Judge accused of pre-signing warrants, propositioning woman resigns

Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran stepped down at the close of business Wednesday.

In a statement released Thursday, Cochran accepted responsibility for warrants that were pre-signed for law enforcement officials. "This is solely the reason for my resignation," he said. "My first responsibility is to my family and our well-being."

Cochran, a former police officer who is not a lawyer, was re-elected last month. He joins a number of other Georgia judges who resigned from office in recent years in the face of allegations of misconduct.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission was investigating Cochran for a number of alleged transgressions. In a filing in the Georgia Supreme Court, JQC Director Jeff Davis said the commission was looking into whether Cochran allowed the prestige of his office to advance his private interests and whether he pre-signed blank arrest warrants to be filled out by law enforcement officers while he was not in the office.

When seeking a warrant, an officer is first sworn in by a judge, who then hears the officer's case and decides whether there is probable cause for an arrest. Once the warrant is signed, it can be served on a suspect, who can then be taken into custody.

Murray County District Attorney Bert Poston said he plans to meet with JQC investigator Richard Hyde on Friday to determine what happened with the warrants.

Cochran also was recently accused by Angela Garmley, 36, of Chatsworth, who said the judge propositioned her when she appeared before him in his office in April when she sought to take out a warrant against three people who allegedly attacked her.

Cochran said he wanted a mistress he could trust and asked Garmley to return to his office a few days later wearing a dress but no underwear, Garmley said in a recent interview.

Cochran, who has denied propositioning Garmley, said Thursday the "attacks have crossed a line that shouldn't be acceptable to anyone. At the end of the day, this is just a job and I can't think of any job worth what we've been put through."

Garmley was arrested Tuesday night, accused of possession of methamphetamine. A Murray County deputy pulled over a man driving Garmley and her husband in Garmley's car because the car's bright lights were on, according to the incident report.

After the deputy obtained permission to allow a drug dog to sniff the car, he saw the dog stand at alert, the report said. The deputy said he then found a magnet box beneath the car that contained a crystal substance believed to be methamphetamine.

Garmley's lawyer, McCracken Poston, who is not related to the district attorney, said his client denies any knowledge there were drugs under her car and said he suspects they could have been planted there. Poston said during her initial court appearance Wednesday, Garmley told the judge she had not been previously charged with any drug offenses.

"This smells to high heaven," Poston said. "I'd like an independent agency to investigate this."

Christopher Townley, a lawyer representing Cochran, called Poston's comments "silliness. ... Ms. Garmley has some substantial credibility issues."

Poston, the district attorney, said the setup allegations "are extremely serious."

"I don't have any evidence about it, just the accusations that have been made," Poston said. "We're looking at the case very closely."

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