Georgia sher­iff fac­ing charges over school search sus­pended

Manteca Bulletin - - Dollars & Sense -

AT­LANTA (AP) — Georgia’s gov­er­nor on Mon­day sus­pended a sher­iff who faces charges in­clud­ing sex­ual bat­tery af­ter a drug search at a high school ear­lier this year.

In an ex­ec­u­tive order, Gov. Nathan Deal sus­pended Worth County Sher­iff Jeff Hobby pend­ing the fi­nal out­come of his case or the ex­pi­ra­tion of his term of of­fice, which­ever comes first.

A grand jury last month in­dicted Hobby and two deputies in con­nec­tion with a search at Worth County High School in Sylvester, about 170 miles (274 kilo­me­ters) south of At­lanta. Hobby faces two counts of false im­pris­on­ment, one count of sex­ual bat­tery and a charge of vi­o­lat­ing his oath of of­fice.

Hobby did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a phone mes­sage left at the sher­iff’s of­fice Mon­day. His lawyer Norman Crowe Jr. did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to an email or phone mes­sage. Crowe has pre­vi­ously said that Hobby’s po­si­tion is that he did noth­ing crim­i­nal.

Hobby vi­o­lated his oath of of­fice by or­der­ing his deputies to search stu­dents at the high school “with­out prob­a­ble cause or any other le­gal ba­sis and with­out due process” in vi­o­la­tion of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion and the Georgia Con­sti­tu­tion, the in­dict­ment says.

Deal had ap­pointed a re­view com­mis­sion on Oct. 31 to de­ter­mine whether the in­dict­ment ad­versely af­fected Hobby’s “ad­min­is­tra­tion of the of­fice of Sher­iff of Worth County.” In a re­port dated Nov. 9, the com­mis­sion said they found that to be the case and unan­i­mously rec­om­mended that Hobby be sus­pended, Deal’s order says.

The re­view com­mis­sion was made up of state At­tor­ney Gen­eral Chris Carr, Gor­don County Sher­iff Mitch Ral­ston and Peach County Sher­iff Terry Deese.

In June, the South­ern Cen­ter for Hu­man Rights filed a fed­eral law­suit on be­half of nine stu­dents against Hobby and a num­ber of deputies. The law­suit said the searches that were con­ducted were in­va­sive and vi­o­lated the con­sti­tu­tional rights of hun­dreds of stu­dents.

Ac­cord­ing to the law­suit, Hobby ar­rived at the school with a “tar­get list” of 13 stu­dents that he sus­pected of hav­ing drugs. Only three of the listed stu­dents were at school that day, and Hobby had them brought to ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fices and searched. The law­suit says Hobby then put the en­tire school on lock­down; stu­dents were con­fined to class­rooms, hall­ways and the gym. Their cell­phones were con­fis­cated so they couldn’t call their par­ents.

Ap­prox­i­mately 900 stu­dents were searched, but no il­le­gal drugs or drug para­pher­na­lia were found. Sher­iff’s deputies con­ducted in­tru­sive body searches, touch­ing stu­dents’ pri­vate parts and lift­ing their cloth­ing in view of oth­ers, the law­suit says.

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