Ga. sheriff indicted for sexual battery in high school drug search

5:32 p.m Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017
Worth County Sheriff Jeff Hobby faced a public backlash for his decision to have deputies body search students at Worth County High School in April. (Credit: WALB)

A south Georgia grand jury indicted Worth County Sheriff Jeff Hobby on Tuesday for sexual battery, false imprisonment and violation of oath of office after he ordered a school-wide search of hundreds of high school students. Deputies allegedly touched girls vaginas and breasts and groped boys in their groin area during the search at the Worth County High School April 14.

Two of Hobby’s deputies were also indicted Tuesday in connection with the case.

The controversial search drew national attention because of how the body search of students was conducted under the guise of a drug search, but produced no drugs or arrests.

The Worth County indictment accuses Hobby of one count of violating his oath of office and two counts of false imprisonment — all felony charges. He was also indicted on one count of sexual battery, a misdemeanor.

Hobby’s attorney Norman Crowe Jr. said the sheriff was at the school, but did not search students. He said jurors at trial will get to hear the sheriff’s side of the story.

“The sheriff’s position is that he’s not guilty,” Crowe said. “He’s committed no crime.”

Deputy Tyler Turner was indicted on one felony count of violation of his oath of office and one misdemeanor count of sexual battery. Deputy Deidra Whiddon was indicted for one felony count of violation of her oath of office.

District Attorney Paul Bowden said warrants had not yet been issued for the arrest of the sheriff and his deputies, but he expected that as early as Thursday. He said he is preparing a letter to Gov. Nathan Deal to outline the charges against the sheriff. Deal has authority to suspend the sheriff as he did recently with DeKalb Sheriff Jeff Mann and Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman.

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