Clayton County sheriff’s attorney asks Kemp to reinstate Victor Hill

Clayton Sheriff Victor Hill has been indicted for allegedly denying four jail inmates of their constitutional rights with the illegal use of a restraining chair. He was suspended by Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this month. An attorney for the Clayton Sheriff's Office has written a letter to Kemp asking that he reverse that decision.
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Clayton Sheriff Victor Hill has been indicted for allegedly denying four jail inmates of their constitutional rights with the illegal use of a restraining chair. He was suspended by Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this month. An attorney for the Clayton Sheriff's Office has written a letter to Kemp asking that he reverse that decision.

The attorney for the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office is asking Gov. Brian Kemp to overturn his decision to suspend Victor Hill, the department’s elected leader.

In what could be a preview of Hill’s defense against federal charges alleging he violated the rights of four detainees by using restraining chairs as punishment, the department’s legal advisor argued Saturday that a Kemp-appointed panel investigating the matter appeared to at first concede and then deny the sheriff’s propriety in using the devices.

“The three-panel commission contradicted themselves by acknowledging that ‘Prior behavior can be a factor in determining whether an inmate is placed in the restraint chair as a preventative measure,’ and then dismisses this factor which would have supported Sheriff Hill’s decision to use the restraint chair as a preventative measure,” Alan Parker wrote in a letter to Kemp and posted on the Sheriff’s Office Nixle social media page.

Parker’s letter was the first post to Nixle — Hill’s favorite way of communicating with constituents — since the sheriff’s was suspended June 2. The attorney said the governor was provided erroneous and incomplete information by the panel, and asked him to rescind Hill’s suspension.

The governor’s office could not be immediately reached for comment.

Kemp in May appointed the panel — made up of two Georgia sheriffs and state Attorney General Chris Carr — to determine if the federal indictment against Hill would impact the sheriff’s ability to do his job.

Hill has denied the charges.

“The commission did not call any witnesses and only took into consideration what the federal indictment stated, which was grossly inaccurate,” Parker said in the post.

He also said a leak of some of the investigation’s findings was illegal and could taint a potential jury pool. Hill’s personal attorney, Drew Findling, asserted similar concerns earlier in the month and called on the governor to investigate.

“As a result, the information that they released illegally took information from the indictment and provided a report to you that was riddled with inaccuracies,” Parker said in his letter to Kemp. “In failing to conduct a complete and thorough investigation, they did a disservice not only to you, but also to the citizens of Clayton County.”

At issue in the federal indictment is whether Hill used restraining chairs to punish the detainees. Federal law allows the use of a restraint chair — which includes a shoulder, lap, ankle and wrist straps — to keep inmates from harming themselves or someone else. It is illegal to use them as a form of punishment.

U.S. Attorneys, in a 12-page, four-count indictment filed in April, accused Hill of depriving detainees of their liberty in incidents that occurred over several months in 2020. The men, which included a juvenile who had just turned 17 at the time of his jailing, were identified by only by their initials.

Parker identified the men as Glen Howell, Chrishon Hollins, Joseph Harper and Joseph Arnold in the Nixle post. He argued that in three of the cases, the use of the chair was appropriate given the men’s actions prior to being brought to the jail. Harper was put in the restraining chair by jail staff and not Sheriff Hill, Parker said in the post.

In three of the cases, the letter says Hill had prior knowledge of the men’s prior behavior “that the three-panel commission acknowledged legally ‘can be a factor in determining if an inmate is placed in a restraint chair as a preventative measure.’

“These facts severely question the legitimacy of the review commission’s findings and draw serious doubt as to whether the review commission conducted an impartial investigation or simply adopted the findings of the Federal Investigation.”

Lee Sexton, an attorney for Howell, could not be immediately reached for comment.