$3 million settlement reached in Worth Co. search, interim sheri - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

$3 million settlement reached in Worth Co. search, interim sheriff appointed

Interim Sheriff Bobby Sapp (Source: WCSO) Interim Sheriff Bobby Sapp (Source: WCSO)
Suspended Sheriff Jeff Hobby (Source: WALB) Suspended Sheriff Jeff Hobby (Source: WALB)
Hobby posted a statement to his Facebook page Wednesday night, thanking his supporters for standing behind him. (Source: Facebook) Hobby posted a statement to his Facebook page Wednesday night, thanking his supporters for standing behind him. (Source: Facebook)

wantGovernor Nathan Deal has appointed an interim sheriff for Worth County after Jeff Hobby was suspended.

On Monday, Deal announced he suspended Hobby from office by Executive Order.

Tuesday, another Executive Order was signed stating Bobby Sapp will fill the temporary vacancy as sheriff of Worth County pending the changes against Hobby or until his term ends, whichever comes first.

The Southern Center for Human Rights announced Tuesday that the total settlement fund will be $3 million in a federal civil rights lawsuit, which is the limit of the defendant's insurance policy.

A lawyer for Hobby issued the following statement:

"Worth County entered into a coverage agreement with ACCG(Association County Commissioners of Georgia), who will make the payment in the settlement reached today. It is an insurance policy that covers the county in these types of cases (civil). ACCG will make the payment. Tax payers dollars will not be used to pay for the settlement" - Raleigh W. Rollins, Partner of Alexander & Vann, LLP. 

The lawsuit was filed in July claiming nearly 900 students were searched without cause at Worth County High School in April.

The settlement, which is pending approval from U.S. District Judge Leslie J. Abrams, will be dispersed to all students who were present for the search.

An attorney with Atlanta-based civil rights law firm Horsely Begnaud, Mark Begnaud, said that if the settlement is approved each student will be sent home with a survey they are asked to fill out for an account of their experience during the search.

Each student will then receive between $1,000 and $6,000, and the students who were subjected to more invasive searches will get a higher amount.

Additionally, once all claims are resolved and attorney fees paid, the remainder of the settlement will be put into a fund to benefit Worth County High School students.

Begnaud said he hopes this settlement sends a message to law enforcement across the country that this isn't acceptable.

"It's a win for those who value civil liberties," said Begnaud.

The search sparked controversy in April and launched an investigation by the GBI.

Hobby and two deputies were indicted in October on charges related to the search.

Jeff Hobby will continue to receive his salary of $73,904 annually, while the suspension is in force, which is state law, according to Worth Co. Commission Chairman Fred Dent. Sapp's annual salary is $68,412, as set by state guidelines. Dent said that there is money in county's assets to pay the salaries, without causing a problem.

Hobby posted a statement to his Facebook page Wednesday night, thanking his supporters for standing behind him.

As of Thursday afternoon, that post was no longer publicly visible, but said this:

I want to say thank you to all my supporters for standing behind me in this time of need. It's been a hard pill to swallow. I was doing what I thought was right to help protect the kids of this county form drugs. If I saved one child from going down the wrong path and not getting strung out on drugs it's all worth it. Drugs don't only effect the person using them they effect the whole family. I'm still the Sheriff of Worth County and I will be back at my desk doing what I love doing. Protecting the citizens of Worth County. I need your continued support and prayers through this trying time. Court will be the last part of January and we will have all this cleared up then and I can get back to serving the Citzens that elected me to do this job. - Jeff Hobby via Facebook

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