The Georgia sheriff who ordered a controversial drug search of Worth County High school has been arrested and indicted on 16 charges including witness tampering or “influencing a witness” reports WALB-TV.
The Worth County grand jury indicted former sheriff Jeff Hobby with one count of violation of oath of office, one count of obstruction of an office and 14 counts of influencing a witness. The charges come after an investigation revealed that Hobby told his employees at the sheriff’s office not to volunteer any information in regards to the controversial search conducted at the high school to anyone who didn’t work at the office. That included the agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and the DA’s office.
According to the arrest warrant, Hobby also threatened to fire any employee who did not obey the command.
Hobby was later released on $31,000 bond following hours of witness testimony.
The investigation into Hobby is running separately from the current investigation into the search that was conducted at Worth County High School in April 2017. In the search it was reported that the sheriff had a “target list” of 13 students at the county high school who he suspected had drugs on them. He allegedly told the principal Harley Calhoun that he intended to conduct the search.
A federal class action challenges the assertion that Hobby had the approval of school administration. According to the complaint, “At no time did Calhoun, or any other school administrator, agree to permit defendants to conduct body searches of each student in the school”.
Mint Press News reports:
Of the 13 students on the target list, only three were at school that day, and no drugs were found in the search, the complaint says.
“Defendants had fair warning that their conduct was unconstitutional because a mass search of nearly 900 public school children by law enforcement officers without any individualized suspicion clearly and obviously violates the Constitution,” the complaint says.
A copy of the complaint is available here.
The governor, Nathan Deal, later suspended the sheriff after he was indicted on other charges in October.
Hobby apparently had a knack for controversial policing after the GBI discovered Hobby had an illegal recording device. Hobby was re-arrested following the discovery.
The Tifton Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office was notified of the recording device on February 26. The DA’s office said the recording device was installed in the attorney-client interview room at the Worth County Jail.
Hobby is facing one count of violation of oath of office and the GBI has confirmed with news outlets that the embattled sheriff is facing an additional 66 counts of eavesdropping and surveillance which invades the privacy of another individual in that case.
Hobby appeared in court Monday for that case. The judge did not grant the former sheriff bond. Hobby remains locked up in the Lowndes County Jail awaiting a hearing before Superior Court Judge Bill Reinhardt.