published Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Grand jury hears Murray County judge case

Former Chief Magistrate Bryant Cochran and Angela Garmley. Garmley's accusations against Cochran initiated a state investigation that led to the judge's resignation.
Former Chief Magistrate Bryant Cochran and Angela Garmley. Garmley's accusations against Cochran initiated a state investigation that led to the judge's resignation.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.


July 19 — Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission investigates whether Chief Magistrate Bryant Cochran propositioned Angie Garmley for sex in his chambers and presigned arrest warrants.

Aug. 14 — Garmley arrested on drug charges.

Aug. 15 — Cochran resigns, makes an agreement with Qualifications Commission to never be a judge again.

Aug. 17 — District Attorney Bert Poston asks for a state investigation into Cochran and Garmley's arrest.

Aug. 23 — Garmley's drug charges dropped.

Aug. 29-31 — Deputy Josh Greeson, the officer who arrested Garmley, was fired; a few days later, Sheriff's Capt. Michael Henderson was fired.

Several Murray County sheriff's officers were bused from Chatsworth to Atlanta on Tuesday to testify before a federal grand jury on allegations against a former chief magistrate and two officers within their department, sources confirmed.

The sheriff's office and federal investigators were mum about the hearing.

Also Tuesday, Murray County Superior Court judges appointed Gale Buckner, commissioner of the state's Department of Juvenile Justice, to replace Bryant Cochran, who resigned as chief magistrate in August.

Buckner, who is from Chatsworth, will take over the position on Nov. 1.

Cochran has been investigated since mid-August after he was accused of asking Angie Garmley to be his mistress and have sex in his chambers before he ruled on her case. Cochran is also being investigated for presigning warrants that officers could use at their discretion.

Cochran has denied making advances to Garmley. But when he resigned, he admitted signing warrants before officers requested them. His attorney, Page Pate, later said the warrants were never used.

Pate said he knew about the grand jury hearing and believes the testimony will clear the former judge's name.

After making her accusations against Cochran, Garmley was arrested on drug charges that were later dropped. Two of the sheriff's office employees involved in the arrest, Deputy Josh Greeson and Capt. Michael Henderson, were fired for lying to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

State and federal investigators are looking into whether Garmley's drug arrest was a setup.

GBI agents told the Chattanooga Times Free Press in late August that they have no reason to believe corruption in the Murray County Sheriff's Office is widespread. But agents have declined to talk about any new details on the case.

Officials with the Northern Georgia District U.S. Attorney's office said they couldn't confirm or deny the investigation or the grand jury hearing, which is standard procedure.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

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 ...

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