Former Clayton County sheriff Victor Hill has been ordered to report to federal prison on May 15. Hill has been assigned to FCI Forrest City, a low-security facility in Forrest City, AR.
His attorney is asking that Hill remain free on appeal “until his Motion for Bond Pending Appeal is resolved.”
Lynsey Barron wrote, “Even though this Court recommended that Mr. Hill be designated to FPC Montgomery ‘or to a minimum-security camp in order to minimize any danger that may come to him based on his status as a former law enforcement officer’…, the Bureau of Prisons designated him to FCI Forrest City Low in Arkansas, which does not have a camp.”
The letter from the U.S. Marshals Service dated April 11 read:
Dear Mr. Hill:
Pursuant to the sentence you received in federal court in the Northern District of Georgia, you are hereby directed to report to the following to institution to begin service of your federal sentence:
INSTITUTION: FCI FORREST CITY LOW
1400 Dale Bumpers Road
Forrest City, AR 72335
TELEPHONE NO.: (870) 630-6000
REPORT DATE: NOON: MAY 15, 2023
Any further inquiries should be directed to the institution at the telephone number listed above.
United States Marshal
Hill’s attorneys have appealed his conviction to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta. On Wednesday, they asked that Hill remain free while they pursue that case, noting it might take longer to appeal than for Hill to serve his sentence:
“Victor Hill has proven himself a model defendant since his release on bond
almost two years ago. (Dkt. 9.) And because this Court granted a substantial
variance in sentencing him to 18 months’ imprisonment—less than half of what
the Guidelines called for—there is a very real likelihood that he will have served
his sentence in full before his appeal is final,” defense attorney Lynsey Barron wrote.
Hill was convicted on six of seven counts of violating pretrial detainees’ civil rights by strapping them into restraint chairs without cause and contrary to his own departmental procedures.
At his sentencing, he asked Judge Eleanor Ross whether he could continue campaigning for Interim Sheriff Levon Allen while awaiting his order to report to prison. Ross said that he could but that he should not try to return to law enforcement as a civilian consultant.
Allen could be seen strapping detainees into chairs at Hill’s order in video evidence that was played in court during the trial.
Hill’s attorneys are pursuing three arguments in their appeal:
- that the case be dismissed because no one warned Hill that his use of the restraint chair “in the alleged manner” was criminal. Hill’s attorneys cite the Piazza case, saying that case involved Tasers, not “passive restraint”;
- that the government did not provide enough evidence to show Hill’s use of force was unreasonable;
- and that Hill “will challenge this Court’s denial of his motion for a mistrial after the jury was deadlocked and its decision to give the jury a second Allen charge, which will be reviewed for abuse of discretion.”
After the jury reached had unanimous decisions on two counts and deadlocked on five, the judge sent them back with an Allen charge, which is an order to keep deliberating until they reached a decision. The jury foreperson sent the judge a note, apparently indicating one juror was a holdout. Hill asked for a mistrial on the remaining five counts and was denied. The next day, the foreperson sent the judge another note, questioning the juror’s “cognitive ability.”
The judge quizzed that juror, who explained why he disagreed with the other jurors and that they, in Barron’s words, had been “screaming at him and disparaging him.” Hill’s attorneys asked for and were denied a mistrial. Then the foreperson sent out another note, Barron wrote, “complaining about the holdout juror and whose testimony he credited.” Hill’s attorneys repeatedly asked for, and the judge repeatedly denied, a mistrial, with a second Allen charge issued to the jury along the way.
Ultimately, the jury convicted Hill on six counts and acquitted him on one against Joseph Arnold, a man suffering from mental illness. A large man with a booming voice, Arnold testified during Hill’s trial, then stared menacingly at Hill’s defense attorney, Marissa Goldberg, for an extended time as U.S. Marshals led him out of the courtroom. Hill ordered Arnold into the chair after Arnold had been arrested for attacking two senior citizens, one of whom used a mobility scooter, in the checkout line at the Wholesale Food Outlet in Forest Park.
The jury found six other victims—including a teenager who trashed his mother’s house, a man who was strapped into the chair so long that his handcuffs sliced deep into the flesh of his wrists , and landscaper Glen Howell, who had sought payment for work he did for CCSO Lt. Josh Guthrie—had done nothing to warrant being restrained, much less for hours and to the point of urinating on themselves.
“Should the Eleventh Circuit resolve any of the issues above in Mr. Hill’s favor, his conviction will be reversed,” Barron wrote. “And should he win on the fair notice question, there will be no new trial. If Mr. Hill is denied bond while his appeal is pending, he will almost certainly serve his entire sentence before the appeal is even resolved—which would work a manifest miscarriage of justice if the appeal comes out his way.”
Forrest Hill allows inmates in the low-security prison to order items like Skullcandy headphones, digital watches, foldable book lights, alarm clocks, typewriter ribbons, white-out, tweezers, mustache scissors, and toenail and fingernail clippers on their commissary accounts.
The prison is 45 miles west of the greater Memphis area, on the other side of the Mississippi River. Rapper Clifford “T.I.” Harris did time there on weapons charges, as did Haitian cocaine kingpin Beaudouin Ketant. Currently serving time at FCI Forrest City is Ronald Sandlin, who was sentenced to 63 months for his role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.