Secret jail recordings land Georgia Sheriff Jeff Hobby behind bars again

Worth County Sheriff Jeff Hobby

Worth County Sheriff Jeff Hobby

Georgia Sheriff Jeff Hobby can’t seem to stay out of trouble -- or away from allegations that he’s violating the basic tenets of the U.S. Constitution.

The suspended Worth County lawman was arrested again last week and remained behind bars Monday morning after he was accused of secretly taping conversations between inmates and their attorneys talking inside his jail.

Hobby was already facing felony charges stemming from his orders last April for deputies to conduct illegal drug searches of hundreds of high school students, some who accused the officers of sexually violating them by touching their private parts.

That case drew national headlines to the southwest Georgia community and rained criticism on Hobby for overseeing one of the most egregious constitutional violations in recent memory by a Georgia law enforcement official.

Now, Hobby stands accused of fresh charges that he oversaw what would amount to another massive constitutional violation as sheriff.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation last month opened a new inquiry into the sheriff's conduct, according to WALB News in Albany, after a tipster came forward with allegations that the sheriff had installed an illegal recording device in the attorney-client room at the jail.

A GBI spokeswoman on Monday said the sheriff turned himself in Friday after being charged with 66 counts of eavesdropping and illegal surveillance charges and one count of violation of oath of office.

Arrest warrants allege that Hobby authorized the installation of a secret recording device inside the room where those accused and held in the Worth County Jail meet with their attorneys to discuss their cases.

The warrants address activity that occurred between July 13 last year through February 26.

It's unclear how the new charges will impact the the drug search case that led to a criminal indictment in October and Hobby's suspension from office pending the outcome of the criminal case.

In November, Worth County agreed to a $3 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit brought by the 900 students at Worth County High School subjected to the drug search.