Clayton Sheriff Victor Hill facing new federal indictment over treatment of inmates

Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill is facing a new federal indictment alleging his office illegally used a restraint chair on a detainee who was hooded and punched in the face after being arrested for speeding and driving on a suspended license.

A federal grand jury had previously indicted Hill in April on four counts of violating inmates’ constitutional rights with use of the restraint chair. The new charge is incorporated in a 14-page superseding indictment, which realleges the previous allegations. It was returned by the grand jury July 29.

The original indictment led Gov. Brian Kemp to suspend Hill from his duties in June. Hill has denied all charges.

The sheriff is expected to appear before Magistrate Judge Linda T. Walker on the new charge at 10 a.m. Thursday.

“The superseding indictment is a desperate Hail Mary by the government in response to Sheriff Hill’s powerful motion to dismiss,” Hill’s attorney Drew Findling said. “The allegation contained in the additional count was known to the government for over a year and clearly not included by the government in the initial indictment.

“The not-so-new allegation blatantly lacks credibility and originates from a clearly biased source,” Findling said. “Most importantly, there is no allegation that Sheriff Hill himself or anyone at his direction physically assaulted or touched this individual.”

The news comes as Hill remains a polarizing figure in Clayton County. Defenders argue he is a strong leader who is tough on criminals and has sought to change perceptions of the south metro Atlanta community as crime ridden. Detractors describe him as reckless and authoritative and bringing the very shame to the county he seeks to squelch.

The attorney for the Clayton Sheriff’s Office in June asked Kemp to rescind his suspension of Hill, arguing that a panel appointed to decide the lawman’s fate gave the governor erroneous and incomplete information.

“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.

The new charge in the superseding indictment alleges that a detainee, identified as “W.T.,” was arrested in May 2020 for speeding and driving on a suspended license. He was met at the jail by Hill and the sheriff’s office’s elite fugitive Scorpion Response Team, where he was allegedly placed in a restraint chair on the lawman’s orders.

A hood was allegedly put on “W.T.’s” head shortly after he was restrained and he was then punched twice in the face by what the detainee thinks was a fist. An officer covered blood on the detainee’s jail uniform with a white paper smock and took a picture.

“W.T.” also is said to have urinated on himself after being the chair for hours, according to the indictment.

The allegations follow others that were laid out in the original indictment, but were given more detail in the superseding document. For instance, “J.A.,” one of the detainees Hill restrained, was arrested for allegedly assaulting two women at a Clayton County grocery store.

When Hill asked him what he was doing on Clayton County on the day of the alleged assault, “J.A.” said, “It’s a democracy sir, it’s the United States.”

Hill replied, “No it’s not. Not in my county.”

The legal document also discusses the threats Hill made against the 17-year-old and another detainee while they were restrained. The sheriff, the indictment said, threatened bodily harm to detainees “C.H.” and “J.H.,” using foul language to describe what he would do to them if they ever caused problems in Clayton County again, including making them sit in a restraint chair for 16 hours straight.

“I don’t think y’aIl are bad people,” he said after allegedly threatening to beat them up.