By Jim Kouri
In a plot that resembles a made-for-television movie on the Lifetime cable channel, a now convicted Murray County, Georgia, judge on Wednesday was sentenced to five years in federal prison, according to agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and the FBI had looked into a criminal complaint that Judge Bryant Cochran framed a woman who was accusing him of sexually harassing her and trading sex for legal favors.
In his position, on April 9, 2012, the now 45-year-old Cochran met with a female citizen regarding a routine legal matter. During the meeting, Cochran made inappropriate sexual advances towards the woman, including an offer to trade sex for a favorable legal ruling.
According to the victim’s criminal complaint against the jurist, in August 2012, Judge Cochran was sexually harassing Angela Garmley, a 44-year-old mother of three who is an admitted methamphetamine (speed, crank) addict. She accused Cochran of sexually harassing her when she asked him to issue warrants in a case in which she was allegedly assaulted by neighbors.
Judge Cochran admitted he had a co-conspirator hide packets of methamphetamine under Garmley’s automobile and then contacted the police to search for the drugs and arrest Miss Garmley, which police officers did. During Cochran’s sentencing, US District Court Judge Harold Murphy told him that he seriously hurt the image and trustworthiness of the Murray County court system.
In the frame up of Garmley, in December 2013, former police officer Clifford J. Joyce, of Murray County, Georgia, was sentenced to one year and six months in prison for conspiring to distribute a controlled substance. In October 2013, for police officer Michael Henderson, of Murray County, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for witness tampering. Former police officer Joshua Greeson, of Murray County, was sentenced to 10 months in prison for witness tampering.
“Cochran completely abused the trust given to him by the good citizens of Murray County,” said Acting United States Attorney John A. Horn. “Cochran used the power of the bench to victimize a citizen seeking justice and to exploit his staff. There is no greater breakdown in the justice system than when the judge himself violates other citizens’ rights to simply advantage himself.”
“Being in a position to uphold and enforce the law does not mean you are above the law,” said Vernon Keenan, Director, Georgia Bureau of Investigation. “The GBI will continue to work with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office to investigate and hold accountable those who are involved in corruption, regardless of their position.”
While the federal officials are boasting about their case against a crooked judge, many believe he and those who helped him got off relatively easy. “The cops only got light sentences for actually trying to have a woman locked up for up to 20-years in prison for possession of narcotics with intent to distribute. The judge, according to sentencing guidelines could be out and about after serving only three years in prison. Hardly stiff sentences for these criminals. One source told me they are part of the county’s Democrat Party,” said former federal law enforcement officer Charles Selberger.
Jim Kouri, CPP, the fifth Vice President and Public Information Officer of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, has served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country.