How I met Hank
I made reference to Hank Ogle in my blog titled “Express Yourself! Use your First Amendment Right”. Hank is the guy that was arrested by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) for what I counted as 4 cannabis plants, after which “hilarity ensues”, to quote Thomas Clay of American NewsX, which picked the story up.
Several things happened in this whole matter that piqued my curiosity. First, many of the dissenting comments on the MCSO Facebook post were from locals supportive of Hank Ogle as a good person, one who helped the elderly and established his own “Neighborhood Watch” program in the community called Three Rivers. I wanted to meet the man but reasoned that he’d be in jail for a few weeks waiting for a bond hearing on a Manufacturing charge. I put out a few feelers, found a Hank Ogle on FB but wasn’t sure it was him, and just waited, hoping. The next day I got a message from Hank which read: “My name is Hank Ogle. I can’t publicly thank you because I can’t discuss my case publicly but wanted to say thanks. I see you live in Soperton. Hopefully, our paths will cross so I can thank you in person.” It was on!!
We messaged back and forth a bit and Hank invited me to a “Free Hank Ogle” 4th of July Fireworks Display that one of his neighbors threw for him. Turns out Hank lives about 35 miles from me.
After being stopped for speeding (what I like to call “Driving Like The Police”) by a young Montgomery County Deputy (another story for another blog … maybe …. he was a good kid), my friend “Phat” Calhoun and I arrived at Hank’s self-described “little piece of Heaven on Earth”, a sandbar on the Altamaha River, at the end of Ogle Sandbar Road.
Hank and I talked for several hours that night and I enjoyed an amazing, “up close” fireworks show that reflected on the surface of the river. At one point there were competing displays from several places along this historic piece of Georgia waterway. As I listened to Hank’s story, I came to appreciate his character and the “character” that he is.
Hank moved to Montgomery County from Swainsboro, Ga where he worked for and retired from UPS. In Swainsboro, he mowed lawns, worked flowerbeds and made grocery runs for the elderly and disabled, pro bono. Those acts of kindness paid a huge return for Hank in an outpouring of support through calls to the MCSO on his behalf. Early in our conversation the night of the fireworks Hank, in a quiet, humble voice said to me: “I’m still in shock. I never really thought much about doing those things, I just like to help people. I couldn’t believe those folks stood up for me after my arrest.”
Hank’s property is about 100 yards from the confluence of the Oconee, Ohoopee and Altamaha rivers, thus the area’s moniker of Three Rivers. There are several other residences along the stretch of Three Rivers Lane Hank lives on, but he is the only permanent resident. The others are weekenders and out-of-staters who visit occasionally.
So, there were several thefts on Hank’s stretch of Three Rivers Lane shortly after he moved there. Hank says there is a serious meth problem in the area, and he decided to defend his neighbors against it, as best he could. He took it upon himself to keep an eye on his neighbors’ properties and started calling the Sheriff’s Office when he saw suspicious activity. He even made a Citizen’s Arrest @ gunpoint once. All this activity earned him the nickname “The Mayor of Three Rivers”. It turns out he actually has a good relationship with the Sheriff’s Office, still to this day. Some deputies even told him he was the “friendliest man they’d ever arrested“.
Hank is a gardener. That may seem a superfluous statement, considering the marijuana plants he was allegedly growing and was arrested for, but the fact that he IS a gardener is what got this whole incident rolling.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) agents are constantly patrolling our rivers. Hank’s garden is “fairly” close to the river. Since DNR initiated this “brouhaha”, I think sharing some pictures will help explain why they did, as stupid as it seems to me.
Notice the plastic liquid storage tank to the left in the last picture? Well, that’s what did it. That’s what launched an operation that cost an estimated $15,000 of taxpayer money.
Seems a DNR agent was on the river and spotted Hank’s water tank that he uses to irrigate his garden, in which he grows … melons, squash, peppers and such. That agent probably also spotted that pepper plant in the 3rd picture, and from the river, it could very well have been mistaken for a cannabis plant (well, maybe).
The Governor’s Drug Task Force, which includes DNR, was flying this part of Georgia that day anyway, so instead of calling the Sheriff’s Office and getting a deputy to ride down so they could talk to old Hank, the agent calls in the choppers. To paraphrase Hank, “They spent all that money on what 1 deputy and a knock on my door would have accomplished. I would have let them search the whole property.”
So after the dust settled, and the DNR realized there wasn’t a huge grow operation there, they lost interest and turned it over to the local Sheriff, who made the “brag” post picturing a few plants and caught hell about it. 2337 comments in two days, the majority of them blasting the SO for anything from wasting tax dollars to “fat” deputies and the injustice of arresting a “good guy”.
Were they Hank Ogle’s plants? Well, he is standing on his 5th Amendment Right, as he should be. His case will make its way through the “system” and what happens, happens. There are many factors that will play into that process. Hank’s good reputation will certainly be a factor, and the overwhelming show of support by locals and cannabis activists from around the world may have opened some eyes in that Judicial Circuit. Hank says the deputy that picked him up to be released said: “This case will probably help legalize marijuana in Georgia”.
I certainly hope that’s the case.