Sheriff inserting tank in drug raids, charged with use of detention chair seeking dismissal

The suspended Clayton County Sheriff, Victor Hill, who used a tank in drug attacks and was charged with using excessive force while holding people in a detention chair, sought to have all federal charges dismissed in court Monday.

Hill was indicted in April by a federal grand jury, charged with violating four people’s civil rights in the county jail, t.he Associated Press reported. Another person was added after another indictment was filed in July.

On Monday, Hill’s attorney said the use of the restraint chair does not equate to excessive force under any law and therefore the federal charges against him should be dismissed. Hill’s lawyers have also argued that these charges are a first for the U.S. Department of Justice, as similar actions as what are alleged have never been prosecuted. Lawyers said the charges only went after Hill because of his past.

“If his name was not Victor Hill, your honor, we would not be here,” defense attorney Lynsey Barron said in a hearing on a defense request to dismiss the charge.

A federal prosecutor said there was excessive force due to the detention chair as it was used as punishment for no other reason.

Detention chairs can be used to prevent personal injury or property damage if other methods have been shown to be ineffective when interacting with an uncontrollable and violent person in a sheriff’s office policy approved by Hill, the indictment states. But the policy also says that the use of the detention chair “will never be approved as a form of punishment.”

Barron said prisons regularly use detention chairs. He said there is no clear case law showing “when restraint crosses the line into the realm of power.”

Barron said prosecutors are asking the judge to “map an area that has not been mapped yet.” That should be done in a civil court, Barron said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Victor Hill, Rejection of indictment, excessive force
An attorney for suspended Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill argued that the sheriff’s use of a detention chair does not constitute excessive force under any clearly established law, and federal charges against him should be dismissed. In this photo taken on August 16, 2012, Hill is speaking at a graduate forum in Rex, Georgia.
Kent D. Johnson / Atlanta Journal Constitution via AP

That charge claims that the men were wrongfully held in a detention chair for hours even though they had complied with the deputies and posed no threat. They suffered pain and bodily harm as a result, the prosecutor said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bret Hobson argued that the courts have clearly ruled that when law enforcement officers continue to use force against a person in their custody who has stopped resisting, that power is considered excessive. In the examples in the indictment, he said, people did not resist to begin with, so any use of force was unconstitutional.

U.S. Judge Christopher Bly did not immediately rule on the defense proposal for rejection but said the arguments from both sides were “extremely useful.”

Georgia’s Gov. Brian Kemp in June suspended Hill until the charges against him are resolved or until his term of office is over, whichever comes first.

Hill has attracted controversy since he first became sheriff of Clayton County, just south of Atlanta.

He fired 27 deputies on his first day in office in 2005 and used a tank owned by the sheriff’s office during drug attacks as part of a brutal stance on crime adopted in his first term.

He failed to win re-election in 2008, but voters returned him to office in 2012 despite facing more than two dozen criminal charges in a corruption case. A jury later acquitted him of all 27 charges, paving the way for him to continue as sheriff.

Hill made no allegation of reckless conduct in August 2016 after shooting and wounding a woman in a model home in Gwinnett County in May 2015. Hill and the woman said it was an accident that happened while practicing police tactics.

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