Sarcasm and pointed questions were the tools one of Clayton Sheriff Victor Hill’s defense attorneys used Monday to attack the credibility of a former aide who is key to some of the 28 felonies pending against the popular lawman.
Prosecutors were one witness away from resting its racketeering case against Hill when the judge called an early end to court so he could research a legal matter. Hill’s legal team could begin presenting its case Tuesday, if they decide to call any witnesses.
In three days of testimony Hill’s lawyers have been aggressive and sometimes mocking of prosecution witness with Jonathan Newton seeming to getting the brunt of it during more than four hours of testimony Monday.
The goal was to shake his credibility so anything he testified to could be discounted when the jury begins deliberating. In contrast, the jurors have seen some high profile Hill supporters in court each day.
Monday State Rep. Darryl Jordan, D-Riverdale, was among the latest to show support for Hill. Jordan said he came because of the impact the trial outcome could have on the county but also because he and Hill are friends from serving together in the General Assembly in 2003 and 2004.
Prosecutors say Hill, 48, used his county-issued cars and credit cards for personal trips he took with two women who worked for him, required Newton to work on his autobiography during regular work hours and had one of his traveling companions counted as on paid administrative leave or sick so she could get paid while out of town with the sheriff.
Newton is also facing 12 felony charges stemming from the time he worked at the Sheriff’s Office as Hill’s spokesman. Newton was given immunity so he could testify; the district attorney cannot use any of his testimony from Monday but he will still be prosecuted.
Defense attorneys focused on getting across perceptions that Newton is a liar. Attorney Steven Frey suggested Newton could get a break because of what he said from the stand.
“This is no meal ticket. I’m not enjoying this whatsoever,” Newton said.
Newton said he was hired in April 2007 at a salary of $30,000 with the classification of correctional officer though his job was to be Hill’s spokesman. Newton said Hill suggested that his salary could be doubled if he put him out as a broker so he could get back money from the printer of the Sheriff’s Star office newsletter, which sometimes served as campaign material. Newton said invoices were inflated and consequently the printer wrote Newton a check for the overages.
“I was getting money back in addition to the sheriff’s office salary,” Newton said. “That’s what he (Hill) told me needed to be done in order to pay me.”
He testified that Hill knew there was something wrong with the arrangement and it could be considered “a conflict of interest. That’s why it wasn’t out in the open.”
What about the records form Newton’s divorce that did not take into account payments from the printer when figuring his child support obligation, Frey asked.
“You remember signing an affidavit during the course of your divorce identifying how much money you make?” Frey said. “So when you filled that affidavit out you were lying. Correct?”
Newton said his former wife drafted the document about his salary and that he did not know how much he had earned in addition to his county salary.
Then Frey asked did Newton “conveniently” forget to file his 2008 tax return?
“I am not paying income taxes on something somebody accuses me of stealing. I have talked to a tax preparer about that,” Newton said.
Newton said he was not lying Monday.
“I’m just responding to questions truthfully and accurately and wholly,” Newton said. “This (case) has cost me employment since May the 20th of 2011. It’s cost me a whole bunch of other stuff… No, I am not enjoying this whatsoever.”