Credit: Courtroom sketch by G.W. Staats

Federal prosecutors have rested their case against suspended Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill. The defense says it is likely to present its case Thursday, with closing arguments set for Friday.

Hill is charged with violating the rights of seven pretrial detainees in the Clayton County Jail under color of law. Governor Brian Kemp suspended Hill at the recommendation of a two-sheriff review panel pending the outcome of the trial.

Judge Eleanor Ross sent the jury home at 3 p.m. and court was in recess until both sides reconvened at 4 p.m. for an off-the-record charge conference. During that conference, which lasted about an hour, attorneys for both sides hashed out legal points about what they hope Ross will include in the final version of the jury’s instructions.

Jurors heard Wednesday from two alleged victims in the case: landscaper Glenn Howell, who got into a back-and-forth by cellphone with Hill after demanding that CCSO Lt. Josh Guthrie pay him for landscaping work, as well as from Joseph Arnold, who awaits trial on charges he allegedly attacked two women in the Forest Park Wholesale Food Outlet.

Findling asked Howell about his text and FaceTime exchanges with Hill over a payment dispute Howell had had with CCSO Lt. Guthrie. He also asked Howell whether he had cursed and insulted Hill by saying, “You look like a skinny Dave Chappelle.”

Findling said that comment, as well as Howell telling Hill, “Now you work for me,” were racist: “Do you not understand that, as [Hill is] a Black elected official in the South, that was offensive?”

Howelll replied, “You’re wrong to say that.”

Howell also questioned why, even though he had cursed out Hill and Guthrie, that merited being put in a restraint chair: “I still didn’t know who he was [on the phone]. I still have freedom of speech.”

Findling also grilled Howell over a later incident at The Battery, in which Howell allegedly cursed out Cobb County Police who had responded to an incident of alleged public drunkenness. Howell said he couldn’t recall anything between the time he arrived and was waiting to get into a concert and the time he woke up in the Cobb County Jail. He said that he and two “girls” had been slipped GHB in their drinks, that he had not taken the drug on purpose, and that that incident was “well-known.”

The jury also heard from Joseph Arnold, who was escorted into the courtroom in orange sweats, handcuffs, and shackles. Arnold, who did not have on eyeglasses and who appeared to have lost significant weight since his arrest, argued with defense attorney Marissa Goldberg over the ages of two women he is accused of having attacked in the Wholesale Food Outlet in Forest Park. Several times, Ross directed Goldberg not to ask “compound questions.” Arnold gave loud and lengthy answers and said he had been told that he would be transferred to the Robert F. Deyton Detention Facility, which is run under a contract with GEO Group, if he testified in the Hill case. He also said that he had done nothing to deserve being put in the restraint chair and did not want to answer questions about the WFO incident because that case was still pending “after three years.” When Goldberg asked whether he had pulled one woman up by the hair, he denied having done so. As Arnold was led out of the courtroom past the defense table where Hill and his attorneys sat, he scowled at them.

Two former CCSO deputies also testified about their roles in the jailhouse chair incidents and the required use of force documentation.

More to come.

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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