WORTH CO., GA (WALB) - Worth County residents and the school board's attorney are weighing in following criminal charges announced against the sheriff and two of his deputies.
The charges stem from a controversial drug search in April.
It was a hot topic of conversation when it happened months ago, now it has stirred up the city once again.
And the state of the sheriff as an elected official is still a big question.
"It's very shocking," said Marquita Peavy, a long-time resident. "It's a pretty quiet town so you don't get too much action like that here."
It's the reaction most people in Sylvester have after hearing their Sheriff and two of his deputies were indicted. But each resident's opinion of the matter has divided the city.
It began with a controversial drug search at Worth County High School in April of 2017. Sheriff Jeff Hobby and his deputies patted down every student at the school. Immediately following the search some parents were outraged, filing civil suits against the sheriff.
"Apparently the district attorney feels like the search was of such an aggressive nature as to constitute these pretty serious consequences against the sheriff and other sheriff's deputies," said the Worth County School Board's Attorney Tommy Coleman.
A Worth County Grand jury made the decision late Tuesday to indict the Sheriff and two deputies on six of the 36 allegations. Students named in the allegations range in race and gender.
"I watched the tape and it was very aggressive," explained Coleman, referring to the surveillance video from the school.
The sheriff is being charged with violation of oath by a public officer, two counts of false imprisonment under color of law and one count of sexual battery.
Deputies Tyler Turner and Deidra Whiddon are also facing charges. Turner for sexual battery and violation of oath by a public officer and Tucker for violation of oath by a public officer.
But that's not all.
"Once an indictment comes in we automatically suspend the law enforcement officer's certification," said the Executive Director of the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council. "In this case, it would be the sheriff."
The sheriff and the two deputies have been stripped of their powers of arrest, which only allow them to do administrative duties pending the criminal trial.
Sylvester residents are not at a consensus. Supporters of the indictment say it's well deserved.
Those who back the sheriff say the search was 'exaggerated.'
"I think the (school) system is happy the process is moving forward and there will be a resolution but I don't think they have any real position on the disposition of any criminal act," explained Coleman.
Currently, Jeff Hobby will continue his role as sheriff.
Typically when a public official is indicted the Governor's office will conduct their own investigation.
The office has not received the formal indictment yet from the DA's office, so that investigation has not been launched.
If the governor's office launches an investigation, by law here's what would happen:
- The governor will appoint two sheriff's along with the attorney general to be a part of the investigation committee.
- The committee will then have 30 days to make a report of their investigation.
- If the committee recommends to suspended the sheriff, the governor can authorize a suspension for 60 days.
- Then he can extend that suspension for another 30 if he chooses.
- Then the governor can request the DA to provide a removal petition against the sheriff.
- He can also request further investigation by his committee, the GBI or other law enforcement agencies.
An assistant for District Attorney Paul Bowden said he plans to send the indictment to the governor.
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