Governor suspends Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill after federal indictment

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — Governor Brian Kemp’s commission tasked to investigate Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill has recommended that he be suspended from office.

Kemp signed an executive order Wednesday afternoon suspending Hill effective immediately. The suspension will last until the case is decided or the end of Hill’s term in 2024, whichever comes first.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne spoke exclusively with Hill’s attorney, Drew Findling, who said, “We are disappointed by Gov. Kemp’s executive order. However, we remain confident that ultimately Sheriff Hill will be completely exonerated. Thereafter, the executive order will be moot and the citizens of Clayton County will have Sheriff Hill, their duly elected sheriff, back in office.”

Wednesday night, Sheriff Hill released a statement on his Facebook page, saying,

Today, I have been placed on suspension until I am exonerated in court. I am very honored to have the outpour of support I have received and I thank you all for it. I will take this time to train and meditate so that when I return, any ground loss will be regained. Until then may GOD bless you all, and may he continue to bless Clayton County.

—  Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill

Kemp ordered the three-person panel in May weeks after Hill was indicted on federal charges of violating the civil rights of detainees at his jail.

The panel was made up of Attorney General Chris Carr, Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams and Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds.

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Accusations in the suit include claims Hill had detainees strapped into a chair for hours and then locked in a suicide watch cell wearing nothing but a paper gown.

In the commission’s report to the governor, it said:

“Although the Commission recognizes and gives weight to the Sheriffs overwhelming popularity in Clayton County, the alleged restraint chair use by the Sheriff is not mitigated by his popularity. Indeed, the public - including citizens outside of Clayton County - has the right to trust that inmates are treated fairly and with respect while ensuring the safety of the detention center. In this situation, however, Sheriff Hill administered punishment without any justification for physical punishment.”

“These pervasive unprofessional standards affect the administration of the Sheriffs Office, and the suspension of Sheriff Hill is the appropriate measure given the widespread acceptance of the Sheriffs principals.”

Hill has said the prosecution is politically motivated. Findling called the case against Hill “nonsensical.”

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Georgia law allows the governor to convene a review commission made up of two sheriffs and the state attorney general to investigate and recommend whether a sheriff facing criminal or ethics charges should be suspended pending the outcome.

The Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, which certifies law enforcement officers in Georgia, has opened an investigation, which it does whenever an officer faces criminal charges, executive director Mike Ayers said.

Many people in the community Channel 2′s Tom Jones spoke to have mixed reactions on the sheriff’s suspension. Some are happy, while others say he isn’t perfect, but is a good crimefighter.

“I think he is doing a great job. He’s keeping crime off the street,” said Clayton County resident Anna Sury.

Others are not as complementary of the sheriff.

“Victor Hill is a human tornado. He’s a criminal with a badge,” said former Clayton County Jail Chaplain Rodney Williams. Hill had him arrested for sending an email Williams says he did not send.

“It’s a great day. A cloud has been lifted off Clayton County,” said Clayton County resident Timothy Vondell Jefferson, who was arrested after Sheriff Hill accused him of threatening to kill him.

Detractors of the sheriff say Hill’s suspension is long overdue.

“I hope and I pray that Victor gets everything he deserves,” Williams said.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.