Tift County Sheriff Gene Scarbrough says he "emphatically denies" allegations by court officials that Tift deputies "kidnapped" a former inmate and transported him involuntarily to a nearby county, causing him to violate his probation.
In a press release Friday afternoon, Scarbrough took issue with comments made by district attorneys in Coffee County during a hearing to revoke the probation of former inmate Alfred Lee Jacobs.
According to a Georgia Appeals Court opinion issued last week reversing the revocation of Jacobs' parole, the state's attorneys had previously alleged that Tift County Sheriff's deputies, in July 2019, had taken Jacobs from Tift to Coffee County against his will, placing him in a county that he was legally barred from entering.
“No one faults him for how he got here," the state argued. "He was, apparently, kidnapped by Tifton (deputies) and dumped out over here for some reason.”
In its ruling last week, the Appeals Court noted that during a previous hearing on revoking Jacobs' probation, testimony "showed that after Jacobs was released from prison, he met with his probation officer in Tifton, Georgia. The officer instructed Jacobs to register as a sex offender with the Tift County Sheriff’s Department. But when Jacobs went to the sheriff’s office, law enforcement officers transported him to Coffee County against his will."
Sheriff Scarbrough said Friday that the "Tift County Sheriff’s Office emphatically denies that Mr. Jacobs was 'kidnapped' or otherwise transported to Coffee County involuntarily. The Sheriff’s Office acted in good faith while attempting to resolve Mr. Jacobs’ continuing probation issues."
The sheriff said his office had "received no notice" about the previous probation revocation hearing involving Jacobs and that the Tift Sheriff's Office "was not requested to provide any testimony."
When the Tifton Grapevine first contacted Scarbrough on Thursday about the case, the sheriff said, "I have absolutely no knowledge of this.” The Grapevine then shared with him the Appeals Court opinion.
On Friday afternoon, Scarbrough said, "I recently became aware of a situation involving the transportation of a known sex offender from Tift County to Coffee County in July 2019 by the Tift County Sheriff’s Office and have had my staff look into this situation further.
"Based on our preliminary investigation, Mr. Alfred Lee Jacobs was released from prison in 2019 after serving approximately 14 years for child molestation. Following his release, the Georgia Department of Corrections transported him to Atlanta, where he attempted to register as a homeless sex offender but could not do so.
"He then traveled via Greyhound bus to Tifton, which placed him in an area from which the Superior Court of Coffee County had previously banished him and, thus, potentially violated the terms of his probation," the sheriff said.
According to sworn testimony during Jacob’s probation revocation hearing, his "probation officer from Coffee County met him at the bus stop in Tifton and drove him to what his probation officer referred to as 'an approved homeless sex-offender sleeping location in Tifton,' which was actually under an overpass on I-75 in Tifton, where he dropped him off with instructions to register with the Tift County Sheriff’s Office," Scarbrough said Friday.
Jacobs’ presence at the Tift Sheriff’s Office "could have been a continuing probation violation," Scarbrough said. "Jacobs had been banished by the Superior Court of Coffee County from that region of Georgia south of Interstate 16 and east of Interstate 75.
"The bus stop, the Tift County Sheriff’s Office, and the Tifton field office of the Georgia Department of Community Supervision are all located east of I-75."
After spending the night under the Tifton overpass, Jacobs walked to the Tift County Sheriff’s Office the next morning to register as a sex offender, as his probation officer instructed.
"After meeting with Sheriff’s Office officials, clearing an outstanding warrant of record, and consulting with the Georgia Department of Community Supervision, it was determined by the Georgia Department of Community Supervision that the best course of action was to return Mr. Jacobs to his sentencing jurisdiction, or Coffee County, where the issue of his sex offender registration could be resolved and his sentence with the court could be reviewed," Scarbrough explained.
"Therefore, arrangements were made for a Tift County deputy to transport Mr. Jacobs to the Coffee County Jail, voluntarily, after Tift County Sheriff’s Office personnel provided Mr. Jacobs with a meal and referred him to the local Georgia Division of Family and Children Services for any available services."
Jacobs' parole had been revoked by the Superior Court of Coffee County after the state claimed that no matter how the former inmate ended up in Coffee County, he had been given 48 hours to leave the area or face a parole violation.
However, the Appeals Court reversed that decision, ruling that the state did not show that Jacobs had willfully violated his parole by being in Coffee County, part of an area from which he was banished.
Appeals Court Chief Judge Brian Rickman issued a concurrent opinion last week, agreeing with other judges on the court that Jacobs' parole should not have been revoked.
However, Rickman called Tift County deputies' alleged role in Jacobs’ probation issue “both troubling and unique.”
“I suspect our jurisprudence has simply never contemplated a probation revocation proceeding against a compliant and otherwise unwitting probationer for a violation created solely by law enforcement officers," the chief judge wrote.