Ga. POST investigating Hill’s certification as former deputies speak out

The Clayton Crescent has confirmed a tip that Maj. Levon Allen, who is former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill’s godson, has been promoted to Chief Deputy.

According to a CCSO memo dated October 26—the day of Hill’s conviction on six counts of violating pretrial detainees’ rights under color of law—the change was effective immediately.

Allen played a significant role in at least three of the pretrial detainee incidents, according to evidence presented at Hill’s trial. He also is one of Hill’s command staff that, in recent months, has been assigned as “protection” for three Clayton County commissioners—Felicia Franklin, Alieka Anderson, and Gail Hambrick.

Clayton County payroll figures show Allen was paid $83,273.12 in 2021 as a major. As a lieutenant in 2020, he was paid $61,805.05. In 2019, Sgt. Allen was paid $50,681.12 and in 2018, he was paid $48,224.33 as an investigator. In 2017, Allen was a Deputy Sheriff 2 making $41,545.67.

Government prosecutors showed text messages between Allen, who was in Hill’s phone as “G.S.” (short for godson), and Hill on the night that a 17-year-old was arrested and placed into a restraint chair over two stretches of four hours or longer.

Special Agent Candace Hunter of the FBI’s Computer Analysis Response Team testified at Hills trial that Allen had texted Hill photos and cellphone video, showing the mess the teenager had made at his mother’s house. The teen, who lives with a mental disability, had had a meltdown over not being able to play online games, and trashed his mother’s house and yard, as well as the neighbor’s yard.

“How old is he?” Hill texted Allen.

“17,” Allen responded.

Hill replied with one word: “Chair.”

One source told The Clayton Crescent that Boehrer was to retire at the end of the year and had stepped down as chief deputy to make room for Allen, but is still interim sheriff. The Clayton Crescent attempted to reach Boehrer and Chairman Jeff Turner for clarification but had received no response from either by the close of business Thursday. A large number of vehicles were spotted at BOC headquarters.

Another source told The Clayton Crescent that Hill was allowed to remain free on bond, but is to have no contact with any of the victims or witnesses and is not allowed to have a firearm.

Hill’s social media accounts connected to his time as sheriff have disappeared from Twitter and Facebook since his conviction.

Former CCSO deputies speaking out

Hill’s conviction has prompted several former deputies to speak out. Several sources have told The Clayton Crescent that Hill allegedly put negative information in their “jackets” or POST files, preventing them from seeking work with other law enforcement agencies. One source alleged that CCSO deputies have been staking out Clayton County Police headquarters and firing any deputy who shows up there to drop off an application. Hill has been at odds with CCPD, which is the agency that polices Clayton County. The sheriff’s office primarily serves warrants, runs courthouse security, and manages the county jail.

Jonathan Newton (left) and Robert Hawes (right) spoke with reporters outside the Harold R. Banke Justice Center Oct. 27, 2022. Both men are former Clayton County Sheriff’s deputies who accuse Victor Hill of setting up deputies who fell out of favor with him. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

At midday, former CCSO public information officer turned attorney Jonathan Newton held a press conference with former CCSO deputy Robert Hawes in front of the Harold R. Banke Justice Center.

Newton was in court during jury deliberations in the Hill trial. “I was very pleased with the verdict,” he said. “The jury deliberated multiple days, four days, and they came to the right conclusion, essentially that Victor Hill violated the civil rights of these individuals.”

He added, “Victor Hill is a criminal with a badge, and he has been for quite some time, and he’s a coward. This is the only time he’s ever faced any accountability whatsoever. And so, they deliberated upon that, they were able to see through the façade that had been created by him, and render a decision that would render justice for those seven individuals.”

From April 2007 to November 2008, Newton said, “I served as his public information officer.” However, “I quit in lieu of being terminated by him….When I came forward, I made the allegations to the local law enforcement because there were other people who were put at risk of being either falsely accused or criminally prosecuted at some later time, behind the things that he was putting in place to make himself look like he was the only person who was good, and the rest of his employees were bad apples, and they needed to be dealt with.”

In May 2011, “[Hill] accused me of some crimes. Those crimes were subsequently nolle prossed by the sitting DA at the time, and then I went to law school, I became a practicing lawyer. This all stems from a 2008 incident where he accused me of theft from the sheriff’s office.” All twelve charges against Newton, including theft by taking, forgery, and false statements, were thrown out in August 2013, according to online court records.

Newton said he does not think Hill will win on appeal.

“Absolutely not,” he told WSB’s Audrey Washington. “As a criminal defense attorney myself, I know that one of the things that we say all the time to our clients most of the time is that there are bases for appeals, even though there are bases for appeals, that does not mean that those appeals will be granted in a reversal or a vacating of the judgment will be issued. This was, from the issues that I saw that possibly were raised and put on the record by the attorney, I don’t think that any of this actually will be reversed. At all.”

