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Corrupt Georgia Judge Sentenced to Prison in Drug Plant Scheme

A former magistrate judge for Georgia’s Murray County was sentenced to five years in federal prison on charges related to planting drugs on a woman who accused him of sexually propositioning her in return for judicial favor.

Bryant L. Cochran became chief magistrate judge in January 2004.  He met Angela Garmley in April 2012 to discuss a legal matter.  During the meeting, Cochran, 45, propositioned Garmley, offering a favorable ruling in return for sex. 

The news of Cochran’s misconduct quickly spread throughout Murray County.  To quell it, Cochran called at least six local and state police officers to inform them Garmley was in possession of drugs.  His tenant, Clifford Joyce, was convinced to plant a tin with five packets under the fender of Garmley’s car.

Garmley was pulled over by Murray County Sheriff’s Deputy Joshua Green.  He and others were unable to find any drugs with a K-9 unit after Garmley agreed to a search.  Sheriff’s Capt. Michael Henderson, Cochran’s cousin, called Cochran to find out where the drugs were located.  After they were found, Garmely was arrested.

The next day, Cochran resigned.  That ended a Judicial Qualifications Commission investigation into Garmley’s sexual accusation and a claim he was pre-signing police warrants.  In late August 2012, Joyce admitted he planted the drugs, and the charges against Garmley were dismissed.  The aftermath saw the FBI become involved and indictments were issued.

Joyce received 18 months in prison for conspiring to distribute a controlled substance.  Green and Henderson received 10 months and one year and one day, respectively, for tampering with a witness.  Cochran was convicted in December 2014 of conspiracy against rights, deprivation of rights under color of law, conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and tampering with a witness.

In addition to the Garmley facts, Cochran was charged with sexually assaulting an employee of the court and unlawfully searching the cellphone of another.  He face 20 years after a federal jury convicted him on December 11, 2014.

His attorneys pleaded for mercy, saying recidivism was not an issue, “Mr. Cochran was convicted of crimes that were only possible because of his position as a magistrate judge and his standing in the community, both of which are now long gone”, said his sentencing memorandum.

On July 8, 2015, the federal court sentenced him to five years in prison, three years supervised release, and 100 hours of community service.

“Cochran completely abused the trust given him by the good citizens of Murray County”, said Acting U.S.

Attorney, John  A. Horn.  “Cochran used the power of the bench to victimize a citizen seeking justice and to exploit his staff.  There is no greater breakdown in the justice system than when the judge himself violates other citizens’ rights to simply advantage himself”.

See:  U.S. v. Cochran, USDC, N.D. Georgia, Case No. 4:14-cr-00022; additional sources: law360.com; llalive.com; wrcbtv.com

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Related legal case

U.S. v. Cochran

 

 

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