Irony found after sheriff's unusual school drug search

Worth County Sheriff Jeff Hobby
Worth County Sheriff Jeff Hobby

Credit: George Mathis

Credit: George Mathis

Police spend most of their time trying to catch and fine the easily caught.

Hundreds of state police officers write traffic tickets. Roughly zero look for ID thieves.

I'm not a police officer, but I've long suspected finding drugs is as easy as enforcing the speed limit.

As a kid, I figured the Scooby-Doo gang's "Mystery Machine" had to be a tempting law enforcement target. How the hippie kids behind "Scooby Snacks" never ended up in the slammer is the real mystery.

In Sylvester, a south Georgia city best known for its "Peanut Capital of the World" death match with Dothan, Ala., police are proving me wrong.

In March, Sylvester's boys in blue searched the local high school for drugs and came up emptier than a DMV tip jar.

In April, Worth County Sheriff Jeff Hobby must have said something akin to "hold my beer" and put Worth County High School on lockdown for four hours to search almost 900 students.

Still no drugs. Not even a stray bong.

I don't know whether to congratulate the students or pity them for trying to learn in a police state.

Ironically, the sheriff may have had better luck searching closer to home.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations says  Zachary Lewis Hobby, the 17-year-old son of the sheriff, was arrested on marijuana charges Oct. 9 in Poulan, Ga., a tiny Worth County town not named after a chainsaw.

The younger Hobby is charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. The weed is still being weighed, authorities say, but it's probably "less than an ounce."

AJC reporter Brad Schrade tells us the arrest renews speculation that the sheriff's decision to search the school was "somehow linked to his son's troubles."

Mysteriously, Zachary Hobby was not at school the day his dad searched everyone else's kids.

Word must have gotten out. According to multiple reports, the sheriff had a list of suspects he wanted to search, but 10 of the 13 were not at school that day.

Instead of limiting his search to the three remaining students on the list, the sheriff targeted everyone. Drug-sniffing dogs were brought in and young people not suspected of any crime were lined up against a wall while deputies placed their hands inside their clothes.

"Deputies allegedly touched girls' vaginas and breasts and groped boys in their groin area during the search," the AJC reports.

"I've never been involved with anything like that ever in the past 21 years and I don't condone it," said interim Worth County Superintendent Lawrence Walters.

A criminal indictment issued Oct. 3 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. Two deputies are also charged with felonies for their actions during the search.

The sheriff's indictment says the search was conducted “without probable cause or any other legal basis and without due process.”

A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed in June on behalf of multiple students.

The sheriff is now in deeper trouble with the law than his son.

In Atlanta, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is a $75 fine. Zachary Hobby will have to pay more than that to make his troubles go away in south Georgia.

The fine for violating the Constitution? It varies. So far it has cost the sheriff his powers to arrest (and search) until the criminal case is resolved.

If convicted, it will cost him his job.

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