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Victor Hill corruption trial

8:24 PM, Aug 13, 2013   |    comments
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JONESBORO, Ga. -- After only calling two witnesses, the defense in the racketeering trial of Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill rested late Tuesday afternoon.

Hill did not testify on his behalf in the trial. Closing arguments are slated to begin Wednesday morning.

The prosecution in the trial rested late Tuesday morning, shortly after the judge refused to grant a request for a mistrial.

MORE | Complete coverage of the Victor Hill corruption trial
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Defense attorneys made the motion after special prosecutor Layla Zon said they could call their own witnesses if they wished.

Judge Albert Collier ruled that was the second time prosecutor Zon committed what's called "shifting the burden" of proof in a trial, which he said was inappropriate.

"The defendant has no burden of proof whatsoever; they're not required to present any evidence," Collier said.

Even so, he refused the defense's request for a mistrial based on the prosecutor's statement.

The exchange began when defense attorneys cross-examined prosecution witness Joshua Waites, who was part of a police task force that investigated Hill.

Another member of that task force, David Ward, has not been  called by prosecutors about his role and defense attorney Steven Frey asked witness Waites why.

"Did he tell you that he'd been fired by the Clayton County Police Department for making a racist comment about my client?" Frey asked Waites.

Prosecutor Zon immediately objected saying, "that is not admissible."

"Mr. Ward has not testified," she argued, "the defense has to call him if they want to try to put his character into evidence."

Defense attorney Drew Findling immediately objected to her suggesting they had to call any witnesses and called for a bench conference for his mistrial motion.

While not granting a mistrial, Judge Collier ordered prosecutor Zon not to repeat her comments.

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Jonathan Newton, who was the department's public information officer in 2007 and 2008, testified Monday in the trial.

Newton said he worked on the sheriff's re-election campaign as well as the unpublished biography while on the county payroll.

Also under indictment for theft and forgery charges, Newton was granted immunity for his prosecution testimony.

He blamed Hill for his own legal troubles for the way Hill wrote him checks from county, campaign and other "discretionary funds," which he called "unethical."

At one point weeping on the witness stand, Newton said he fell from grace near the end of Hill's first term and was assigned menial duties.

"I was a piece of garbage; I was throwaway material," he said.

Newton also said Hill took out of town trips with former department employees Beatrice Powell and Naomi Nash, both of whom confirmed those trips last week.

Under heated cross-examination by Hill's defense attorneys, Newton admitted over-billing the county for work on a newsletter, but he claimed that was Hill's arrangement to get him more than a jailer's salary.

He also admitted not have filed taxes since 2008, but said that's because he wanted to get this case behind him so he can find out exactly what to claim.

Prosecutors wrapped up their side of the case Tuesday.

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