According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill has been sentenced for violating the civil rights of six pre-trial detainees at the Clayton County Jail by ordering the detainees strapped into restraint chairs for hours without legal justification.
“This district is fortunate to be served by thousands of law enforcement officers who bravely perform their duties with great honor, but former Sheriff Victor Hill is not one of them,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “Former Sheriff Victor Hill chose to disregard the welfare of some within his control. The evidence was clear in this case, there was absolutely no justification for Hill to order pretrial detainees to be strapped into restraint chairs for hours on end. These men suffered painful injuries. Without question, his actions not only hurt the victims but eroded the public’s trust in law enforcement. Hill brazenly abused his power and has been held accountable by a jury and a judge and will go to federal prison. Hill rejected one of the most basic tenets of law enforcement: that the U.S. Constitution forbids an officer – even a sheriff – from using unreasonable force.”
“All of our communities pay a significant price when law enforcement officials abuse their power. We hope this sentence brings some closure to the victims of civil rights violations,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “This sentencing should send a strong message to any law enforcement officer who wants to follow their own version of the law. Badges and guns don’t come with the authority to ignore the Constitution. They come with the responsibility to protect it.”
According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court: At the time Hill committed these crimes, his Sheriff’s Office “Inmate Restraint Chair Policy” stated that, “a restraint chair may be used by security staff to provide safe containment of an inmate exhibiting violent or uncontrollable behavior and to prevent self-injury, injury to others or property damage when control techniques are not effective.” Consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, the policy emphasized that use of a restraint chair would “never be authorized as a form of punishment.” Hill flagrantly disregarded these policies, and a jury convicted him of violating the constitutional rights of the following victims:
On December 8, 2019, Clayton County Police Department (CCPD) responded to a robbery in progress. An officer saw R.P. standing with a firearm at the driver’s window of a car occupied by two men. R.P. ran into his apartment when he saw the officer. Officers used a patrol car’s public address system to convince R.P to exit his apartment. R.P. eventually complied with the commands and was taken into custody without further incident. R.P. told officers that he believed the men in the car had come there to rob him. R.P. was charged with aggravated assault and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
A CCPD officer transported R.P. to the Clayton County Jail. According to the officer, R.P. offered no resistance and caused no trouble after he was arrested.
According to R.P. and other trial witnesses, when R.P. arrived at the jail, he was immediately taken to a holding cell with about 15 other inmates. R.P. heard people yelling, “Sheriff on deck.” Hill, escorted by the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Scorpion Response Team (SRT) arrived at the cell. Hill questioned R.P. about the incident which led to his arrest. When R.P. attempted to explain, Hill ordered the SRT to strap R.P. into a restraint chair which was then wheeled into the jail’s medical unit. While R.P. was strapped in the chair, R.P. could feel his blood pressure rising and his hands swelling. R.P. yelled for help and urinated on himself. R.P. spent at least four hours in the chair and the restraints cut and scarred one of his wrists.
On February 2, 2020, deputies of the CCSO’s vice operations obtained a search warrant for D.B.’s home in Hampton, Georgia, based on incriminating evidence found in trash outside the residence. While CCSO was waiting to execute the search warrant, D.B. left his home and drove away at a high rate of speed. Deputies stopped D.B. and detained him after finding a small amount of marijuana in his car. During the search of D.B.’s home, deputies allegedly found several stolen firearms. D.B. sat in the back of a patrol car for several hours while deputies searched his home. D.B. caused no trouble for the deputies during his detention at the scene or during the drive to the jail.
According to D.B. and other witnesses, when D.B. arrived at the jail, he was put in a holding cell. Within minutes, Hill and several members of the SRT arrived. Hill asked D.B. questions about his alleged offenses until D.B. stated he no longer wanted to answer Hill’s questions. At that point, Hill ordered D.B. to be strapped into a restraint chair. D.B. was handcuffed behind his back and strapped in the chair for approximately seven hours. The restraints were so tight that D.B. suffered cuts to both wrists which caused him to bleed. The scars on D.B.’s wrists remain visible more than three years later.
In February 25, 2020, a man identified as J.A. was accused of assaulting two women during a dispute at a Clayton County grocery store several weeks earlier. He was arrested by Forest Park, Georgia, Police Department officers and CCSO deputies without incident. According to Clayton County records, J.A. was unarmed, not under the influence of drugs, and offered no resistance. A short time later, J.A. was booked into the Clayton County jail as a pretrial detainee. During the booking process, J.A. was escorted by a group of officers and SRT members to the fingerprinting area where Hill confronted J.A. A deputy recorded the interaction with a cell phone.
