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Sheriff's Officials Indicted After Abusive School Drug Sweep

by Derek Gilna

An unprecedented school-wide  sweep of Worth County High School by Worth County, Georgia, Sheriff's officials on April 14, 2017,  allegedly carried out to search for drugs came up empty, but instead resulted in charges filed against  Sheriff Jeff Hobby, and two of his deputies for alleged sexual assaults of several students. Some of the 900 children at that school  complained that their breasts were fondled and their private parts grabbed by the officers during the four-hour lockdown.  The parents of those students were predictably outraged.

Then six months after the incident at that high school, on October 9,  the son of  the Sheriff, 17-year-old Zachary Lewis Hobby, a former student at the high school, was arrested in Poulon for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.  Another individual, Aaron Ray Short, was also charged in the same incident,  investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The Sylvester, Georgia police department had carried out a limited search of the same school, before the April incident, but Sheriff Hobby, who allegedly felt that investigation had not been thorough enough, then entered the school with a list of 13 potential suspects.  However, the search quickly expanded beyond those individuals to encompass students who had no credible connections to drug dealing.

If there was no reason to suspect illegal activity by the rest of the students, said Worth County Schools attorney Tommy Coleman, the broad search was inappropriate: "If you don't have that (reason) then this search would violate an individual's rights...(It) violates the constitutional right and enforcing them the right against unreasonable search and seizures."  The invasive nature of the search, he said, was "a raw issue."

Coleman also said that no one in the community was surprised that the younger Hobby was arrested for a drug violation: " My sense is that this was common knowledge and it didn't really surprise anyone."

Interim Worth County School Superintendent Lawrence Walters, apparently shared that school parents had,  said, "I've never been involved with anything like that ever in the past 21 years and I don't condone it." As a result of the violations of the students' rights, he and his two deputies were indicted for sexual battery, false imprisonment and violation of oath of office for the incident, although he continues to maintain that his actions were justified.

In the meantime, citizens of Worth County, and especially the parents of the abused children,  await the results of the separate criminal prosecutions of the father and son, and want to see if the judicial process in their Georgia town is capable of producing a result that shows that even the sheriff and his son are not immune from justice.



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