Potential action on Worth Sheriff up to governor

Potential action on Worth Sheriff up to governor
Governor Nathan Deal (Source: WALB)
Governor Nathan Deal (Source: WALB)
(Source: Worth Co. Sheriff's Office)
(Source: Worth Co. Sheriff's Office)

ATLANTA, GA (WALB) - Ten days have elapsed since Georgia Governor Nathan Deal's office received a letter from Tift Circuit District Attorney Paul W. Bowden, which lays out recent events concerning Worth County Sheriff Jeff Hobby, who faces several legal problems stemming from a drug search at Worth Co. High School earlier this year.

In his letter, Bowden outlined the basic information of the indictments of Hobby and two deputies after an intrusive search of 900 students at WCHS, without probable cause.

It also details the October 9 arrest of the sheriff's 17-year-old son, Zackery Lewis Hobby, on drug charges in Poulan, and the teen's GBI interview, which was interrupted by Hobby and his wife, Pam. The GBI also arrested 20-year-old Aaron Ray Short, for Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute in that case.

The letter also informs the governor that Zackery Hobby is being held in the Worth County jail, which is under the direct control of his father, the sheriff, and not a facility under control of a third party.

So now, Governor Deal can convene an advisory panel consisting of Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, and two sitting sheriffs, to give a recommendation to suspend Hobby, or to leave him in office, or do nothing. Hobby's arrest power, and those of deputies Tyler Turner and Deidra Whiddon have already been revoked by the Georgia Peace Officers Training Council.

The governor is under no obligation to convene a panel, however. Deal suspended Dekalb County Sheriff Jeffrey Mann in June for indecent behavior in city park.

Former District Attorney Ken Hodges says because Zack Hobby is 17 and considered an adult, what the sheriff did wasn't legal.

"I know people may understand it because he's the boy's father, but he should not have interfered with the GBI's investigation," he said.

"Unfortunately, Jeff Hobby or any other parent in that same situation, would not have the right to intercede into an interview and could be charged criminally with either obstruction or tampering with witnesses," the attorney said.

The GBI agent had advised Zackery of his Fifth Amendment and Miranda rights before the Sheriff stepped in. Zackery had heard those rights and agreed to speak with the investigator. Hodges explained even as a sheriff if another agency is conducting an investigation involving someone in your jail, you should never step in, unless they are acting inappropriately. 

Here is the letter from D. A. Bowden-

The GBI investigator chose to end the interview after the incident since he was in the sheriff's jail.  The district attorney's letter to the governor says the interview along with the sheriff's interruption are recorded.

As of today, Zack Hobby is out of the jail on bond.

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.

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