FBI mum on ‘court-authorized’ visit to Clayton County sheriff’s office

The FBI conducted a search at the office of Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill early Wednesday.

The Atlanta office of the federal agency confirmed it was on the scene Wednesday morning, but declined to provide details about the purpose of its visit.

“I can confirm we are conducting court-authorized law enforcement activity at that location but have no further comment,” an FBI spokesman said in an email.

Hill’s office did not return requests for comment. The federal action came one day after the controversial leader who calls himself “the crime fighter” won another term in this week’s election.

The Clayton sheriff's office and its leader have for years drawn scrutiny for its practices and sometimes have been involved in investigations, including a February 2017 subpoena of records related to Mizti Bickers. Bickers, a chaplain in Hill's office, was later indicted in the Atlanta City Hall corruption investigation.

That subpoena demanded her personnel records, including employment and disciplinary history; all emails she sent and received since 2016; all emails about Bickers; and documentation of her salary, pension, direct deposits, bonuses, pay raises, reimbursements and travel expenses.

It's unclear if Wednesday's activity by the FBI has anything to do with the Bickers case. Bickers' trial has been set for September.

More recently, the office was sued in May by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia and the Southern Center for Human Rights for allegedly violating open records laws. The organizations said the office has stymied their attempts to obtain documents on coronavirus testing at the Clayton County Jail and whether anyone at the facility has the disease.

The issues have not impacted Hill’s popularity in Clayton County. While he has his detractors, more than 130 fans posted congratulations to his Facebook page Tuesday after he won reelection. Hill was unopposed in the contest.

“Thank you Clayton County for giving me four more years to do what I do best without opposition,” Hill said on the page Wednesday. ” May God bless you all, and may he continue to bless Clayton County.”

Channel 2 Action News, which first reported the story about the FBI action, said its sources said agents seized items, but did not say what they were.

Lester Tate, a trial lawyer and former president of the Georgia Bar Association, said it would be difficult to try to guess what the FBI was after or who the subject of their investigation may be. The department may be looking for information on an electronic file or in documents, but it’s difficult to know since they haven’t made a formal investigation known.

But he said its never good when the FBI visits with a court order.

“It’s not rare that law enforcement is the subject of an investigation, but it is far less common that search warrants and other court-authorized intrusions are made against law enforcement officers,” he said. “It’s certainly serious enough that I would advise anyone who is the subject of one of those that they need counsel.”