3 Georgia prison guards charged with hitting an inmate

ATLANTA — Three Georgia prison guards were arrested on Tuesday on battery charges when a black inmate was beaten at a county jail in September, surveillance cameras caught, authorities said.

The arrests came after a lawyer for the detainee released the video last week.

Camden County Sheriff’s Associates Mason Garrick, Braxton Massey and Ryan Biegel have also been charged with violating their oath of office, officials with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Camden Sheriff’s Office said. The three accused deputies are white, according to Captain Larry Bruce, a spokesman for the Camden County Sheriff.

It wasn’t immediately clear if they had lawyers.

The video, which shows guards repeatedly beating 41-year-old Jarrett Hobbs, “shakes one’s conscience,” GBI Director Michael Register said at a news conference announcing the arrests.

“I believe that a majority of the men and women who wear a badge in this country are genuinely trying to protect and serve,” he said. “Unfortunately, some are discrediting the profession, the badge and the oath they swore. That is why we are here today.”

Two other sheriff’s officers are facing disciplinary action, according to the sheriff’s office.

Hobbs, a native of North Carolina, was sentenced to the Camden County Jail on the Georgia coast on September 3 for traffic violations and drug possession. Security video from that night shows him standing alone in his cell before five guards rush in and surround him. At least three deputies punch him in the head and neck before Hobbs is dragged out of the cell and thrown against a wall.

Register said guards wanted to remove Hobbs from an isolation cell because of his behavior. He didn’t elaborate. That contact led to a fight and Hobbs was hit multiple times, he said.

Bakari Sellers, an attorney for Hobbs, thanked the GBI for acting “quickly and decisively.” Another Hobbs attorney, Harry Daniels, questioned why the guards weren’t arrested sooner.

Daniels has asked the US Department of Justice to investigate the incident as a potential hate crime.

“This is just the first step towards justice,” he said in a statement.

The local district attorney asked GBI to investigate after the video was released, Register said. As part of the investigation, the GBI met with Hobbs. Register said Hobbs was released into the custody of federal agencies investigating criminal activity, though he didn’t specify what that was.

Register said the GBI’s investigation is continuing.

“I appreciate the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s assistance to our agency with this critical incident,” Camden County Sheriff Jim Proctor said in a statement. “The arrest of these employees culminates in the criminal investigation and termination of their employment with the Camden County Sheriff’s Office.”