A Georgia sheriff has been indicted on charges of sexual battery after conducting warrantless drug searches on hundreds of high school students, during which he allegedly directed deputies to touch girls’ vaginas and breasts, as well as boys’ genitals, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting.
Worth County Sheriff Jeff Hobby and two deputies showed up at Worth County High School in on April 14, and allegedly told school officials that they were there to search for drugs. Neither Hobby nor any of the deputies had warrants, but school officials allowed the illegal searches to happen. According to a Journal-Constitution report from the time, students were told the school was on lockdown and that they were to remain in their classrooms.
One by one, according to students who spoke to the newspaper, each class was sent out into the hall, with instructions for students to line up against the lockers, hands against the wall, girls on one side and boys on the other.
Deputies then searched the students for drugs, allegedly touching the students’ private parts in the process.
One female student, who asked to be identified only as “K.P.”, said a female deputy touched her vagina, then lifted up her bra and touched her breasts.
“I was just scared because I had never been put in that position. I felt sexually violated … I was very angry.”
The entire episode lasted over four hours, and involved over 800 students. No drugs were found, and no arrests were made.
At the time, the case drew national attention, including getting noticed by both the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Southern Center for Human Rights. Sarah Geraghty, the Center’s managing attorney, filed a lawsuit.
“This was a monumental lapse in judgement. This is a case of law enforcement officers treating public school kids who did nothing wrong as if they just held up a bank.”
On Wednesday, a grand jury issued an indictment against Hobby on charges of sexual battery, false imprisonment and violation of oath of office — all felonies. Deputy Tyler Turner was indicted on one felony count of violation of oath of office and one misdemeanor count of sexual battery. Deputy Deidra Whiddon was indicted on one felony count of violation of oath of office.
Hobby’s attorney, Norman Crowe Jr., admits that his client was present at the school that day, but that he did nothing wrong.
“The sheriff’s position is that he’s not guilty. He’s committed no crime.”
Meanwhile, District Attorney Paul Bowden is preparing to send a letter to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, asking Deal to relieve Hobby of his duties.
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