A misdemeanor, Hill pleads guilty to “unintentional” use of office for personal gain
Published 3:10 pm Monday, October 6, 2014
By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
Mosses Mayor Walter Hill pleaded guilty Monday in Lowndes County Circuit Court to what his attorney specified as “unintentional” use of office for personal gain, a misdemeanor, as former Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency Director.
Following the plea, Hill said he will continue to serve as mayor of Mosses.
A charge of forgery in the second degree against Hill was dropped by the attorney general’s office.
Hill was indicted by a Lowndes County grand jury on Jan. 13 in connection with his role as former EMA director on charges of forgery second degree, a Class C felony, and use of official position or office for personal gain, a misdemeanor.
According to a court document, the forgery second degree involved a non-driver’s I.D. card, and the use of official position or office for personal gain charge involved the position of Emergency Management Agency Director to “obtain personal gain for himself, a family member, or a business with which he was associated.”
When previously asked about the case against Hill, Lowndes County District Attorney Charlotte M. Tesmer stated, “Now, our office is not involved in that prosecution. It’s the attorney general’s office.”
After Lowndes County Circuit Court Judge Terri Bozeman Lovell denied a motion to dismiss the charges against Hill on Monday by his attorney, Julian L. McPhillips Jr. of Montgomery, Hill entered the guilty plea to the misdemeanor unintentional use of office for personal gain.
Lovell sentenced Hill to one year in the county jail, which was suspended, and placed him on two years unsupervised probation. Hill was also ordered to pay a $250 fine and court costs.
In seeking a dismissal of charges against, McPhillips argued that Hill gained nothing from his actions and that had three letters from the Lowndes County Commission authorizing him to do what he did.
The state argued that Hill never had orders from the Department of Homeland Security to issue IDs and anything outside the Department of Homeland Security was a forgery. The state argued that fees Hill charged were never received by the Lowndes County Commission.
In addition, the state argued that nothing in the letters cited authorized Hill to attach the state seal to anything.
McPhillips said, “First of all, I think it’s a tragedy the case was brought in the first place.” He said, “The travesty of it is that it was incited by jealous people in the Lowndes County area that had reasons of rivalry or jealously for him, and he has done nothing.”
McPhillips said he urged Hill to let him try the case because he felt it could be won. “I think he’s one of the most honorable, decent, respectful persons I’ve ever met,” McPhillips said. He also noted the state offered Hill to enter a plea of unintentional use of office for personal gain.
McPhillips said the case had been “albatross… a burden” wherever Hill went having to explain it. He said the case would probably have been continued and would have continued to hang over Hill.
“It’s a tragedy that in my opinion that a lot of good people get pressured by the circumstances into pleading,” McPhillips said. “I do believe he was very innocent of any wrongdoing.” And, he said, Hill has been accepted into medical school.
McPhillips confirmed the plea by Hill does not affect his position as mayor of Mosses. He explained that “unintentional” use of office for personal gain is a misdemeanor while “intentional” use would have been a felony.
Hill said the only persons who benefited from his actions would be the citizens who benefited from the work he gave to the county.
“The only benefit I can say that I gained from it,” Hill said, “was the good feeling of knowing that I was doing the work that I was hired to do and having not broken any laws in doing so.”
He said, however, “Because of what those powers that be saw, this is what the result comes down to.”