Federal authorities charged Hill with the civil rights violations in April 2021 and Gov. Brian Kemp suspended the controversial lawman two months later pending the outcome of the federal trial.
Prosecutors said Hill ordered the detainees strapped to the restraint chairs, despite the men complying with his directions and those of jail staff. According to Clayton Jail protocol, and federal law, restraint chairs are to be used only when a detainee is unruly and a threat to the jail or a threat to his or her own life.
Hill, who took the stand in his own defense during the trial, denied the charges, arguing that the men were a danger because of things they had done that led them to be arrested. He said “pre-attack indicators,” such as one of the detainee’s allegedly assaulting two women at a grocery store, demanded extra vigilance when they arrived at the jail.
“The best proactive use of force is restraint,” he told jurors.
But prosecutors said Hill strapped the detainees in the chairs as a vendetta. They said one detainee was put in the device because he didn’t show the sheriff enough respect by not fully facing the wall in Hill’s presence. Another detainee was put in the chair to teach him a lesson after he was accused of trashing his own home after an argument with his mother.
A third man was strapped to the chair because he bickered with Hill on the phone, according to prosecutors.
“That was personal,” prosecutor Bret Hobson said of detainee put in the chair because of his phone interactions with Hill. “That was revenge. That was punishment. That was illegal.”