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Former Georgia Sheriff Gets 18 Months for Punishing Detainees in Restraint Chair

by David M. Reutter

On March 14, 2023, a federal judge in Georgia sentenced former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill to an 18-month federal prison term for violating the civil rights of pretrial detainees in the county jail.

A jury in the federal court for the Northern District of Georgia found Hill, 58, guilty on six counts of deprivation of rights on October 26, 2022. Losing re-election after his first term ended in scandal in 2009, Hill was re-elected to two more terms that began in 2013. He was on his latest term in 2020 when four detainees accused him of placing them in a restraint chair at the jail as punishment, in violation of their Fourteenth Amendment due-process rights. Superseding indictments eventually upped the count of Hill’s un-convicted victims to seven in early 2022. By then he had been re-elected to a fourth term, which was suspended by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) in June 2021. [See: PLN, June 2022, p.48.]

After Hill’s suspension, Chief Deputy Roland Boehrer became interim sheriff until his retirement at the end of 2022. He was replaced in both roles by Levon Allen, another of Hill’s employees who is also the ex-sheriff’s godson. Allen is one of two candidates for Sheriff in a special election runoff on April 18, 2023.

Hill portrayed himself as a get-tough-on-crime lawman and claimed to run America’s toughest “para-military jail.” His prison term is a fraction of the 46 months prosecutors asked for. But he must also serve six years of supervised release, during which he will be barred from employment in law enforcement.

Hill’s lawyer, Drew Finding, said an appeal is planned. A central focus of that effort will be the judge’s dealings with a juror who favored Hill because he believed the Sheriff and President were “above the law,” the jury forewoman told the Court. District Judge Eleanor Ross spoke to the juror one-on-one and twice sent the jury back for deliberations.

“The judge wants to make sure that everything can be done during the deliberations short of undue pressure on the jury so you can avoid a mistrial,” said Amy Weil, the head of the federal Department of Justice’s Atlanta Appeals Division.

At least one civil lawsuit remains pending against Hill for abusing a jail detainee. That suit was filed by attorneys Mark Begnaud and Michael Eshman on behalf of Timothy O’Neill, who was allegedly left in a suicide watch cell with nothing more than a paper gown for two weeks in 2019. Hill was reportedly peeved at having to shut down I-75 during a standoff with Hill, who was wanted in Nebraska for threatening to murder his ex-girlfriend and go on a Walmart shooting spree. See: O’Neil v. Hill, USDC (N.D. Ga.), Case No. 1:21-cv-04173.

Additional sources: Atlanta Journal Constitution, Clayton Crescent, Lincoln Journal-Star

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