Hill asked J.A. what he had been doing in Clayton County on the day of the alleged assault. J.A. replied, “It’s a democracy, sir. It’s the United States.” Hill snapped back, “No, it’s not. Not in my county.” When J.A. asked whether he was entitled to a fair and speedy trial, Hill replied, “Roll that chair around here. You stay out of Clayton County, you understand me? You sound like a dummy.” When J.A. asked again whether he was entitled to a fair and speedy trial, Hill replied, “You entitled to sit in this chair, and you’re entitled to get the hell out of my county and don’t come back. That’s what you’re entitled to. You sound like a damn jackass. Don’t you ever put your hand on a woman like that again. You’re fortunate that wasn’t my mother or grandmama or you wouldn’t be standing there. Now, sit there and see if you can get some damn sense in your head.”
During J.A.’s interaction with Hill, J.A. was surrounded by law enforcement personnel, was handcuffed most of the time, and never posed a threat to anyone. Despite those facts, J.A. was strapped into a restraint chair and left there for hours per Hill’s orders.
On April 26, 2020, C.H., who had just turned 17 years old, allegedly vandalized his family home during an argument with his mother. Shortly thereafter, a CCSO deputy apprehended C.H. near his home without incident and turned C.H. over to the custody of the CCPD. Clayton County records indicate C.H. was unarmed, not under the influence of drugs, and offered no resistance.
The deputy, a CCSO supervisor, then spoke with Hill on the phone, texted Hill a photograph of C.H. handcuffed and seated in a CCPD vehicle, and had the following text exchange with Hill:
Hill: “How old is he?”
A few hours later, early on April 27, 2020, C.H. was booked into the Clayton County jail as a pretrial detainee pending trial on charges stemming from the incident at his home. Although C.H. had been compliant with law enforcement during and after his arrest and never posed a threat to anyone, he was strapped into a restraint chair and left there for hours per Hill’s orders.
In April 2020, G.H. and a CCSO deputy had a payment dispute over some landscaping work G.H. did for the deputy in Butts County, Georgia. The work and dispute were unrelated to the deputy’s employment with CCSO. After learning about the dispute, Hill called G.H. on April 23, 2020. During the call, Hill identified himself as the Clayton County Sheriff and asked G.H. why he was harassing his deputy. G.H. replied that Hill should tell his deputy to pay his bill and added, “you can go f— yourself.” Unsure whether the caller had actually been the Clayton County Sheriff, G.H. used FaceTime to call back several times until Hill answered and removed a face mask he was wearing. After the FaceTime calls, Hill texted G.H., warning him not to call or text anymore. G.H. responded via text, “So this is Victor Hill correct[?]” Hill responded with a second text warning for G.H. not to call or text him anymore. Although G.H. did not call or text again, Hill instructed a CCSO deputy to swear out an arrest warrant against G.H. for harassing communications.
The next day, April 24, 2020, Hill texted G.H., “[T]his is Sheriff Victor Hill. We have a warrant for your arrest. Would you like to turn yourself in, or have my Deputies find you?” G.H. did not respond. The next morning, April 25, 2020, Hill again texted G.H., “My Deputies are actively looking for you. We have not and will not agree for you to turn yourself in when you want to. Turn yourself in today.” Meanwhile, Hill had sent a fugitive squad armed with handguns and AR-15 rifles to Butts County to arrest G.H. on the misdemeanor arrest warrant.
After retaining a lawyer, G.H. turned himself in at the CCSO during the evening of April 27, 2020. Clayton County records indicate that G.H. was unarmed, not under the influence of drugs, and offered no resistance. Shortly thereafter, G.H. was booked into the Clayton County jail as a pretrial detainee pending trial on the harassing communications charges. Surveillance footage from the jail shows G.H. interacting with jail personnel for more than half an hour, during which time he appeared cooperative and compliant before Hill arrived and confronted him. Immediately upon Hill’s arrival, although G.H. was surrounded by law enforcement personnel, remained compliant, and never posed a threat to anyone, G.H. was strapped into a restraint chair and left there for at least four hours per Hill’s orders.
On May 11, 2020, a Georgia State Patrol (GSP) trooper observed W.T. driving at 85 miles per hour on 1-75 in Clayton County. The trooper initiated a traffic stop and W.T. immediately pulled his vehicle over to the shoulder. W.T. presented a suspended Florida driver’s license. The trooper took W.T. into custody and drove W.T. to the Clayton County Jail without incident.
According to W.T. and other witnesses, when W.T. arrived at the jail, he was instructed by officers to face the wall. In response, W.T. turned and rested his head on the wall. Hill saw this and it angered him. Hill ordered that W.T., who was restrained in handcuffs, be strapped into a restraint chair. Members of the SRT assisted deputies to strap W.T. into the chair where he remained for approximately five hours and suffered significant pain. W.T. urinated three times while confined to the chair.
Victor Hill, 58, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Eleanor L. Ross to 18 months in federal prison. After Hill serves his prison sentence, he will be on supervised release for six years, during which time he cannot have any role in law enforcement. Hill was found guilty by a jury on October 26, 2022.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brent Alan Gray and Bret R. Hobson prosecuted the case.