What started as a complaint against a Murray County, Ga., judge for soliciting a woman for sex has opened the door to a larger investigation with multiple departments possibly involved.
Prosecutors dropped charges against Angie Garmley, whose allegations against former Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran led to an investigation and his recent resignation.
But evidence that shows Garmley was set up when a Murray County sheriff's deputy recently arrested her on drug charges could shine a light on the sheriff's office, said her attorney McCracken Poston.
"The sheriff's office is already implicated," Poston said. "All that's left to be seen is how big and broad this conspiracy was."
Neither Sheriff Howard Ensley nor Chief Deputy Ray Sitton returned calls seeking comment.
Conasauga District Attorney Bert Poston has asked the GBI to investigate Cochran as well as the drug charges against Garmley.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent James Harris said Garmley's charges were quickly dismissed because "it was the right thing to do."
The GBI is covering all its bases and continuing to investigate all angles, he said.
Garmley was arrested on Aug. 14 after a deputy pulled her over in her trailer park and, using a drug dog in his patrol car, found a magnetic box filled with methamphetamine underneath Garmley's car. She was arrested along with her husband and the driver, who was a friend.
The next day, Cochran resigned from his magistrate position. The state Judicial Qualifications Commission, a judge watchdog agency, had finished an investigation into Garmley's accusations against him as well as allegations that he was presigning warrants for officers to use at their discretion.
At the end of the commission's investigation, Cochran agreed never to become a judge again.
Cochran has denied the allegations that he asked Garmley to be his mistress and requested that she come to his office "wearing a dress and no panties." But in his resignation letter, he admitted to presigning warrants.
When an officer asks for a warrant, the correct procedure is to meet with a judge who listens to sworn testimony listing reasons for the criminal charges and arrest. The judge then makes a decision whether to sign the warrant.
Cochran also wrote in the resignation letter that his family came under attack but doesn't give details.
Meanwhile, Murray County Sole Commissioner Greg Hogan said the whole situation puts the county in a bad light.
"It's an embarrassment to the people of Murray County," he said. "I don't like it at all."
Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...