Clayton voters likely to choose new sheriff in March after Hill's conviction

The conviction of suspended Sheriff Victor Hill means voters in Clayton County will likely head to the polls in March to choose his replacement.

A federal jury found Hill guilty Wednesday of violating the constitutional rights of six detainees after he ordered them held in restraint chairs for hours at a time.  Hill was found not guilty on a seventh charge.

"No person, whether a member of law enforcement or an elected official or otherwise, has the right or can assume the power to violate the constitutional rights of the citizens in their care," said U.S. Attorney Ryan Buchanan of the Northern District of Georgia.

Governor Brian Kemp suspended Hill from office after his indictment in 2021, though it is not yet clear when and how Hill will be permanently removed from office after his conviction.

"The governor’s ability to act following this verdict is dependent on the construct of local law," said Gov. Kemp's Interim Communications Director Andrew Isenhour.  "As such, the governor’s legal team is in the process of reviewing relevant statutes to determine what steps can be taken and the necessary protocol for those steps. Once a determination has been made, it will be shared with community stakeholders and the public. In the interim, the second in command for the Sheriff’s Office remains in authority, as has been the case since Sheriff Hill’s suspension."

Suspended Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill (foreground) and the Clayton County Jail (background).

Suspended Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill (foreground) and the Clayton County Jail (background). (Clayton County Sheriff's Office / FOX 5)

Chief Deputy Roland Boehrer, who testified in Hill's defense at the trial, is the second in command.

The Georgia Sheriff's Association said state law spells out the procedure for replacing a sheriff.

According to the Georgia code, unless a local law provides otherwise, the chief deputy can fill the vacancy if the sheriff's term has less than six months remaining.  Sheriff Hill, however, was last elected in 2020 and has two more years left.  

That means, the county must call for a special election.  That vote must take place at least 60 days after the vacancy, but at the earliest state-prescribed date available for a special election.  In 2023, that is the third Tuesday of March, or March 21.  

Meanwhile, Hill's defense attorney, Drew Findling, said the sheriff still has widespread support.  

"My thoughts are with Sheriff Victor Hill.  As I've said before, the community continues to reach out to us through and during this trial about a person that had them feeling safe and secure in their homes in Clayton County, but nevertheless, this is where we are," said Findling.  "You can rest assured that this case on behalf of Sheriff Victor Hill will be appealed."