Sheriff Victor Hill of Clayton County, Georgia, is charged with violating the civil rights of detainees by ordering that a federal indictment put them unnecessarily in a restraint chair and left them there for hours. Hill can be seen here in 2005. Gene Blythe / AP hide caption
Gene Blythe / AP
Gene Blythe / AP
A Georgia sheriff was charged on federal civil rights charges, including approving a chair restriction policy.
Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill has faced four charges alleging that detainees were deprived of due process and freedom from law enforcement to use improper force, which amounts to punishment. The crimes “caused physical pain and injuries” to the four detainees in incidents described in court documents.
The April 19 indictment was unsealed on Monday. It is said that Hill trained regularly that violence should not be used as a punishment.
The Clayton County Sheriff’s Office had a Hill-approved policy that a restraint chair may be used to contain an inmate who is violent or uncontrolled in order to prevent injury to himself, others, or property “when other control techniques are ineffective are”. The guideline stipulated that the restraint chair is not approved as a punishment.
However, the indictment describes four cases in 2020 of using a restraint chair with detainees who fully cooperated.
In an incident in February 2020, a man was arrested at a grocery store three weeks earlier for alleged assault during an argument. While the man was being booked in jail, Hill allegedly confronted him, demanding to know what he had been doing in Clayton County on the day of the attack. The man said, “It’s a democracy, sir. It’s the United States.” Hill snapped, “No it isn’t. Not in my county.”
When the man asked if he was entitled to a fair and expeditious trial, Hill replied, “You have the right to sit in this chair and you have the right to get the hell out of my county and not come back.” After interacting with Hill, the man was strapped into a restraint chair and, according to the indictment, left for hours on the sheriff’s orders.
Two months later, MPs took a 17-year-old into custody after he allegedly destroyed and then left his family home during an argument with his mother. A deputy posted a photo to Hill of the teenager who was handcuffed in a patrol car. “How old is he?” asked the sheriff.
The MP replied that he was “17”.
“Chair,” replied Hill.
Despite being compliant the entire time, the teen was strapped into a restraint chair and abandoned for hours on the sheriff’s orders, the indictment said.
Also in April 2020, a man had an argument with a MP over payment for landscaping work that had nothing to do with the sheriff’s office. The sheriff called the man, identified himself as the sheriff and asked him why he was bothering the deputy. The man replied to tell the MP to pay his bill, along with a slogan.
“Unsure if the caller was actually the Clayton County Sheriff, [the man] used FaceTime to call back several times until Defendant Hill replied and removed a mask he was wearing, “the indictment reads. The sheriff warned the man, according to the document, not to call or write. The man did not call or write again .
But Hill didn’t let the matter rest, according to federal records. He issued an arrest warrant for the man for communication harassment and texted the man: “[T]His is Sheriff Victor Hill. We have an arrest warrant for you. Would you like to get in touch or let my MPs find you? ‘The man didn’t answer.
Hill sent a squad of refugees armed with handguns and AR-15 rifles to another county to arrest the man for the offense.
The man kept a lawyer, surrendered, and worked with prison staff. He was then strapped into a restraint chair and abandoned for hours on orders from Hill, the indictment states.
Hill released a statement Tuesday calling the charges a “politically motivated federal litigation”.
“As we go through this process, I will continue to focus on the Clayton County’s crime-fighting mission to continue to thrive,” he added. The county is in the Atlanta area.
Hill has been a controversial figure since he became sheriff in 2005.
On a Twitter account that seems to belong to Hill, the sheriff repeatedly refers to himself as “THE CRIME FIGHTER” and promotes the aggressive tactics of his “Elite Fugitive Squad”.
A notice released by the sheriff’s office in February said that a man in Clayton County was booked “to stand in front of the wall in Georgia’s toughest paramilitary prison.”
Hill was charged with reckless behavior in 2015 for shooting and injuring a woman in a model house that he did not advocate for a competition. The incident, which both parties agreed to, was an accident when Hill was demonstrating police tactics.
The sheriff is already facing a lawsuit in which he is accused of not having protected the inmates of the prison from the corona virus, as the NPR member station WABE reported. At the time the lawsuit was filed in August, at least 102 Clayton County prison inmates and more than a dozen staff had contracted COVID-19, and at least one person had died.