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"F--- you": Jerry Hill's telling response to accountability for his lie about Leo Schofield
The former 10th Circuit State Attorney's angry effort to dismiss his 2020 lie to the Florida Commission on Offender Review only deepens his culpability.
The following exchange occurred between me and Jerry Hill, the long-time former State Attorney for Polk’s 10th Circuit, on the morning of March 7, 2023, in the front row of the Polk County Commission chambers. Chief Assistant State Attorney and spokesman Jacob Orr witnessed it. He was looking right at us, two or three feet away.
Billy: “Good morning, Jerry. When are you going to correct your lie [about Leo Schofield] at the Parole Commission?”
Jerry Hill: “Fuck you.”
Billy: “Oh, I’m gonna quote that.”
And so I have.
I waited to report this because I did not want to complicate the efforts of Leo Schofield’s legal team to secure his release through Florida Commission on Offender Review -- Florida's parole board. But Leo’s parole hearing is now confirmed for May 3.
And the strategy clearly laid out in the latest bonus episode of the “Bone Valley” podcast is a moral strategy as much as a legal one. You should listen to it.
I think reporting my exchange with Hill now — reporting how Jerry Hill reacts to public accountability in his home county— can affect his behavior at the upcoming hearing. And it can further inform the parole commissioners, at least one of whom has both listened to full “Bone Valley” podcast and reviewed the original Leo Schofield trial transcript.
Here is my fairly concise recent summary of the vast Leo Schofield case history. I’m not going to go further into the details in this article.
But to summarize in one paragraph: A convicted murderer named Jeremy Scott has confessed multiple times in escalating detail to killing Leo Schofield’s 18-year-old wife Michelle in 1987. He left a palm print on her car. No jury has ever heard that evidence against Scott because Jerry Hill, Brian Haas, former prosecutor/now Judge Keith Spoto (and the Florida court system as a whole) refuse to allow it. No physical or eyewitness evidence has ever tied Leo Schofield to his wife’s killing. The last living juror from his 1989 trial says she didn’t really think he did it at time, but went along with the other jurors. Michelle Schofield’s brother says he has no confidence in the conviction and wants Leo released.
Intent to mislead
All of this was true in 2020, the last time Leo Schofield sought parole for a murder he did not commit.
At that time, Jerry Hill, acting on behalf of current State Attorney Brian Haas, gave materially false testimony to the parole commissioners about the Schofield case. To my knowledge, Jerry has never corrected the record. He did, however, address it with me in March 2023 — after stewing silently for a few moments, post “Fuck you.”
“What’s the father’s name, Billy?” he asked petulantly, from a few seats away. “It’s Leo.”
The clear point was that Jerry didn’t lie because Leo’s father is also named Leo.
Yet, far from exonerating his testimony, the “Leo” word play actually deepens Jerry Hill’s culpability for his false statement. It makes a powerful suggestion of intent, rather than uncorrected error, based on his own 2020 words to the Offender Review Commission.
Looking closely at why will help commissioners understand viscerally how defensive and dishonest and contemptuous of accountability Jerry Hill really is when he’s not performing for them or lying to them.
They should ask themselves how much of the dishonesty, contempt, and sense of impunity Hill demonstrated to their faces in 2020 drove his oversight of the Schofield case in the last 35 years.
Jerry clearly knew the difference between “the father” and “Leo” — even emphasized it to the commissioners
As recorded in Chapter 8 of the "Bone Valley” podcast, let’s examine two excerpts of Jerry Hill’s testimony.
The defendant’s car and his wife’s car was abandoned on I-4. It was discovered by the father [“father” is said with emphasis] and Leo before law enforcement could find it.
Jerry Hill made a clear, vocally emphasized distinction between “Leo” and “the father” in that portion of the testimony. Go listen yourself. Jerry’s part starts at about the 23:00 mark.
As part of the same overall statement to commissioners, Jerry Hill was recorded giving this false testimony:
Leo said he was driven by an inner force to go back to pit area again. Leo said he felt drawn to that area and felt that Michelle was calling out to him. Leo said he, uh, began to search, the closer he got to Michelle, the worse his head hurt.
It was “the father,” Leo Schofield Sr., not Leo Jr., who claimed that God helped him find Michelle Schofield’s body. Everyone agrees on that fact — even the state, even Jerry Hill.
But Hill hasn’t actually acknowledged that for the record, except to me, in a moment of profane spite. Hear this again with self-satisfied sneer with which Jerry delivered it.
“What’s the father’s name, Billy? It’s Leo.”
“I wanted Mr. Hill to be there.”
My exchange with Jerry Hill happened because conservative Republican former County Commissioner Randy Wilkinson and I appeared before the County Commission to raise public awareness of Leo’s case.
After the Polk County Commission meeting, at which Jerry Hill did not actually speak, I asked via email for Chief Assistant State Attorney and spokesman Jacob Orr, who did speak, to clarify Hill’s role. Had Jerry attended the meeting as an official representative of the 10th Circuit State Attorney’s Office? Here is Orr’s answer:
I was there on behalf of the State Attorney. When this criminal case appeared on the agenda for the County Commission (something that never happens), I decided to attend the meeting to represent the State. I wanted Mr. Hill to be there to answer any questions that may have come up because he was State Attorney at the time of the conviction.
Hill’s “fuck you” and “Leo” word play happened just a few moments before the County Commission meeting started, in the front row of the Commission chambers. It’s possible that cameras and live, hot microphones caught it; but I have not checked. It happened right in front of Orr, who heard all of it.
Anyone who doubts my account should ask Orr about it. I promise you he won’t deny it happened; but I’m curious what he’ll acknowledge he heard. I didn’t want to ask him myself. I want other people to test him.
And I’m curious as to whether his boss, State Attorney Brian Haas, will again ask Jerry Hill to confront the parole commissioners — after he lied to their faces in 2020, with a clever turn of phrase, if you believe what he told me. Will he send Jerry to lie again in a matter of life and death and justice?