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Man restrained at Georgia jail: ‘It’s made me scared’

December 27, 2021 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — A landscaper says an Atlanta-area sheriff’s order to put the man in a restraint chair was punishment ”for just telling him how I felt.”

Glenn Howell tells The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that now-suspended Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill targeted him when Howell pursued a Clayton deputy in April 2020 for $2,800 for work done at the deputy’s Butts County home.

A federal grand jury indicted Hill in April, finding he had violated the civil rights of four people at the county jail by strapping them into a restraint chair. A subsequent indictment was filed in July about another alleged instance.

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A lawyer for Hill argued in November that use of the chair was not excessive force under any clearly established law and federal charges against him should be dismissed. A federal prosecutor countered that Hill very clearly used excessive force against people in his agency’s custody when he ordered them to be held in a restraint chair without justification and as punishment.

Howell said his encounter with Hill began after he took pictures of his work at a deputy’s home in case he needed to take legal action to get paid. Howell said Hill called him and told Howell to stop bothering the deputy.

“He said, ‘This is Victor Hill, the sheriff of Clayton County,’ and I kind of giggled, and he said, ‘What’s so funny?’ and I said, ‘Are you serious, who is this again?’” Howell said.

Howell said Hill told him that, “I’m going to give you one opportunity to leave my deputy alone.”

The conversation soon became heated, Howell said, with both men allegedly cursing each other.

Howell said he texted Hill after the call and the sheriff warned him not to text again or a warrant for his arrest would be issued.

Howell told the newspaper that said Hill sent a Clayton County fugitive squad to search for him for two days, with Howell turning himself in after they didn’t find him.

Howell said he was then handcuffed and strapped in a restraint chair for several hours, with Hill berating him.

“It’s totally life changing,” Howell said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week. “In the beginning I didn’t understand what was going on. Now I understand what’s going on and what (Hill) did as punishment of me for just telling him how I felt.”

Defense attorneys say use of restraint chairs in jails is common, and there is no clear case law that indicates when restraint becomes the use of force. Prosecutors say the law is clear that using force against someone who is not resisting is unconstitutional.

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The indictment alleges that the men were improperly held in a restraint chair for hours even though they had complied with deputies and posed no threat. They suffered pain and bodily injury as a result, prosecutors have said.

Howell said deputies told him to urinate on himself when he requested time to use the restroom.

“Two or three minutes into it I started asking for a nurse, and asking ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ and ‘I need some help,’” he said.

Howell said he suffered two disc dislocations in his shoulder and nerve damage in his hands from being in the chair. He also said the mistreatment affected him emotionally.

“It’s made me scared,” he said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Bly has not ruled on the defense motion to dismiss.

Georgia 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.