Prosecutors seek to limit Clayton sheriff’s statements during trial

On social media, Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill says crime is out of control in his south metro Atlanta community and he knows why — because he is not the acting sheriff.

Hill was suspended by Gov. Brian Kemp following his April 2021 federal indictment for allegedly violating the civil rights of jail detainees.

“A total of ten people were shot leaving two dead over the weekend in Clayton County,” Hill said Tuesday via his social media manager Carl Johnson on Facebook. “Football games for Clayton County schools have been rescheduled do (sic) to safety concerns.

“October 12th can’t come fast enough for the exoneration of Sheriff Victor Hill so that he can return to restore law, order, and safety back to citizens of our county!,” he said.

Federal prosecutors preparing for Hill’s October trial see such statements as an attempt to prejudice potential jurors.

In a recent filing with the U.S. District Court in Atlanta, they asked a judge to exclude from trial any such statements or others Hill may make proclaiming good standing in the community or that his actions are not as bad as others in law enforcement.

“Defendants in civil rights trials often attempt to offer arguments and evidence of this sort, the effect of which is to improperly encourage jury nullification, and Hill has already made such arguments in media interviews, court filings, and social media postings,” federal prosecutors said in an Aug. 10 filing.

Hill has pleaded not guilty. Kemp suspended him in June 2021.

The motion comes as the suspended sheriff has ratcheted up his social media commentary on crime in Clayton County in recent months. He commented Sunday on the house party shooting death of Quintavious Jones and last week talked about the need for a return of a domestic violence unit that he said became legendary under him “for stalking the stalkers.”

Additionally, he has made accusations against fellow Clayton County leaders he believes were responsible for his indictment and reminded supporters of achievements, such as once being lauded by Gov. Kemp and showcasing how he straightened up Clayton detainees in the show “60 Days In.”

A trial on the charges against Hill is scheduled for Oct. 12 before District Judge Eleanor L. Ross.

Drew Findling, who represents Hill, said in a statement that federal authorities are attempting to limit the sheriff’s defenses. Findling said violence has drastically increased at the jail, but the government has deprived Clayton residents of the leader of the facility they voted for as sheriff.

“The fact that the government has selectively prosecuted Sheriff Hill who never had ANY physical contact with the alleged victims and yet has ignored the potential prosecution of dozens of law enforcement officers that have physically assaulted and at times killed U.S. citizens are all nothing but facts which bear relevancy and should be presented to ensure that Sheriff Hill receives a fair and equitable trial as guaranteed by the United States Constitution,” Findling said in a statement.

In seeking to exclude Hill’s arguments, federal prosecutors said they are concerned the sheriff could use social media or news interviews to argue that the charges are improper, a novel prosecution or that his actions could have been handled in a civil lawsuit. They added that Hill could also could say that his suspension has been punishment enough.

“The government seeks this pretrial ruling because any reference to these matters during voir dire or at trial could result in prejudice, even if the government objected immediately and the court sustained the objection,” federal authorities said in the filing.