A man was hooded and strapped to a "devil's chair" while being beaten and photographed by a US police chief, it has been alleged.
Sheriff Victor Hill has been accused of using the restraint chair to punish the man for several hours in Georgia, US, VICE reports.
He allegedly mistreated the unnamed victim after he was jailed over driving offences, according to a civil right indictment filed on July 29.
The victim was allegedly dropped off at Clayton County Jail last May after a state trooper arrested him for speeding and driving with a suspended license, according to the filing.
As sheriff, Hill allegedly ordered officers to put the man, described only as “W.T.” in court documents, in the controversial device.
It was alleged he had demanded this with other detainees that year.
W.T. was struck twice by what he “believed to be a fist” despite not being physically aggressive and was also photographed by one officer who “covered the blood on W.T.’s jail uniform with a white paper smock,” according to the indictment.
At one point, W.T. urinated in the chair.
The chairs have reportedly been used in several cases of abuse against inmates with at least one fatality across the country.
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A mentally ill man stopped breathing and died less than an hour after he was released from a restraint chair in the San Luis Obispo County jail, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The man had been left naked and shackled for nearly two days after he’d repeatedly struck himself in the head and face.
After the incident, the county said it would no longer use the chair.
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Some states have banned their use with human rights campaigners saying they should be across the US.
The Clayton County Sheriff’s Office policy was that restraint chairs only be used in situations where an inmate was so violent or uncontrollable that it was necessary to “prevent self-injury, injury to others or property damage,” particularly when other techniques hadn’t been effective, according to the indictment.
The devices were also never meant to be used as a form of punishment, which manufacturers and other law enforcement officials have explicitly warned against in the past.
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Hill approved the sheriff’s office’s policy himself, according to the indictment against him. Yet he allegedly didn’t enforce it.
He is now facing a total of five charges of violating inmates’ constitutional rights.
The restraint chair was used against several detainees in the Clayton County Jail in 2020, according to the indictment.
They included a man accused of assaulting two women, a 17-year-old who’d allegedly vandalized his home during an argument with his mother, a person accused of a domestic disturbance, a man who’d gotten into a payment dispute with one of Hill’s deputies before he was charged with “harassing communications,” and W.T.
Hill has pleaded not guilty to all of the accusations against him.
His attorney, Drew Findling has told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the "indictment is a desperate Hail Mary by the government in response to Sheriff Hill’s powerful motion to dismiss."
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