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The Nyle Magazine
Monday, October 08, 2012
“Georgia Judge quits after
allegations of sexual harassment and illegally issuing warrants
Nathan’ette Burdine-Follow on
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.
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.
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
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.
to WRCBtv.com’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.