Sheriff's Office To Pay $3 Million For Invasive Searches Of 850 High School Students

from the a-few-thousand-dollars-per-grope dept

It's been barely a month since news came to us of the Worth County (GA) Sheriff's Department's search of an entire school's worth of high school students. Over 800 students were searched without a warrant, subjected to invasive pat downs that included breasts and genitals by Sheriff Jeff Hobby and his deputies.

Sheriff Hobby thought there might be drugs in the school, but despite the search of hundreds of students and the use of drug dogs, no drugs were found. A class action lawsuit [PDF] alleging multiple rights violations brought by some of the students was filed in June. In October, Sheriff Hobby and two of his deputies were indicted for sexual battery and false imprisonment.

In a surprisingly quick turnaround, there's already talk of a settlement, as Susan Hogan reports for the Washington Post.

On Tuesday, a legal advocacy group, the Southern Center for Human Rights, said a proposed $3 million settlement had been reached in the lawsuit, pending a judge’s approval.

That number has nothing to do with the severity of the violations, but rather is the limit of the sheriff department's insurance policy. But it will be spread to cover a majority of the student body harmed by the actions of these law enforcement officers.

Each class member will receive a monetary award of between $1,000 and $6,000, with those students subjected to more invasive searches receiving higher amounts. Once any outstanding claims are resolved and attorney fees of 15% of the fund are paid, half of any remaining funds will be paid into a fund for the benefit of Worth County High School students.

This quick settlement can likely be chalked up to a handful of variables. One, Hobby and his deputies have been indicted, which gives more credence to the students' claims their rights were violated. Two, the entire 4-hour lockdown was captured on the school's surveillance cameras, all but eliminating narrative options for the law enforcement defendants. Three, Sheriff Hobby's own statements in defense of his and his deputies' actions make it very clear the sheriff supports the mass violation of rights through policies and actions.

The only reason Hobby didn't pursue another warrantless search of the entire school's student body wasn't because of concerns about students and their rights, but because people were angry.

When asked about that previous search that came up dry, Hobby said he didn't think that search was thorough, so he decided to do his own.

He said he believes there are drugs at the high school and the middle school, but also said that he will not do another search, due to response from community.

So, straight up, the sheriff believes he did nothing wrong. His deputies did nothing wrong. If anything's wrong here, it's the response from the community -- people who apparently don't understand civil rights are nothing more than obstacles that must be skirted or surmounted if we're ever going to win this war on drugs.


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 20 Nov 2017 @ 1:33pm

    "He said he believes there are drugs at the high school and the middle school"

    Yet they managed to find none.

    Perhaps allowing cops to have good faith exceptions when they believe something is the law, even when a reasonable person would say thats not right, causes a form of brain damage.

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    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 20 Nov 2017 @ 2:01pm

      Re:

      It doesn't actually make a difference that he found no drugs.

      Even if he had found drugs on one or two students, that doesn't justify his becoming the Henry Ford of sexual assault, groping 850 teens assembly-line style. None were suspects. None consented, as one does when they agree to be groped if they want to fly.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2017 @ 6:06pm

        Re: Re:

        None consented, as one does when they agree to be groped if they want to fly.

        The next sheriff will just ask for consent then. "Who here wants to consent to a body search in order to be allowed to go home?"

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        • icon
          Eldakka (profile), 21 Nov 2017 @ 1:35am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The next sheriff will just ask for consent then. "Who here wants to consent to a body search in order to be allowed to go home?"

          If the students were held outside school hours on such a condition, that would be false imprisonment.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            ralph_the_bus_driver (profile), 21 Nov 2017 @ 5:15am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Being held on the lock down was an unlawful arrest. The students were not allowed to use the washrooms, congregate, go to classes, call their parents, etc. All that was illegal.

            The students should still hold out for more; bankrupt the Sheriff and deputies. This was not done under any color of law, the taxpayers should not be paying the bill.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2017 @ 6:26am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              you get the politicians you deserve and "Sheriff" is an elected office in most cases or appointed by an "elected" mayor or similar person. Either way a person directly influenced by election.

              the taxpayers SHOULD be paying the bill, only the kids here are innocent. The voting fucks calling themselves the "adults" in that town should be fucked over hard for letting their sheriff do this.

              If you want to keep going like this then you OWE the piper. It's coming out of your ass in either lost economy or liberty.

              I am sick and tired of people like you always trying to escape the taxman because you fail to grasp your responsibility in regards to how society is working where government is concerned. The bill will always come due and you can just keep sitting back without a care in the world to all of the injustice occurring in it never lifting a single finger.

