Attorneys ask federal judge to drop charges against Clayton Sheriff Victor Hill

Attorneys for Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill on Monday asked a U.S. District Court judge to dismiss a federal indictment charging the controversial sheriff with violating the constitutional rights of detainees inside the jail.

Hill attorney Lynsey Barron told Magistrate Judge Christopher Bly during the hearing that the sheriff should have been warned that putting detainees in restraint chairs could be considered excessive force and a violation of federal law.

The chairs, she said, are used in jails across the nation and it only became a problem because Hill is a “lightning rod” for controversy.

“If his name weren’t Victor Hill, we would not be here today,” Barron said of Hill, who sat attentively nearby in a tailored, three-piece brown windowpane suit.

A federal grand jury in April indicted Hill on four counts of violating the civil rights of Clayton County Jail detainees by placing them in restraining chairs for hours as punishment. A fifth count was added in August.

Hill has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Assistant U.S. Assistant Attorney Bret Hobson told the judge ample legal precedent established that leaving detainees in restraint chairs is excessive. He said the detainees were compliant and that Hill allegedly used the devices as a warning that the detainees should never return to the county — and to settle a grudge with at least one of the men whom the sheriff believed “disrespected him.”

“There was no need for force to be used,” Hobson said.

Gov. Brian Kemp suspended Hill from duty in June, saying the indictment would impede the sheriff’s ability to do his job. In October, Hill’s attorneys filed a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court asking that he be reinstated.

Hill argues that state law mandates that if someone suspended because of an indictment “is not first tried at the next regular or special term following the indictment, the suspension shall be terminated and the public official shall be reinstated,” according to the lawsuit filed to get his job back.

Barron said she did not know when the judge would make a ruling, but said it most likely will come in the next 30 days.