The teenage son of the southwest Georgia sheriff indicted for ordering a massive school-wide drug search has now run afoul with the law on a drug-related charge.
The drug arrest of Zachary Lewis Hobby last week has renewed speculation that Worth County Sheriff Jeff Hobby's decision to search the entire local high school last April was somehow linked to his son's troubles.
Sheriff Hobby and two deputies were indicted earlier this month by a grand jury in a criminal case that alleges false imprisonment, violation of oath of office and sexual battery. Students at the high school say deputies sexually violated them in the bizarre search that included a four-hour lockdown at the school.
Hobby said he sent his deputies into the school on the belief that drugs were present, but his search that day found nothing.
The search of hundreds of students, some who said deputies sexually violated them by touching their breasts and private parts, has drawn unwanted national attention to the small community east of Albany.
"It's a raw issue," said Tommy Coleman, attorney for the Worth County Board of Education.
Coleman said anytime there's a development in the story it fuels community discussion. He said the arrest last week of the sheriff's son reignited speculation.
"My sense is this was common knowledge and it didn't really surprise anyone in the community," Coleman said.
Coleman said the sheriff's son, Zachary Lewis Hobby, had been a student at Worth County High School part of last year, but he wasn't at the school at the time of the April search.
Agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation were called in last week to investigate a drug case involving the sheriff's son. The younger Hobby, age 17, was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and criminal trespass for an incident that occurred in Poulan on Oct. 9, according to the GBI.
The son allegedly handed the drugs to another person, Aaron Ray Short, 20, according to GBI. Short was also charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
Sheriff Hobby has said little publicly about the April 14 search that drew widespread community criticism and has led to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in June.
Just days after the search, the sheriff defended his actions and told Albany television station WALB he was searching for drugs because he suspected they were present. A search by the Sylvester Police Department just weeks earlier failed to turn up drugs, but the sheriff said it wasn't thorough enough.
Hobby initially entered the school with a target list of 13 students, but the search quickly evolved into a school-wide lockdown involving nearly 900 students.
The sheriff's lawyer, Norman Crowe Jr., said the sheriff was not available for comment Tuesday, but said the two cases had nothing to do with one another. Previously, Crowe said the sheriff did nothing wrong and expects him to be cleared of the charges against him.
District Attorney Paul Bowden, whose circuit includes Worth County, declined to offer many details about the younger Hobby's drug arrest.
The case originated with the Poulan city police department, but because the sheriff's son was involved Bowden said he called in the GBI to handle the case because he wanted an agency without local ties.