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            • icon
              TRX (profile), 21 Nov 2017 @ 1:09pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Depends on how Georgia law works. In my state, minors have few rights to start with, and the school is de jure "in loco parentis", and has extremely wide discretion as to what can be done to or with their charges.

              I'm still having trouble with the "no drugs were found" part, though. Out of 850 students, I'd expect at least a dozen dealers and fifty or more people with a stash, judging by where I went to school. Unless their definition of "drugs" that particular day happened to be quite specific and they weren't counting the usual pot, Percocets, and Ritalin.

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              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2017 @ 1:23pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                If the predators didn't circle the school and turned every stone, surely there was some way for the drugs to get out.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2017 @ 10:21am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "If the students were held outside school hours on such a condition, that would be false imprisonment."

            Because we all know that neither police nor school authorities have any authority to detain people after school hours.

            Oh, wait...

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2017 @ 9:31am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Oh, I know !!!!

          Just ask her mother for permission! - Yeah, that will be fine.

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    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 21 Nov 2017 @ 10:16am

      Re:

      There are without doubt drugs in Worth County as a whole, but that does not justify a lockdown of the entire county and a mandatory strip search of all residents either.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2017 @ 1:43pm

    Search the sheriff department employees

    Since they clearly have no problem with warrant-less searches, lets search the homes and vehicles of this department whenever we suspect that they might have drugs. Once per student right violated should work out to multiple times per employee per year over the next few years.

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  • icon
    Oblate (profile), 20 Nov 2017 @ 2:19pm

    The obvious next step (for someone who has learned nothing)

    After the students receive the payouts, can we expect the sheriff to initiate a lengthy series of civil asset forfeitures from the students and their families? I would almost be disappointed in the sheriff if he didn't try to reclaim that $3M (plus expenses), or do something equally stupid.

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    • identicon
      David, 21 Nov 2017 @ 12:23am

      Re: The obvious next step (for someone who has learned nothing)

      The $3M comes from the department's insurance. There is no need to recover it. Though the premiums may go up.

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    • icon
      ralph_the_bus_driver (profile), 21 Nov 2017 @ 5:17am

      Re: The obvious next step (for someone who has learned nothing)

      The Sheriff is currently under a criminal indictment. I believe that that requires he resign.

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      • icon
        Bergman (profile), 21 Nov 2017 @ 10:19am

        Re: Re: The obvious next step (for someone who has learned nothing)

        No, it doesn't. An indictment sounds big and scary, but it operates on the same evidence standard as an arrest does. All an indictment means is that when a prosecutor showed a panel of jurors incriminating evidence, the jurors agreed there was enough of it for an arrest and the filing of charges.

        Even if convicted, the sheriff would not be required to resign, though if he's convicted of a felony he'd be ineligible to possess a firearm, which might cramp his style as sheriff.

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  • identicon
    Jordan Chandler, 20 Nov 2017 @ 2:41pm

    Sucks

    Sucks that employees can cost the taxpayers millions of dollars this way likely suffer minimal financial loss themselves.

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    • icon
      An Onymous Coward (profile), 20 Nov 2017 @ 2:53pm

      Re: Sucks

      All it would take to slow this tide of stupid is to fire a few batches of cops for their illegal behavior while wearing a badge, behavior that costs the taxpayers millions. This crap would come to a near-halt. Then we might only have to fire half a department once every few years to keep it in check.

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      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 20 Nov 2017 @ 3:15pm

        Re: Re: Sucks

        Firing them leaves open the door for their union to pitch a fit and get them re-hired, or for them to simply shift to another precinct and carry on, same as before.

        No, you want to stop police from abusing their positions and authority you make fines like this personal. No more shifting it to the department/taxpayers, hit them in their wallets such that they are the ones paying for their actions. Do that and you can be sure that they'd learn real quick that actions have consequences, even if they do have a badge.

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        • identicon
          No one, 20 Nov 2017 @ 3:24pm

          Re: Re: Re: Sucks

          Well the felony on his record even if he does no jail time will keep him from ever working as a LEO again, or holding office.

          That along with the money he is paying for defense will hurt. Along with the money for Junior's drug bust defense, he will be lucky to have anything left to live on.

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        • icon
          Ryunosuke (profile), 20 Nov 2017 @ 4:39pm

          Re: Re: Re: Sucks

          such as something not unlike a criminal asset forfeiture. I am sure their families would LOVE to be homeless and penniless because their husbands/wives have found it fit to abuse the law and commit constitutional violations.

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          • icon
            ralph_the_bus_driver (profile), 21 Nov 2017 @ 5:22am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Sucks

            The ramifications on their families should never be a factor in the punishment of a criminal.