Asked whether some might think he is biased against Hill, Newton replied, “It would not only be me—and I would say, that would be a legitimate argument, right?—but if you look at the facts versus the person saying them, other people would be saying the exact same things. If there were [other] people here today, they would be saying the exact same things. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of former employees who worked for the sheriff’s office, or for this particular sheriff, who’s had their careers lost, money lost, their families adversely impacted, not been able to get gainful employment in law enforcement after they left the sheriff’s office because of the false allegations that this man has made. So I’m speaking on behalf of those people who can’t speak today.”

A Clayton County Sheriff’s Department cruiser passes by as former CCSO COBRA Commander Robert Hawes speaks with WSB’s Audrey Washington outside the Harold R. Banke Justice Center, October 27, 2022. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

In 2018, Hill had Hawes arrested on charges of violating his oath and creating false documents after Hawes made it known he planned to run for sheriff. Also present photographing the interview was Hawes’ wife, Gerrian, who Hill had arrested for harassing communications after she had sent him several e-mails.

Hawes said he worked at CCSO from 2012 to December 2017 and had been the COBRA Tactical Narcotics Unit commander for just over a year. “My initial reaction [to Hills’s verdict] was kind of like vindication,” he said. “This is just like the tip of the iceberg. I think that a multitude of people has been affected, illegally, bu this sheriff and nobody ever came forward. I’m happy for the seven people, or the six people, who got vindication during the verdict.”

He said he thought the verdict “sends a message to people in general that even law enforcement agents aren’t above the law. There are laws that have to be followed, even by law enforcement officials. And when we break those rules, there’s a penance to pay, and that’s what [Hill] did.”

As to the videos of Hill ordering detainees strapped into restraint chairs, which were shown as evidence in court, Hawes said, “Well, I wasn’t shocked. I also was part of the SWAT team, and he periodically sent us into the jail to turn people’s stuff over and basically intimidate the inmates in there. So hearing about the chair situation wasn’t shocking. I never visibly saw it happen, but I wasn’t shocked.”

Hawes said he “felt [he] was being forced” to take part in those incidents.

“I worked on the streets. On the SWAT team, our primary mission is barricaded gunmen on the street, stuff like that. So to use us when they also have a TIGER unit or whatever inside, a Scorpion unit inside of the jail, to have the SWAT team to go in there just seemed like it was a little bit above and beyond, intimidation-type stuff. I didn’t think it was warranted, so I didn’t enjoy it.”

The Hawses declined to discuss details of their cases, which are pending.

WSB’s Audrey Washington reports that the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) “will start its own investigation into” Hill’s law enforcement certification.

Clayton County Jail ranks second in Ga. for deaths

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jeremy Redmon reports that five people—all diagnosed with mental illness—died in the Clayton County Jail last year, according to Open Records data. Only Gwinnett County had more jailhouse deaths last year. Since 2009, 23 pretrial detainees have died in the Clayton County Jail while awaiting trial.

According to the AJC, those pretrial detainees included:

  • Caryn Hatchett, a woman who had been living a Morrow group home, died of severe sepsis while in custody in 2021. She had been shackled to her bed at a hospital: “A Clayton Medical Examiner’s Office report says Hatchett ‘should have been housed in a mental facility and not with adults when she was still a child with a 12-year-old mind at 29.'”
  • February 2021: A man who suffered from opioid addiction and who had been given methadone “hanged himself in his cell.” He allegedly had been put in isolation because he thought he might have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • May 2021: A man living with PTSD and bipolar disorder hanged himself in his cell. The man had been “‘detoxing from meth,’ according to a Clayton death investigation report.”
  • November 2021: A “diabetic man who had survived kidney failure and cancer and who had one of his legs amputated died in the jail after suffering from a urinary tract infection and heart disease, according to a Clayton death investigation report. That report says it does not appear he was given dialysis while at the jail.”
  • December 2021:  A “schizophrenic detainee with a history of heart problems died in the jail because of complications from pneumonia.”

The AJC reports that at least three people have died in the Clayton County Jail in 2022, including Jaylan Andrise Goodman, 26, who was killed, allegedly by his cellmate, Jarvin Cornelius Wallace, 22, of Atlanta. Wallace was charged with felony murder in July and is awaiting trial in the Clayton County Jail.

Former CCSO Chief of Staff Mitzi Bickers, who was not POST-certified, is scheduled to report to federal prison on November 8 for her role in the Atlanta City Hall contract-fixing scandal. Bickers was forced to resign from Atlanta for failing to report outside income from her political consulting business.

During Hill’s trial, Bickers could be seen entering the booking area and leaning up against a counter, watching members of the Scorpion Response Team command about a dozen pretrial detainees in a holding cell to “face the wall” as Hill came in to reprimand Arnold. When Arnold asked about his right to a speedy trial, Hill ordered Arnold into a restraint chair.

The Clayton Crescent has provided extensive coverage of jail conditions during the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as of deputies who were fired for various reasons. We will compile a separate list of all stories about Hill and issues at CCSO.

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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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