has filed for retirement and remains suspended from his law enforcement duties by order of Gov. Brian Kemp but is still—at least on paper—sheriff of Clayton County.
Confused? You’re not alone.
Chairman Jeff Turner explained that the county’s legal department had not yet heard back from the governor’s office as of Tuesday night about the next steps in the process.
Several sources have speculated that Kemp might be waiting until after the November 8 election to make any decision about Hill’s status.
Georgia law does offer some guidance on what to do when a sheriff is convicted of a crime. However, that has more to do with conviction on public corruption charges. Hill was convicted of violating the rights of six pretrial detainees under color of law. A jury found him not guilty on a seventh count.
According to Turner, Kemp could appoint an acting sheriff until a special election to fill the seat. The law provides for the probate judge to make such an appointment. But Hill would need to send a letter notifying the governor he is stepping down before the end of his term, which is at the end of December 2024.
There’s also a law that says Hill would not be removed from office until his final conviction, which O.C.G.A. 47-1-20 (3) defines as “a conviction which has been upheld after the convicted person has exhausted all appeals of the conviction.” Because Hill plans to appeal his conviction tot he Eleventh Circuit, it’s possible one or more of those charges could be reversed. Should all charges be reversed, then Hill would no longer be a convicted felon. And it’s also possible that the appeals process could drag on for years, or at least through the end of Hill’s term.
In the meantime, former Chief Deputy Boehrer, who has been acting as interim sheriff, has assumed the interim sheriff’s role exclusively. That freed up the chief deputy slot for Hill’s godson, Levon Allen. Because Boehrer was a witness in the federal trial, Hill may not contact him. However, the memo announcing both Boehrer’s and Allen’s positions was dated the same day as Hill’s conviction, which suggests Hill had the plan of succession ready to go.
Also Tuesday, Rosie Manins of Law360 reports, Hill lost an appeal to force Kemp to reinstate him. Hill had appealed to a three-judge Georgia Court of Appeals panel. According to Presiding Judge Anne E. Barnes, “Hill has established no reversible error in the trial court’s rejection of his claim of a clear legal right to reinstatement pursuant to the reinstatement provision. He has demonstrated no basis to disturb the judgement.” Presiding Judge M. Yvette Miller and Judge E. Trenton Brown III concurred.
Hill had argued to the Fulton County Superior Court he should have been reinstated in September 2021. Under the suspension, a sheriff may be reinstated if they have not been tried by the next regular or special term of the court. He also argued that the case could have been tried in Clayton County State Court. According to Manins, Kemp’s attorneys argued the law did not apply to Hill because the U.S. Northern District Court of Georgia does not have a term of court, and because of “Hill’s foot-dragging that delayed a trial in his case.”
We’ve asked Gov. Kemp’s office for clarification as to what happens next. We’ll update as soon as we get a response.