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          • icon
            Bergman (profile), 21 Nov 2017 @ 10:22am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Sucks

            Civil asset forfeiture laws are carefully written to prevent We the Peasants from utilizing them to sue the property of criminals.

            If not for that, any police department that declared no wrongdoing and no policy violations in a case that was later declared by a court to be a civil, statutory or constitutional rights violation would be vulnerable to having their assets seized.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2017 @ 6:31am

      Re: Sucks

      It sucks that the taxpayers keep letting this happen to them.

      Sorry did I say let? They practically "invite" it every election cycle. Citizens just pull their undies down and present while slapping their little asses!

      Lets vote in the "tough on crime" one... he sounds like he knows now to clean up these streets! How many times has this been heard?

      The more you treat suspects like guilty criminals the more every innocent person gets screwed! The more the "police" will treat you like peasants to be "told" how to live.

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  • identicon
    ANON, 20 Nov 2017 @ 2:42pm

    Huh?

    They searched 850 students and their lockers and came up *completely* empty? Either these guys are totally incompetent, or my faith in the next generation has jumped a few hundred percent. Or... in today's economic climate, nobody can afford drugs.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2017 @ 2:56pm

      Re: Huh?

      My assumption would be that anyone who did use drugs was smart enough to leave them safely at home. They wouldn't have the chance to get high at school, and selling drugs at school would just be a flat out insane risk. It'd be much safer to just go over to someone's house after school while their parents were at work.

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    • icon
      MyNameHere (profile), 20 Nov 2017 @ 5:34pm

      Re: Huh?

      My assumption is that the students with the drugs are smart enough not to have them on their person or in their lockers, but rather in various stash locations around the school. It's pretty basic stuff.

      That zero out of 850 had anything at all is like a statistical anomaly. Perhaps they picked the wrong day of the week (monday instead of friday, as an example) as everyone had depleted their supplies.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2017 @ 9:21pm

        Re: Re: Huh?

        Yep, couldn't resist a snipe at your "me! me! generation bogeyman, could you. Anything to put authority in a good light even when grossly incompetent.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2017 @ 6:34am

        Re: Re: Huh?

        That zero out of 850 had anything at all is like a statistical anomaly.

        Sure. Let's think about that for a second...850 kids were able to collectively outwit a sheriff's department.

        If that is, in fact what happened, the sheriff's department is in serious need of an enema. Because they really suck at what they do.

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    • icon
      Madd the Sane (profile), 20 Nov 2017 @ 10:09pm

      Re: Huh?

      From what I've heard on other site reporting this: they did it during first period, and those that do drugs sleep in, missing their first period. Leonard French covered this, and the comments are where this info comes from.

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  • identicon
    No One, 20 Nov 2017 @ 3:05pm

    You Are Missing......

    Part of the story.

    When he searched he had a list of 13 students that he suspected had drugs, but only 3 were in school that day.

    Two previous searches by other departments came up empty, so how did he know that the lost of 13 was good?

    His son was busted by the feds about 2 months ago for drug dealing.

    I suspect he found out his son had drugs, forced to come up with the names of the people at school that had drugs, thus the list of 13. Trying to protect his son a bit, he gives the list to a different department to have them search, on a day his son is not in school.

    So either his son warned the others and they kept everything away from the school, or they already figured out that schools can be searched and don't deal on or around school grounds. Or both.

    So these other bad students got his little boy into drugs, and he is going to do something about it. Now the feds bust the son for DEALING not just possession. The feds start talking to the son at the nearest LEO office, the sheriff's office. Mom and Dad come in and bust up the interview. I'm sure the DEA agent was pissed about that one and now is having other agencies dig into the sheriff.

    The other departments that he got to do the first searches are likely not happy that he didn't give them the whole story and made them look stupid.

    A major cluster-f***

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  • identicon
    Jordan Chandler, 20 Nov 2017 @ 3:23pm

    School

    How is the school not complicit for enabling the sheriff to do this?

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    • identicon
      No One, 20 Nov 2017 @ 3:30pm

      Re: School

      From what I have been reading, the school had no clue this was going to happen or that they would feel up all the students.

      I bet they thought, OK, here they come again with this list of bad students, and they will run a drug dog down the halls and by all the lockers just like the other two departments did.

      The sheriff seems to think what he did was legal because the school admins were present at the time. He is confusing a search of a person with the search of school property, say a locker of a student they suspected or a dog hit on.

      See my above about his son.

      If he wanted to search the 13 students he suspected, get a search warrant. However he would have to cough up some info about why he suspected the kids and where he got the information. He was trying to keep his son out of it.

