Tuesday morning, Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill was indicted for alleged civil rights abuses to detainees in Clayton County Jail. The indictment cites the sheriff’s office’s use of restraint chairs against four inmates. The indictment also alleges the sheriff ordered his employees to use excessive force at the jail last year.
“Today I will begin the process of fighting a politically motivated federal legal case,” Hill said in a statement. “My legal team are the only ones authorized to speak on the details of this matter, and they are confident about the facts of this case.
“Meanwhile, as we go through this process, I will continue to focus on the mission of fighting crime in Clayton County for continued success.”
“While the vast majority of our law enforcement officers perform their duties bravely, professionally, and with honor, those few who abuse their power must be held accountable,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “Our constitution prohibits law enforcement officers from using unreasonable force. Without justification, Sheriff Hill allegedly ordered four detainees to be strapped into restraint chairs for hours. In so doing, he caused pain and injury to the detainees in his care. Sheriff Hill’s actions, as alleged by the Grand Jury, deprived the citizens he was sworn to protect of their civil rights. Such abuses of power not only harm the victims, they also erode the community’s trust in law enforcement.”
Attorney Erskine also indicated, the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office’s (CCSO’s) “Inmate Restraint Chair Policy,” which was approved by Hill, states that “a restraint chair may be used by security staff to provide safe containment of an inmate exhibiting violent or uncontrollable behavior and to prevent self-injury, injury to others or property damage when control techniques are not effective.”
According to Georgia’s Northern District United States Attorney’s office, a victim identified as J.A. on February 25, 2020, was accused of assaulting two women during a dispute at a Clayton County grocery store several weeks earlier. He was arrested by Forest Park (Georgia) Police Department officers and CCSO deputies without incident. At the time, J.A. was unarmed, was not under the influence of drugs, and offered no resistance. A short time later, J. A. was booked into the Clayton County jail as a pretrial detainee. During the booking process, J.A. was escorted by a group of deputies and correction officers to the fingerprinting area where Hill allegedly confronted J.A.
Hill asked J.A. what he had been doing in Clayton County on the day of the alleged assault. J.A. replied, “It’s a democracy, sir. It’s the United States.” Hill responded, “No, it’s not. Not in my county.” When J.A. asked whether he was entitled to a fair and speedy trial, Hill allegedly replied, “Roll that chair around here. You stay out of Clayton County, you understand me? You sound like a dummy.” When J.A. asked again whether he was entitled to a fair and speedy trial, Hill allegedly stated, “You entitled to sit in this chair, and you’re entitled to get the hell out of my county and don’t come back. That’s what you’re entitled to. You sound like a damn jackass. Don’t you ever put your hand on a woman like that again. You’re fortunate that wasn’t my mother or grandmama or you wouldn’t be standing there. Now, sit there and see if you can get some damn sense in your head.”
The indictment lists three more instances of alleged negligence on the part of Hill.
On April 26, 2020, C.H., who had just turned 17 years old, allegedly vandalized his family home during an argument with his mother. Shortly thereafter, a CCSO deputy apprehended C.H. near his home without incident and turned C.H. over to the custody of the Clayton County Police Department (CCPD). Clayton County records indicate C.H. was unarmed, was not under the influence of drugs, and offered no resistance.
According to the indictment, the deputy, a CCSO supervisor, then spoke with Hill on the phone, texted Hill a photograph of C.H. handcuffed and seated in a CCPD vehicle, and had the following text exchange with Hill:
Hill: How old is he?
A few hours later, early on April 27, 2020, C.H. was booked into the Clayton County jail as a pretrial detainee pending trial on charges stemming from the incident at his home. Although C.H. had been compliant with law enforcement during and after his arrest and never posed a threat to anyone, he was allegedly strapped into a restraint chair and left there for hours per Hill’s orders.
Hill, 56, of Hampton, Georgia, was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Russell G. Vineyard. The case is being investigated by the FBI.
“Badges and guns don’t come with the authority to ignore the Constitution. They come with the responsibility to protect it from anyone who would violate it, especially another public servant,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Christopher Macrae, FBI Atlanta. “Sheriff Hill is alleged to have abused his privileges and abandoned his responsibilities and the FBI is committed to restoring trust in law enforcement by holding him accountable.”