Sills discusses his email criticizing the governor's criminal justice reform

By Lynn Hobbs

Area and national news outlets are reporting about Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills comparing Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to Lucifer in an email.

The Eatonton Messenger sat down with the sheriff Friday to discuss what happened. Sills provided copies of three emails:

The first one was sent out by Georgia Sheriff’s Association Executive Director J. Terry Norris to all members of the association, asking them to read Senate Bill 207, which Norris says is another one of “the Governor’s bills,” and to tell him what they think about it.

The second email copy Sills provided was his response to that request, which is the one being reported on. In the email, he refers to Gov. Deal’s criminal justice reform campaign, saying through the campaign, Deal has done more for criminals than Lucifer and his demons, and the justice reform has complicated or burdened law enforcement agencies’ duties and/or endangered the citizens of Georgia.

Sills told The Messenger he makes no apologies for the content of the email, but “in hindsight, I regret using Lucifer as a comparison.”

The Sheriff pointed out the email was meant for members of the GSA in response to the GSA’s request, and he “did not call a press conference” or speak to anyone outside the GSA about it, at least not until it became public and the media began calling him.

In response to reports that legislators are calling for him to be censored, Sills said “I have every right to express my opinion as an American, and I have a duty to express my opinion on public safety as a sheriff of this state.” He went on to say that sheriffs are the only people left who can say anything about the governor or governing officials without worry of being fired. If the governing officials have power over them, then those officials could handpick who could be arrested and not arrested, he explained. He said if the citizens of the county do not agree with him, then they will elect someone else.

The third email provided by Sills was one he sent to the Georgia Sheriffs Association Board of Directors “sincerely requesting” that if they feel he is worthy of any condemnation or punishment, that they carry it out immediately and publicly.

“We still live in the United States of America and the First Amendment of federal Constitution guarantees us freedom of speech,” he wrote in the conclusion of his letter.

For more on why Sills opposes the governor’s bill, his comments on the incident and the politics behind it, his response to the Speaker of the House’s request that he be censored, and if any ramifications have surfaced, see the complete story in the Feb. 22 edition of The Eatonton Messenger.

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