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    • icon
      ralph_the_bus_driver (profile), 21 Nov 2017 @ 5:35am

      Re: School

      The school was not complicit. The Sheriff conducted the search without the schools permission. The Principal most likely could have asked them leave and return with a search warrant. They most likely have an agreement of cooperating with police in reducing drug abuse in the school.

      However, if you ever feel the police are in the wrong, I don't suggest you walk up to them and tell them to stop. You will most likely find yourself "obstructing police".

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  • icon
    Hoboviking (profile), 20 Nov 2017 @ 3:51pm

    Man..

    "brought by some of the students "

    This bugged me more than almost anything (Except for the unapologetic Sheriff). I wish all of the parents had gone after the Sheriff. This shit is not ok. The top leadership of everyone involved willingly should be fucking fired and hopefully found guilty of civil rights violations.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2017 @ 4:26pm

      Re: Man..

      18 U.S. Code ยง 242 does provide for life in prison or the death penalty for acts like these.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2017 @ 6:38am

        Re: Re: Man..

        citizens are cowards who lost theirs collective minds a long time ago. they want the police to keep them safe so they don't have to contribute to the safety of society itself. See trouble better let the law man handle it and run/hide until the problem is over. better tattle on your fellow citizens to 911 every time you see them doing something because you don't want to let a terrorist forget your fries with your McDonald's order!

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        • icon
          The Wanderer (profile), 25 Nov 2017 @ 5:56am

          Re: Re: Re: Man..

          they want the police to keep them safe so they don't have to contribute to the safety of society itself. See trouble better let the law man handle it and run/hide until the problem is over.

          This is an example of what is known as "specialization". It is the basis of civilization, stretching all the way back to the first time some people were able to spare time to work on things other than the pursuit of food and shelter.

          This happens to be one of the cases where the simple, naive way of implementing "some people specialize in X" leads to undesirable side effects, but the solution to that is to use a different implementation, not to go back to everyone doing X for themselves.

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  • identicon
    Pixelation, 20 Nov 2017 @ 4:19pm

    Hmmm

    So it costs $3,529.41 for the pleasure of groping a student...

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    • icon
      discordian_eris (profile), 20 Nov 2017 @ 4:41pm

      Re: Hmmm

      And the worst part? The parents are paying for their own kids to be molested. Less than 21K people in the county, 35% under 18. That's a lot money to pay for a crooked sheriff, on a per capita basis. Your kid gets $3,500, but your family has to pay $1000+? Not worth it.

      If the company insuring the county was smart, they would sue the sheriff and his deputies, get them stripped of immunity, and take everything from them. THAT will force departments everywhere to straighten up; if that's the only way to be insurable.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2017 @ 6:18pm

        Re: Re: Hmmm

        If the company insuring the county was smart, they would sue the sheriff and his deputies...

        I doubt if most departments buy policies that allow them to be sued by the insurance company. Sure, not allowing that probably makes the policies more expensive, but it's only tax dollars.

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      • icon
        ralph_the_bus_driver (profile), 21 Nov 2017 @ 5:52am

        Re: Re: Hmmm

        That is why municipalities have liability insurance; for when they are at fault.

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  • icon
    ECA (profile), 20 Nov 2017 @ 8:35pm

    jUST HOW STUPID IS'' IS"??

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    • icon
      ECA (profile), 20 Nov 2017 @ 8:48pm

      Re: jUST HOW STUPID IS'' IS"??

      Hate that return key..

      I still have a funny feeling that "YOU CANT BE THAT STUPID", is a fair judgement of what is happening AROUND this country..

      Something is making OUR police force PARANOID and PRE-PREPARED for something to happen in the future..

      From selling MILITARY Goods and Vehicles to the police Force at BELOW COST/FREE PRICES..to Willingly BEING STUPID, and Shooting people and Dogs for NO reasons..
      How many cop cars needed to STOP a speeder?
      A person reaching for Gun permit, gets SHOT??
      How many bullets to STOP a person??
      PURPOSELY instigating a situation THAT DIDNT NEED TO HAPPEN..
      20+ year Veteran Police officer SHOULD KNOW THE LAWS..

      YES, some of this has been going on FOREVER, and we are seeing MORE of it because EVERYONE has a cellphone..

      A person that represents the LAW, and does something WITH the credibility of THAT position, OF HIS own justification SHOULD be Sued PERSONALLY.. NOT threw the State funded Insurance WHICH IS NEVER ENOUGH..esp after 2-3 incidents..the STATE PAYS IT..not the officers..

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2017 @ 9:34pm

        Re: Re: jUST HOW STUPID IS'' IS"??

