Grand jury indicts 3 ex-officers in beating of Black Georgia jail detainee

A grand jury in Georgia has indicted three former Camden County Sheriff’s officers in the beating of a Black jail detainee that was recorded by security cameras.

The indictment handed down Wednesday in coastal Camden County charges ex-deputy Ryan Biegel and former jail officers Braxton Massey and Mason Garrick with misdemeanor counts of battery and simple battery as well as a felony count of violating their oath of office.

The charges stem from the September beating of Jarrett Hobbs, a 41-year-old man from North Carolina who was jailed after a traffic stop on a traffic violation and drug possession charges. Security camera video showed the white officers rush into Hobbs’ cell and begin punching him in the head and neck. Another camera recorded Hobbs being hurled against a wall and pinned to the floor.

In the footage, as jailers try to hold Hobbs by his wrists, one of them starts punching him. 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. A deputy rapidly raises his right knee and foot a few times, though it’s unclear if he was striking Hobbs. 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.

Additional footage shows a deputy appearing to strap Hobbs into a restraint chair after the beating and not providing medical aid.

After the attack, Hobbs was placed in solitary confinement.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation began looking into the beating after Hobbs’ attorneys obtained the video footage. In November, all three men were fired after being arrested on the same charges contained in the indictment.

Mason Garrick, Ryan Biegel, and Braxton Massey, are charged with battery of an inmate, and violating the oath of Office. (Camden County Sheriff's Office)

The indictment means a grand jury found sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to trial.

Defense attorneys listed in court records for Garrett and Massey did not immediately respond to email messages seeking comment Thursday. The records did not identify an attorney for Biegel.

Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Keith Higgins in February dropped charges of assault and obstruction filed against Hobbs after the beating. The prosecutor also dismissed the traffic violation and drug possession charges that led to Hobbs being jailed.

At the time of his arrest in Georgia, Hobbs, of Greensboro, North Carolina, was on probation following a 2014 guilty plea to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud. Hobbs was returned to federal prison after authorities determined he violated the terms of his probation by leaving North Carolina.

In response to the indictment, the attorneys for Hobb said in a statement that "people will not tolerate this kind of abuse just because the abusers wear a badge."

"That being said, let’s be clear. The culture of violence and corruption at this detention center and the Camden County Sheriff’s Office do not begin or end with these officers or the beating that occurred on September 3, 2022," civil rights attorneys Harry Daniels and Bakari Sellers wrote. "Sheriff Jim Proctor did his best to ignore this incident and his deputies’ crimes and sweep them under the rug. In fact, it wasn’t until we released this video of the beating that anything happened at all and then, it wasn’t Sheriff Proctor who took action. It was the Georgia Bureau of Investigation."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.