Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill, Victor Hill indicted for federal civil rights violations
ATLANTA (STL.News) Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill has been indicted on federal civil rights charges for ordering his employees to use excessive force against four pretrial detainees at the Clayton County Jail in 2020. The indictment alleges that Hill, without any legal justification, ordered his employees to strap the detainees into a restraint chair and keep them there for hours in violation of their constitutional rights. The indictment further alleges that Hill deprived the detainees of their due process rights because such use of force was unreasonable, amounted to punishment, and caused the detainees physical pain and bodily injury.
“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.”
“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.”
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Erskine, the indictment, and other information presented in court: 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.” Consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, the policy emphasizes that use of a restraint chair “will never be authorized as a form of punishment.”
On February 25, 2020, a victim identified as J.A. 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.”
According to the indictment, during J.A.’s interaction with Hill, J.A. was surrounded by law enforcement personnel, was handcuffed most of the time, and never posed a threat to anyone. Despite those facts, J.A. was strapped into a restraint chair and left there for hours per Hill’s orders.
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.
Also on the morning of April 27, 2020, J.H. was arrested by the Jonesboro Police Department following a domestic disturbance. At the police station after his arrest, J.H. fell out of a chair after allegedly pretending to pass out. J.H. was transported to a hospital for evaluation. While being treated at the hospital, J.H. refused treatment and left the building. When Jonesboro police officers re-apprehended J.H. outside his grandmother’s house that afternoon, J.H. did not cooperate or comply with officer’s commands and had to be carried down some steps and placed into a patrol vehicle. Clayton County records indicate that J.H. was unarmed, was not under the influence of drugs, and offered no resistance. In the patrol vehicle, J.H. again appeared to feign unconsciousness but offered no resistance.
Shortly thereafter, still during the afternoon of April 27, 2020, J.H. was booked into the Clayton County jail as a pretrial detainee pending trial on charges stemming from the domestic disturbance. Upon J.H.’s arrival at the jail, although J.H. was not combative and never posed a threat to anyone, J.H. was allegedly strapped into a restraint chair and left there for several hours per Hill’s order. During his time in the restraint chair, J.H. was not allowed to go to the restroom and urinated on the restraint chair due the length of his confinement.
According to the indictment, while C.H. and J.H. were both strapped in restraint chairs near each other, Hill allegedly confronted them. Referring to C.H., Hill allegedly said, “You know what he did yesterday? He went and destroyed his mother’s house yesterday. That’s what this asshole right here did.” Addressing both C.H. and J.H., Hill then allegedly stated, “Now, I’m going to tell you something. If I hear about you (C.H.) messing up your mama’s house again, if I hear about you (J.H.) fighting cops and faking and going to the Southern Regional and then walking out and pulling out the I.V., I’m a sit your ass in that chair for sixteen hours straight. Do you understand me? I need to hear from both of y’all that y’all not gonna show y’all’s ass in my county no more.”
In April 2020, G.H. and a CCSO deputy had a payment dispute over some landscaping work G.H. did for the deputy in Butts County, Georgia. The work and dispute were unrelated to the deputy’s employment with CCSO. After learning about the dispute, Hill allegedly called G.H. on April 23, 2020. During the call, Hill allegedly identified himself as the Clayton County Sheriff and asked G.H. why he was harassing his deputy. G.H. replied that Hill should tell his deputy to pay his bill and added, “you can go f— yourself.” Unsure whether the caller had actually been the Clayton County Sheriff, G.H. used FaceTime to call back several times until Hill answered and removed a face mask he was wearing. After the FaceTime calls, Hill allegedly texted G.H., warning him not to call or text anymore. G.H. responded via text, “So this is Victor Hill correct[?” According to the indictment, Hill responded with a second text warning for G.H. not to call or text him anymore. Although G.H. did not call or text again, Hill allegedly instructed a CCSO deputy to swear out an arrest warrant against G.H. for harassing communications.
The next day, April 24, 2020, Hill allegedly texted G.H., “[T]his is Sheriff Victor Hill. We have a warrant for your arrest. Would you like to turn yourself in, or have my Deputies find you?” G.H. did not respond. The next morning, April 25, 2020, Hill again allegedly texted G.H., “My Deputies are actively looking for you. We have not and will not agree for you to turn yourself in when you want to. Turn yourself in today.” Meanwhile, Hill allegedly sent an armed fugitive squad to Butts County in an attempt to arrest G.H. on the misdemeanor arrest warrant.
After retaining a lawyer, G.H. turned himself in at the CCSO during the evening of April 27, 2020. Clayton County records indicate that G.H. was unarmed, was not under the influence of drugs, and offered no resistance. Shortly thereafter, G.H. was booked into the Clayton County jail as a pretrial detainee pending trial on the harassing communications charges. Surveillance footage from the jail shows G.H. interacting with jail personnel for more than half an hour, during which time he appeared cooperative and compliant before Hill arrived and confronted him. According to the indictment, immediately upon Hill’s arrival, although G.H. was surrounded by law enforcement personnel, remained compliant, and never posed a threat to anyone, G.H. was immediately strapped into a restraint chair and left there for several hours per Hill’s orders.
Victor Hill, 56, of Hampton, Georgia, was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Russell G. Vineyard. Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brent Alan Gray and Bret R. Hobson are prosecuting the case.