A former North Georgia judge has been indicted for conspiring to plant drugs on a woman after she publicly accused him of making sexual advances on her and sexually assaulting a county employee.
Bryant Cochran was charged with committing the federal crimes while he served as chief magistrate judge in Murray County. Cochran resigned in August 2012 in the face of an investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission. He was also indicted for witness tampering, conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and civil rights violations.
Cochran’s lawyer, Page Pate, said his client “intends to plead not guilty because he is not guilty.”
“The government is relying on very questionable statements made by convicted defendants with plea deals,” Pate said. “If they had a good case, they would have charged him a long time ago.”
Cochran is accused of conspiring with others to plant drugs on Angela Garmley, a Chatsworth woman who had complained Cochran had made sexual advances on her in July 2012.
After Garmley went public with her accusations, Clifford Joyce, Cochran’s tenant and handyman, hid a metal tin containing five packets of methamphetamine under the tire well of Garmley’s car.
Two days later, Murray County Deputy Sheriff Joshua Greeson stopped her car and searched it for drugs. After receiving information from Capt. Michael Henderson, Greeson found the packets of methamphetamine exactly where Joyce hid them.
A subsequent investigation by the GBI cleared Garmley of all charges.
Henderson and Greeson were later convicted of witness tampering for lying to law enforcement officers. Joyce pleaded guilty in June 2013 to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine.
The federal indictment alleges that Cochran sexually assaulted a Murray County employee from 2006 until 2012.
Cochran is expected to have his first appearance hearing in court on Thursday afternoon.
McCracken Poston, a lawyer who represents Garmley, her husband and another man who were set up on drug charges, praised the federal indictment against Cochran.
In a statement, Poston said, “Now that the government has finally made federal criminal charges against the former judge, we look forward to watching Mr. Cochran avail himself of each and every constitutional right and privilege that he wanted to deny my clients.”