Hill has denied the charges. His attorney, Drew Findling, said the sheriff is disappointed by the governor’s decision.
“We remain confident that ultimately Sheriff Hill will be completely exonerated,” Findling said in a statement. “Thereafter, the executive order will be moot and the citizens of Clayton County will have Sheriff Hill, their duly elected sheriff, back in office.”
Hill, a popular sheriff who has served in that role since 2012, was elected in November to a new four-year term. He has been a constant subject of controversy since he first won office as sheriff in 2005 — when one of his first acts was to fire 27 sheriff’s office employees and post snipers on a jail’s roof as the staffers were escorted from the building.
He lost reelection in 2008, but bounced back to a win in 2012, even though he was facing an indictment at the time on charges of racketeering, theft by taking and making a false statement. He was later acquitted of the charges.
Hill also accidentally shot a friend while demonstrating “police tactics” during a date in 2015 and took into custody the wife of a rival for office in 2018.
Credit: WSBTV Videos
Governor suspends Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill after federal indictment
Credit: WSBTV Videos
Sara Totonchi, executive director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, said Wednesday that Hill has proved that he does not deserve the public’s trust as sheriff.
The group filed a lawsuit against the Clayton Sheriff’s Office last year alleging it failed to properly protect detainees from COVID-19, including putting as many as three people in jail cells designed for two.
“His years of cruel mistreatment and disregard for the health and safety of people incarcerated in his jail is the tip of the iceberg of the evidence against him,” Totonchi said.
In the federal case he currently faces, Hill is accused of restraining four detainees in a chair for hours, including a Clayton youth who had just turned 17. The teen had been arrested for allegedly vandalizing his home during an argument with his mother.
In another incident, Hill allegedly restrained a Butts County landscaper after sending a “fugitive squad with handguns and AR-15 rifles” to arrest him for what Hill said were harassing phone calls. The sheriff had stepped into a dispute over payment between the landscaper and a Clayton County deputy who hired him.
Gov. Kemp in late May appointed state Attorney General Chris Carr, Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams and Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds to review the federal charges and determine whether each “affects the administration of the duties by Sheriff Hill such that the rights and interests of the public are adversely affected.”
The panel reached its decision on Tuesday, the governor’s executive order said.
Story so far:
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia on April 19 charged Clayton Sheriff Victor Hill with four counts of violating the civil rights of detainees at the Clayton County Jail. One month later, Gov. Brian Kemp appointed a three-person panel to examine the charges and make a recommendation on whether Hill should be suspended. The panel found June 1 that the charges would adversely affect Hill’s ability to do his job, and Kemp issued an executive order suspending the sheriff on Wednesday.