Only Channel 2 Action News has spoken with the plaintiff behind a new lawsuit filed against Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill.
Accusations in the suit include claims Hill had Glenn Howell strapped into a chair for hours and then locked in a suicide watch cell wearing nothing but a paper gown.
Attorney Darryl Scott told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne that he filed the federal civil rights lawsuit against Hill shortly before noon on Wednesday.
Howell said on April 17, he sat in heavy equipment doing a landscaping job at the home of a lieutenant who worked for Hill. About 10 days later, he found himself sitting in a restraint chair in Hill's jail, strapped down and in heavy pain.
“I’m in fear of my life of what he’s going to do,” Howell told Winne in an exclusive interview Wednesday.
The incident is part of a series events Howell and his lawyer, Lee Sexton, say constituted revenge by Hill for insulting him after the sheriff got involved in a dispute about a debt Howell claimed the lieutenant owed him.
“I’ve been doing this 40 years Mr. Winne, and I’ve never heard of anything like what’s going on in that Clayton County Jail,” Sexton said.
Howell confirms what happened to him is at the focus of a criminal investigation by the FBI, and now his federal lawsuit against Hill.
“Victor Hill has done nothing wrong regarding anybody,” said Hill’s lawyer, noted defense attorney Drew Findling.
Findling told Winne he had not seen the lawsuit at the time of his interview.
“He doesn’t break the laws. Victor Hill enforces the law,” Findling told Winne.
“Is he the subject of a federal investigation?” Winne asked Findling.
“There have been subpoenas for the production of evidence served upon the Office of the Sheriff of Clayton County. Individually, there is nothing going on regarding Sheriff Victor Hill,” Findling said.
The suit suggests a caller identifying himself as Hill threatened Howell with arrest if he contacted the lieutenant about the debt.
Howell said he didn’t believe it was really the sheriff until later, not even after a FaceTime call, and said he used profanity.
He said they exchanged text messages and the next day, Howell learned that heavily-armed Clayton County fugitive investigators visited at least two houses in Butts County looking to arrest him on a misdemeanor charge of harassing communications.
“I was in fear of my life. I didn’t know which way to turn,” Howell said.
“It was a false arrest because they misled the magistrate,” Sexton said.
Sexton said for Howell’s safety, he arranged his surrender but was stunned at what happened at the Clayton County Jail.
Howell told Winne that he was strapped in a restraint chair for about six hours.
“Did you resist in any way?” Winne asked Howell.
“No sir,” Howell told Winne.
“Did you do anything?” Winne asked Howell.
“Absolutely not,” Howell said.
Howell said Hill taunted him at one point.
“He looked down at me and said, “Who’s the mother (expletive) now?” Howell said.
That’s when he said he was stripped naked, given a paper gown, and though he was not a suicide threat, Howell said he was placed in a cramped suicide watch cell with several other men.
Howell said Hill messaged him at one point, saying, “If you text or call me one more time, I will have you arrested for harassing communications.”
Howell said he had already sent a text saying, "So this is Victor Hill, correct?"
Howell told Winne that he is not guilty of the misdemeanor charge he faces.
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