Clayton County attorneys seek end of Sheriff Victor Hill suspension

An attorney for the Clayton County Sheriff's Office and one representing supporters of Victor Hill have asked Gov. Brian Kemp to reinstate the controversial lawman to office. Kemp suspended Hill from duty in June after the sheriff was indicted in April on four charges of violating the city rights of detainees at the Clayton County Jail.

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An attorney for the Clayton County Sheriff's Office and one representing supporters of Victor Hill have asked Gov. Brian Kemp to reinstate the controversial lawman to office. Kemp suspended Hill from duty in June after the sheriff was indicted in April on four charges of violating the city rights of detainees at the Clayton County Jail.

Two Clayton County attorneys working on behalf of Sheriff Victor Hill are asking Gov. Brian Kemp to give the controversial lawman his job back.

Four months after Kemp suspended Hill because of a federal indictment, attorneys Alan Parker and Matthew Tucker say a state law requires that an elected official stand trial on the indicted charges in the nearest court term after being removed from office.

If that doesn’t happen, the officeholder must be reinstated, according to a letter sent to Kemp earlier this week. The letter was signed by Parker, the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office attorney, and Tucker, a private lawyer who said he was hired by a group supporting Hill.

Tucker declined to identify the group.

“I feel strongly that they’ve got competent counsel over at the governor’s office and they will see it the same way,” said Tucker, who added that court terms are usually every three or four months.

But other legal experts said that because the indictment is federal, state laws on suspension don’t apply.

The federal government does not have the same court terms as the state and thereby can’t be held to the same standard, said Lester Tate, a trial attorney and former president of the state Bar of Georgia.

“Clearly that provision’s applicable in state court where there are statutory terms,” Tate said. “But I don’t know of any way you would apply it in a federal indictment where there aren’t any terms.”

The request comes as Hill, who was reelected to a four-year term in 2020, has been stripped of his duties since June, when a commission set up by Kemp found he could not perform as sheriff while under investigation.

Hill was indicted in April by federal authorities for allegedly violating the civil rights of four Clayton County Jail detainees by strapping them into restraint chairs as a form of punishment. A fifth charge was added in August.

Hill, who calls himself THE CRIME FIGHTER, has pleaded not guilty. Tucker said Hill accompanied Parker to personally hand the request to the governor’s office on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for Kemp’s office said on Thursday that they had not received the letter. Kemp’s office did not return requests for comment on the petition for reinstatement, or whether state law affirms the attorneys’ interpretation in the letter.

Tucker said because the federal government does not have rules that address suspensions on a state level, then the state laws must be followed.

“If you’re using Georgia authority to suspend, well, you stick with the same authority,” he said.

By his calculations, Tucker said Hill should have been reinstated in early September. Hill was suspended in June and the next two terms of court for Fulton County — which is home to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Northern District — took place in July and September.

“The issue for them is probably going to be, ‘Let’s look at the time. When did he get suspended? When did the term of court begin and when did the term of court stop?’” Tucker said.

In recent weeks, new detainees have filed lawsuits against Hill and the jail alleging that they were severely beaten and put in restraint chairs as part of a pattern of violence at the south metro Atlanta facility.