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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Clayton Sheriff Victor Hill facing prison time in federal sentencing Tuesday

By Leon Stafford - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,


Victor Hill, the self-proclaimed Clayton County “CRIME FIGHTER” sheriff who jailed a political opponent and once stationed snipers on the roof of the sheriff’s office after firing 27 employees, will learn today how much time he’ll be spending behind bars.

Almost two years after he was indicted in April 2021 on federal charges of violating the civil rights of jail detainees, the controversial former lawman will be sentenced to a federal prison Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross.

Hill was found guilty in October of strapping detainees in the Clayton County jail into restraint chairs as punishment. Restraint chairs can only lawfully be used in cases when a detainee is a threat to himself or others.

Federal officials last week recommended 46 months of prison time, arguing that Hill’s methods abused his authority and physically harmed pre-trial detainees.

“Among the evidence before this court at trail was the fact that Hill ordered each of the six victims strapped into restraint chairs for hours for no permissible purpose,” federal authorities wrote in their sentencing guidelines.

Hill’s attorney Drew Findling has said he plans to appeal the verdict.

In a filing shortly after the sentencing guidelines were released, Hill’s team argued that the recommended sentence was excessive and did not take into consideration the former leader’s standing in the community.

It adds that the judge consider Hill’s history “and the substantial support he has from his family and community as indicated in the numerous letters provided to the court,” the document said. Attached were around two dozen letters to Ross from pastors, community leaders, a housekeeper and others asking for leniency for Hill.

Jerome Hill, Victor Hill’s younger brother, told Ross in a letter that Hill inspired him to go into law enforcement. His older brother began his career when there weren’t many Black men in law enforcement, he said, and Hill has been a leader who has fed the homeless and helped keep Clayton County clean.

Victor “has suffered an exacting toll that has stripped him of his livelihood, which he will never be able to attain again in life; a love that he shared since he was a child,” Jerome Hill wrote. “Yet, through this pain, he has offered extraordinary guidance, perspective, and courage to redeem himself.”

The sentencing will come one week before a special election in Clayton County to replace Hill. The former sheriff has been stumping for Levon Allen, who he helped maneuver to become interim sheriff. In recent weeks, Allen has apparently take over Hill’s Facebook page and the former lawman’s 35,000 followers.

“Today the original crime fighter came out to campaign with/for the new crime fighter, Sheriff Levon Allen,” Hill’s social media manager Carl Johnson wrote on the page under a collage of photos of Allen and Hill making the rounds with voters.

Hill was elected sheriff in 2005 and immediately courted controversy his first day in office by terminating more than two dozen employees. As the fired staff departed the building, snipers were perched on the roof.

TIMELINE: Victor Hill's time in office

Hill stayed in the news with one controversy after another. He lost reelection to fellow Democrat Kem Kimbrough in 2008 and later filed for bankruptcy because of the judgments against him from lawsuits filed by Clayton Sheriff’s Office employees and others.

He defeated Kimbrough in a rematch for sheriff in late 2012, despite being indicted on 37 charges earlier in the year, including four counts of racketeering.

In August 2013, Hill was acquitted of 32 charges by a Clayton jury after one day of deliberations. And in 2015, he was charged with reckless conduct after he said he accidentally shot a woman friend in the abdomen at a Gwinnett County model home while practicing “police tactics.”

In 2018, he issued warrants for the arrest of former deputy Robert Hawes who planned to run against him in 2020. Hill charged him with filing false documentation and violation of oath of office.

Hill also came to the rescue of Bishop Mitzi Bickers in 2016, giving her a job as a corrections officer two years before she would be indicted on bribery charges in the Atlanta City Hall bribery probe. Bickers would go on to be Hill’s chief of staff before she was convicted last year on nine felony counts against her, including conspiracy to commit bribery, money laundering, wire fraud and filing false tax returns.

Yet it was his interactions with seven detainees in the jail that ended his career.

In videotaped and written interviews with the men in the federal indictment, Hill was portrayed as a man willing to use power to exert authority over detainees when it was not necessary.

In on instance in April 2020, Chryshon Hollins, who had just turned 17 was arrested for allegedly vandalizing his home during an argument with his mother. Seated in the back of a deputy’s vehicle, the arresting officer took a picture of the youth, who had been apprehended without resistance and was cooperative.

He texted the photo to Hill. Hill asked the detainee’s age.

“17,” the deputy wrote.

“Chair,” Hill replied.

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