Attorneys are calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the beating of a 41-year-old man inside the Camden County jail.
On Monday, attorneys representing Jarrett Hobbs released a letter they sent to the Justice Department, asking for the DOJ Civil Rights Division to investigate after video recorded Hobbs being beaten by deputies at the Camden County Detention Center.
In the letter, Harry Daniels, one of Hobbs’ attorneys, writes that his client’s 14th Amendment right was violated. He goes on to request that the DOJ bring charges and investigate whether the beating was racially motivated as a hate crime.
READ: Letter from Jarrett Hobbs’ attorneys requesting that DOJ investigate beating inside Camden County jail
Hobbs, 41, was booked into the jail on Sept. 3 on traffic violation and drug possession charges. Security video from the same night shows Hobbs standing alone in his cell before five guards rush in and surround him. At least three deputies can be seen landing punches before Hobbs gets dragged from the cell and hurled against a wall.
Camden County Sheriff Jim Proctor ordered an internal review of the incident, and the GBI announced it is investigating the incident at the request of Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Keith Higgins.
According to a spokesperson for the Camden County Sheriff’s Office, five deputies involved were placed on administrative duty on Nov. 14. The Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said the deputies are still being paid and were placed on administrative duty rather than administrative leave so they would be readily available to answer investigators’ questions.
Hobbs’ attorneys are questioning why the sheriff didn’t investigate sooner, considering the incident involving Hobbs happened more than two months ago. His lawyers said at a news conference last week that they want the deputies placed on leave and criminally charged.
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According to Hobbs’ attorneys, their client had been brought in on non-violent charges and was having a mental health episode. But after this incident, they said, he was charged with battery, aggravated assault and obstruction.
The jail videos came to light because Hobbs, of Greensboro, North Carolina, was on probation for a 2014 federal conviction. His Georgia arrest prompted an investigation into whether he had violated terms of his supervised release. The jail footage became part of the evidence in that case.
Hobbs’ attorneys released footage publicly last week.
According to federal court records, guards went into Hobbs’ cell on Sept. 3 because he was kicking the door and refused orders to stop. The video shows a guard rush into the cell and grab Hobbs around the neck, trying to push him into a corner. Four others come in behind him.
As jailers try to hold Hobbs by his wrists, one of them starts punching Hobbs in the back of the head and neck. The video shows at least two other guards throwing punches. A second video from a camera outside the cell shows jailers dragging Hobbs through the open door and hurling him against a wall. The struggle continues until Hobbs, who is out of the camera frame, appears to be pinned on the ground. The entire confrontation lasts about a minute.
For most of the video, Hobbs is either obscured by the guards surrounding him or out of the camera frame. It’s unclear to what extent he fought the jailers. Daniels said Hobbs would have been justified to fight back against an unlawful attack by the guards.
An Oct. 20 judge’s order in the probation case said a probation officer testified that Hobbs had “punched one deputy in the face while punching another deputy in the side of the head. One deputy sustained a bruised eye and a broken hand as a result of the incident.” It also noted that Hobbs was punched in the head and that the probation officer was “unaware of the exact sequence of events.”
Hobbs’ probation was revoked on Nov. 7. However, the court dismissed alleged probation violations based on the struggle with jailers in Georgia. The court record doesn’t say why.
Hobbs was released from the Camden County jail on Sept. 30, but he remains in custody in North Carolina.