CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. - Lt. Joshua Guthrie still can't believe his boss, Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill, has been indicted on federal civil rights violations over the use of restraint chairs at the Clayton County Jail in 2020. The deputy said he thinks it's odd considering the many other violent encounters between law enforcement officers and civilians across the country.
"If you just look at the George Floyd case, my understanding is that it was never handled on a federal level, just at the state level. I do believe that all of this stems from political means," said Lt. Guthrie, who's worked for the Clayton County Sheriff's Office for three years.
Deputy Guthrie knows Glen Howell, one of the four men listed as a victim in Hill's indictment. Guthrie said he and Howell had a payment dispute over some contracting work at Guthrie's home in Butts County in April 2020.
"It was to the point where Mr. Howell was walking toward my plumber as if he was about to start a physical altercation. When I tried to de-escalate the situation, that's when he started in on me and that's when I told him I wasn't going to have that on my property and I essentially fired him and told him not to return to my home," said Lt. Guthrie.
When Guthrie called 911, Jackson police arrived and took a report. Clayton County Sheriff's Office policy requires employees to report encounters with law enforcement officers to their supervisors. Guthrie said Howell returned to the deputy's home a second time and was allegedly more aggressive. Howell said that encounter and the second call to law officers prompted him to call Sheriff Hill directly to tell him matters had escalated with Howell.
"The sheriff's response was, 'would you like me to Mr. Howell and find out what's going on and why this is such a big issue?' I was surprised by that because I don't have a personal relationship with Sheriff Hill, so the fact that I had an employer who was looking out for my benefit and looking out for me meant a lot. And he was not biased. One of the first things he asked me was if I owed this man any money and said if I did, I needed to pay him and make it right," said
Multiple reports indicate communications between Sheriff Hill and Mr. Howell went south quickly. Howell has previously told FOX 5, the Sheriff Hill harassed him. The sheriff ended up issuing arrest warrants for Howell for harassing communications. Howell surrendered to deputies at the Clayton County jail on April 27, 2020. Federal investigators say Sheriff Hill had deputies detain him in a restraint chair. Deputy Guthrie said he was present when Howell was cited for criminal trespassing at Guthrie's home and said he never saw any harm done to Howell.
"After a brief conversation, a matter of seconds, Howell began to raise his voice as he answered the sheriff's questions and they went back and forth and that's when he was placed in the chair," said the deputy.
After Howell was released from the Clayton County Jail, he went to Sheriff Long in Butts County to file a complaint against Sheriff Hill.
"I had a resident who felt like his rights were violated. He said it was the sheriff, not a deputy and I told him that kind of complaint had to be filed with the FBI. This wasn't political or personal. I've never had any problems or issues with Victor Hill," Sheriff Long said.
Deputy Guthrie said he believes Sheriff Long prompted the federal investigation last spring that ended with Hill's federal indictment a year later. Sheriff Long takes issue with that claim and said he simply gave a Butts County resident the information he needed to file a civil rights complaint.
"I like Victor Hill and he's always been professional and helpful when our agency needed something. We've never had a cross word," said Sheriff Long.
Deputy Gutherie said he's enjoyed working for Sheriff Hill and hopes his legal issues are resolved in Hill's favor.
"I can't speak on whether anything was legally or illegally done. That's up to a judge and a jury to decide, but in my professional opinion is the sheriff did nothing illegal to any effect of using the restraint chair. He is real big on respect and how the public is treated and I wouldn't see him mistreating anybody and I don't believe any bodily harm came to any of the individuals improperly placed in the restraint chair," said Deputy Guthrie.
FOX 5's Portia Bruner called the office of Lee Sexton Friday to get a comment from Howell. Sexton has not yet returned the phone call, but Howell has previously told FOX 5, Hill was the aggressor during their Facetime calls and text messages in April 2020.
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