        Okay take it slow. You have to breath. Because you seem to be shouting every other phrase.

        Why don't you go sit in your corner and play with your blocks some more while the grownups talk.

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  • identicon
    ryuugami, 20 Nov 2017 @ 9:44pm

    Invasiveness

    Each class member will receive a monetary award of between $1,000 and $6,000, with those students subjected to more invasive searches receiving higher amounts.

    So now the molested students get to explain in detail exactly how invasive the molestation was, to find out if they were or weren't molested enough. Great. I'm sure that won't be traumatic or anything.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2017 @ 10:35pm

    So, $3500 per student BEFORE whatever cut the lawyers get... That's a class I wouldn't sign up for. They can do at least 30k per student for that shit.

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    • identicon
      Cowardly Lion, 20 Nov 2017 @ 11:21pm

      Re:

      That was my take. For having my junk man-handled, being detained for >4 hours, (whilst missing important schooling), suffering the harassment and humiliation, the false accusation...

      I'd want a shit load more than $1k. And I wouldn't settle until Hobby's head sat on a spike...

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    • icon
      ralph_the_bus_driver (profile), 21 Nov 2017 @ 5:59am

      Re:

      The lawyers get 15% of the settlements. That is a low amount, even for a class action suit. That is what they would have gotten even if this went to trial and spent several years before the courts.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2017 @ 5:56am

    It's not fair that the county sheriff has to pay out millions in penalties while the TSA gets away with doing the same thing over and over.

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    • icon
      ralph_the_bus_driver (profile), 21 Nov 2017 @ 6:03am

      Re:

      Allowing the TSA to grope you is voluntary; there is no right to fly. You may take alternate modes of transportation.

      Children are obligated to attend school so they don't have an option. Children do not leave their Constitutional rights at the school door.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2017 @ 6:45am

        Re: Re:

        "Allowing the TSA to grope you is voluntary; there is no right to fly."

        You deserve no rights for having said that and exactly why shit like this is happening, I would rather have this sheriff than a fellow citizen that explains away liberty like obedient & cowardly cattle. People like you helped make this sheriff and the injustice to these children a reality and you don't event know why you are guilty! You are blissfully ignorant of the wretch you are.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2017 @ 8:30am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Among the most abused words are "voluntary" and "implied consent" when it comes to having your rights violated.

          One could argue that walking in New York city is voluntary. If you don't want to be stopped and frisked by police, then don't walk the streets of NYC!

          If there is no constitutional "right" to travel by air without being groin-searched, then there is also similarly no right to travel by foot (or any other method). If authorities can ignore the Fourth Amendment anywhere, then they can ignore it everywhere.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2017 @ 10:36am

        Re: Re:

        Allowing the TSA to grope you is voluntary; there is no right to fly. You may take alternate modes of transportation.

        Allowing the sheriff to grope you is voluntary; there is no right to leave home. You may take alternate schooling at home.

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  • identicon
    The Dood, 21 Nov 2017 @ 11:23am

    He knew drugs were in the school

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  • identicon
    Rekrul, 21 Nov 2017 @ 4:15pm

    This may a dumb question, but I honestly don't know; When you sue someone and they offer a settlement amount, are you free to outright reject the offer and drag them into court? I know most people settle, but if you feel making an example of them is more important, can you force the issue and make them answer the accusations in open court?

    Also, if you want to go the settlement route, can you ask/demand other things besides money? For example, can you make it a condition of accepting the settlement that the person you're suing has to admit wrong-doing, or even resign? I know they're not obligated to agree to such terms, but is it allowed to ask for such things either in addition to or instead of money?

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    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 21 Nov 2017 @ 5:45pm

      Re:

      Also: Can class action lawsuits like this one come with non-disclosure agreements? As in "Any student and their parents accepting the settlement money must not talk about the incident, especially when Sheriff Hobby and his deputies campaign to keep their jobs or receive their oddly-traditional-in-these-cases bonus for a job well done?"

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Nov 2017 @ 2:49am

    Think of the children...

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  • icon
    Tanner Andrews (profile), 27 Nov 2017 @ 4:58am

    One Possible Class-Action Glitch

    In many cases, the class is not a ``mandatory'' class. That means that there is a method for potential class members to ``opt out'' of class settlements or class verdicts.

    Such excluded persons may either bring their own actions, or not do so. But in either case, if they have properly opted out of the class, they are not bound by its resolution.

    Each separate action would likely be barred by whatever the sovereign immunity limit is in Georgia. Surely the (now suspended) sheriff and his catamites would be pleased to defend separate actions. It is possible that they might even be personally liable, depending on the facts and law in Georgia.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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