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NB's The Nyle Magazine

Monday, October 08, 2012



Published September 6, 2012

“Georgia Judge quits after allegations of sexual harassment and illegally issuing warrants surfaced”

by Nathan’ette Burdine-Follow on Twitter@nbnylemagazine

            Troubles are just beginning for a Georgia judge.  Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran of Murray County, Georgia was forced to resign after he was accused of using his position to solicit sexual favors and illegally issuing warrants.  According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Bill Rankin’s article, “Judge accused of pre-signing warrants, propositioning woman resigns,” Cochran’s last day on the bench was August 15, 2012.  Angela Garmley accused Cochran of promising to issue an arrest warrant against three of Garmley’s former tenants if she promised to be his mistress.  Cochran was also accused of signing warrants without any supporting evidence.  Cochran denied Garmley’s allegations against him, but he took responsibility for his role involving the pre-signing of the warrant forms.  Rankin also noted that Angela Garmley and her husband were arrested on the night of August 14, 2012, on the suspicion of drug possession.  Angela Garmley’s attorney, McCracken Poston, immediately filed a request with the Murray County district attorney’s office to further investigate the charges.  Rankin quoted Poston as saying, “This smells to high heaven.  I’d like an independent agency to investigate this.”  Poston’s request was granted and Georgia Bureau of Investigators (GBI) investigated the case.  Rankin later stated in his article “Judge’s accuser cleared of drug charges” that the drug charges against Angela Garmely and her husband were dismissed after an investigation by the GBI.  Ranking quoted GBI Special Agent James Harris as saying, “It’s the right thing to do.  It needs to happen as soon as possible…This is only a small part of what’s going to be happening.”  Cochran’s attorney, Christopher Townley, immediately denied any implications that his client was involved in planting drugs in the Garmleys’ vehicle.  However, the sexual harassment allegations and Cochran’s admission of his involvement in the warrant case paints a picture of a man who allowed his position to go to his head and who would do anything to maintain his power.  Atlanta criminal defense attorney, Don Samuel, did not mince his words when discussing the allegations.  According to Rankin’s article, “Judge investigated for pre-signing warrants,” Samuel described Cochran’s alleged actions involving the pre-signing of the warrants as “unconscionable.”  Samuel also noted the judge could face possible criminal charges if he is found guilty. 

Cochran has every reason to be worried.  The evidence against him is airtight.  The evidence includes text messages between Cochran and Angela Garmley, a recorded phone conversation between Garmley’s husband and Cochran, and witness’ statements describing how Cochran tried to get “special attention” from Garmley.  Also, Cochran’s admission of wrongdoing in the warrant case cannot be separated from Garmley’s case.  The warrant is the common denominator in both cases and it involved Cochran issuing warrants based on his own standards and not the court’s standard.  Cochran’s alleged standards for issuing a warrant required that the plaintiff in the case be a friend, police officer, or a mistress.  Rankin noted within his article, “Judge investigated for pre-signing warrants,” the legal procedure Cochran should have followed when he was issuing a warrant.  The proper procedure to issue a warrant is as follows:  The judge swears in the officer.  The officer then presents his case.  If there is sufficient evidence, then the judge issues the warrant.

Angela Garmley alleged that Cochran didn’t follow the proper procedures in her case.  He decided instead to use his own requirements.  According to Rankin’s article, “Woman says she went to court for a warrant, left with proposition from the judge,” Garmley alleged that Cochran required that she become his mistress if she wanted to receive a warrant against her former tenants.  Rankin quoted Garmley as saying, “He asked me if I cheated on my husband.  He said he wanted to have a mistress he could trust.”  Garmley stated that she text a photo of herself in just a bra and underwear to Cochran.  Garmley also stated that her sister, Sherry Sane, overheard the judge asking Garmley to return to court panty less.  Rankin noted that Sane mentioned the judge wanted a prepaid phone so his calls would not be traced.  Garmley informed her husband about the situation and he approached the judge.  Angela Garmley’s husband asked Judge Cochran if there was any relevance to his wife’s accusations against him.  Initially, the judge denied the accusations and then he admitted that he had been texting Angela Garmley.  According to Rankin, Cochran called the Garmleys after his conversation with Angela Garmley’s husband.  The Garmleys recorded the conversation and gave it to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  Rankin quoted Cochran as saying, “Let me ask you a question and I’ll ask it point blank.  Does she have access to your messages or anything along those lines, or is what she telling him just hearsay?  We have not done a damn thing.  I know we joked around and stuff on the text messages, but I don’t know.”

The manner in which Cochran admitted communicating with Angela Garmley is enough to cause pause.  Cochran presented himself like a criminal who had been caught and wanted to know the evidence the Garmleys had against him.  And after determining that there was sufficient evidence, Cochran admitted that he and Angela Garmley communicated by-way of texting.  The judge cannot escape the question of why would he, a judge, be texting a woman who asked him to issue a warrant.  A judge has no business using text messages to communicate with a possible plaintiff in a case.  Yet, Judge Cochran did.  And the fact that he did so showed his willingness to show favoritism for one party over the other. 

According to’s Matt Barbour’s article, “Accuser in Murray County judicial misconduct case talks,” Angela Garmley’s attorney, McCracken Poston, said that justice is one sided in Murray County.  Judge Cochran is considered a popular judge and Murray County residents know not to run afoul of him.  Barbour quoted Poston as saying,  “Angela decided that’s just the way justice was in Murray County and that nobody would believe her if she went up against the chief magistrate judge, a very popular judge.”  Poston also alleged that the judge threatened Garmley’s husband’s rental business after he approached the judge and the judge’s wife about the allegations.  Further, Poston told Barbour that two other women have made similar allegations against the judge.  Cochran’s attorney, Christopher Townley, told Barbour, “Judge Cochran adamantly states that the allegations against him are not true.  Unlike the attorneys who sent out a press release for publicity, Mr. Cochran respects the courts and the court process and believes the truth will come out if any court proceeding is ever filed.”  Unfortunately for the judge, the truth looks like something that is different from the story he is telling.  According to Rankin’s article, “Judge investigated for pre-signing warrants,” Cochran continues to face possible disciplinary action from the Judicial Qualifications Commission.  Also, Murray County District Attorney Herbert Poston is reviewing the case to see if any criminal charges should be filed.







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