Atlanta-area sheriff with a history of legal trouble faces federal civil rights charges for ordering multiple inmates to be tied to restraint chairs for hours at a time, even if they don’t posed no danger to MPs, prosecutors said.
In an indictment that was unsealed Monday, Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill is charged with four criminal counts alleging using unreasonable force against four people who were taken into custody last year by his office and violated their due process rights.
One of them was immobilized for so long without being allowed to use the toilet that he urinated on himself, according to prosecutors, who said Sheriff Hill had repeatedly made threatening comments with regard to several of the people.
Federal officials said the use of restraint chairs in each of the cases violated sheriff’s office policies, which state that they should only be used when an inmate exhibits violent or uncontrollable behavior and other control techniques are not effective.
The indictment, which was filed on April 19 in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, also said Sheriff Hill sent a team of fugitives armed with handguns and AR-15 rifles in April. last to arrest a landscaper for a misdemeanor. The man had been involved in a billing dispute with a sheriff’s deputy over the work he had done for him.
“Badges and guns are not allowed to ignore the Constitution,” said Christopher Macrae, a deputy special agent in charge of the FBI’s field office in Atlanta on Tuesday. “They have a responsibility to protect him from anyone who rapes him, especially another public servant.”
Sheriff Hill, 56, of Hampton, Ga., Pleaded not guilty in Atlanta U.S. District Court on Tuesday after surrendering to authorities. He was then released.
In a statement released Tuesday on Nixle, a public messaging system, Sheriff Hill called the charges against him on political grounds.
“I will continue to focus on the Clayton County crime-fighting mission for continued success,” said Sheriff Hill, who, running as a Democrat and Independent, received over 98% of the vote last year during his re-election campaign.
Federal authorities say the first episode mentioned in the indictment took place in February 2000, when a man was taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies without incident three weeks after he allegedly assaulted two women in a grocery store.
The indictment said Sheriff Hill asked the man what he was doing in Clayton County, to which the man said, “This is a democracy, sir.” It is the United States. “
“No, it isn’t,” the sheriff replied, according to the indictment. “Not in my riding.”
Other victims included a 17-year-old boy who was arrested for vandalizing his family’s home; a man arrested after a domestic disorder that may have involved drug use; and the landscaper, according to the indictment.
“Without justification, Sheriff Hill would have ordered four inmates to be tied up in restraint chairs for hours,” Kurt R. Erskine, acting US attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, said on Tuesday. “In doing so, he caused pain and injury to inmates in his custody. Such abuse of power not only harms victims, it also erodes community trust in law enforcement. “
It was not immediately clear what happened in the criminal cases of the four people mentioned in the indictment – they were only identified by their initials. Prosecutors did not immediately respond to a request for further comment on Tuesday.
Drew Findling, an attorney for Sheriff Hill, said in an interview Tuesday that restraint chairs are readily used in prisons and correctional facilities across the United States.
“We’re really shocked at this,” Mr. Findling said. “There is no evidence or allegation of systematic violence.”
Mr Findling said the Justice Department sent mixed messages to law enforcement officials and Americans, citing his role in a spate of executions of federal detainees in the closing days of the Trump administration and what he called his muffled response to high-level police. case of brutality.
Sheriff Hill was first elected in 2004, but lost a runoff in 2008 in Clayton County, which is just south of Atlanta. He returned to duty in 2012, despite being indicted on corruption charges, the UK Time News reported. A jury later acquitted him of the 27 charges.
In 2016, Sheriff Hill pleaded no contest after shooting and injuring a woman in a model home in Gwinnett County – he and the woman said it was an accident while they were practicing police tactics.
The governor of Georgia can decide to suspend an accused elected official while in office by convening a three-person panel under state law. Cody Hall, a spokesperson for Gov. Brian P. Kemp, said the governor’s office has yet to receive the indictment and Mr Kemp would have to wait 14 days before he could summon the panel.