Ga. sheriff faces charges, including sexual battery, in high school drug search
Deputies were instructed to perform pat-downs of students
By Jon Gosa
The Albany Herald
SYLVESTER, Ga. — The Worth County District Attorney’s Office formally filed indictments Oct. 3 against Sheriff Jeff Hobby and six other employees of the Worth County Sheriff’s Office in connection to a drug search incident that occurred at Worth County High School on April 14.
Hobby, Brandi Whiddon, Deidra Whiddon (formerly Deidra Tucker), Tyler Turner, Skylar Duke and Anthony Cravey have been charged with 14 counts of violation of oath by public officer, eight counts of sexual battery, nine counts of sexual battery against a child under age 16 and five counts of false imprisonment under color of law, according to documents filed in Worth County Superior Court.
According to the indictment: “Jeff Hobby on or about the 14th day of April, 2017, in violation of O.C.G.A. 16-10-1 (violation of oath by public officer), O.C.G.A. 16-6-22.1 (d) (Sexual battery against a child under 16), O.C.G.A. 16-5-42 (false imprisonment under color of law), and O.C.G.A. 16-6-22.1 (b) (sexual battery), did, then and there, being duly-elected sheriff, a public officer with the Worth County Sheriff’s Office, unlawfully, willfully and intentionally violate the terms of his oath as prescribed by law, in that he did swear to ‘support the Constitutions of the United States and of this State’ and then did order deputies under his employ to search students present at Worth County High School without probable cause or any other legal basis and without due process, in violation of the Constitution of the United States and its amendments and the Constitution of the State of Georgia, contrary to the laws of said state, the good order, peace and dignity thereof.”
The Worth county Sheriff’s Office has made no official statement since the indictment, but in an April 18 statement about the incident, Hobby said that his deputies were instructed “to perform a basic and non-intrusive pat-down of each student. This was performed in the presence of the principal.
After the pat-downs were conducted, the sheriff said, “It was discovered that one of the deputies had exceeded the instructions given by the sheriff and conducted a pat-down of some students that was more intrusive than instructed by the sheriff. Upon the discovery of the deputy’s actions, the sheriff has taken corrective action to ensure that this behavior not occur again.”
Twelve students have accused the law enforcement officers of misconduct and sexual battery, including the touching of their genitals. Many of the accusations stem from incidents of “physical contact with the intimate parts of the body” during the search, the indictment said.
An official in the office of Gov. Nathan Deal, who has the power to convene a tribunal to investigate the matter, said his office has not been contacted by the Worth County District Attorney’s Office, nor has the governor received a certified copy of the indictment.
“We have not received any communication requesting investigation or a certified copy of the indictment to trigger a review panel,” Governor’s Office Public Information Officer Jen Ryan said.
Calls have been placed to Tifton Judicial Circuit District Attorney Paul Bowden, but those calls have not yet been returned.
Hobby was contacted Thursday for comment, but said only, “I have no comment. You will have to speak to my attorney.”
Attempts to contact Hobby’s attorney have been unsuccessful.
©2017 The Albany Herald, Ga.