A former North Georgia deputy faces charges of obstructing a civil rights investigation involving a woman’s arrest shortly after she publicly accused a judge of asking her for sex.
The criminal charges unsealed Wednesday are the first to be filed in a sensational case that has led to the ouster of a Murray County judge and two deputies. U.S. Attorney Sally Yates said the investigation is continuing.
Joshua Greeson, 25, of Chatsworth, was indicted by a federal grand jury for lying to agents and impeding the investigation by deleting information relevant to the probe from his cellphone. The indictment did not go into further detail.
Greeson, who was fired by the Sheriff’s Department on Aug. 29, will plead not guilty and “completely cooperate” with authorities, his lawyer, Ed Marger, said.
“He doesn’t believe he is guilty of anything,” Marger said. “He was following orders from his superior officer as the good policeman he was does.”
Greeson’s supervisor, Capt. Mike Henderson, was fired Aug. 31. His cousin is Bryant Cochran, Murray County’s former chief magistrate.
The state Judicial Qualifications Commission began investigating Cochran after Angela Garmley of Chatsworth accused Cochran of propositioning her in April. She had gone to court to take out warrants against people she alleged had beaten her.
Cochran told Garmley to meet him in his office, where he told her he needed a mistress he could trust and asked her to return a few days later wearing a dress but no underwear, Garmley said in an Aug. 8 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Cochran also told her she would be very satisfied with the decision he’d make on her case if she took him up on his offer, she said.
During the ensuing probe, Judicial Qualifications Commission investigator Richard Hyde discovered Cochran pre-signed warrants for law enforcement officials to fill out when he wasn’t in the office. Cochran resigned Aug. 15, admitting he pre-signed warrants but denying he propositioned Garmley.
The day before Cochran resigned, Garmley and Jason Southern, a man driving her car, were arrested by Greeson during a traffic stop. Greeson wrote in his incident report that after his drug dog alerted him to the scent of drugs, he searched Garmley’s vehicle and found a magnetic box stuck to the bottom containing what appeared to be crystal methamphetamine. Greeson charged both Garmley and Southern with drug possession.
Lawyer McCracken Poston, who represented Garmley and Southern, said they were set up, and a subsequent GBI investigation resulted in all charges being dropped after the agency determined the drugs were planted.
After his initial court hearing Wednesday, Greeson said Henderson had told him to look out for Garmley’s car because it was “running dope” and that he had no idea if drugs were planted under the car.
“I was following orders I was given,” he said. “I’m sorry. I’ve never been a person who wanted to do somebody wrong.”
Attorney Larry Stagg, who represents Henderson, said his client “did not order anyone to do anything illegal.”
Cochran’s lawyer, Page Pate, said his client had nothing to do with Garmley’s arrest “and had no knowledge of drugs being planted under the car, if indeed they were planted there.”
Poston said he is pleased the prosecution is under way. “But we hope this defendant and the other defendants who are coming have a fair process — much fairer than they were willing to give my clients,” he said.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.