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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Lurid Complaint Against Georgia Judge

DALTON, Ga. (CN) - The day before a state judge facing sexual harassment charges resigned, he conspired with sheriff's deputies to plant drugs in the car of one of his accusers, then had her falsely arrested, the woman claims in court.

Angela Garmley sued Murray County, its former Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran, the Murray County Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Howard Ensley and two of his deputies, Howard Michael Henderson and Josh Greeson, in Federal Court.

Garmley claims Cochran had her falsely arrested her on drug charges to retaliate for her testifying to the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission about his sexual harassment.

Three other court employees sued Cochran on sexual harassment charges in March.

by three of Cochran's former court employees in Federal court.

Garmley says in her complaint: "Garmley filed an ethics complaint against Cochran with the Judicial Qualifications Commission making allegations that Cochran asked her in his chambers to be his mistress and later Cochran said to come to his office wearing a dress and no panties. Cochran engaged in similar conduct with his employee Virginia Rector, inviting her into his office and then making sexual overtures to her. He engaged in a pattern of conduct that suppressed women employees and women litigants in his courtroom."

Rector was one of the three women who sued Cochran in March.

In her complaint, Garmley claims she and her co-plaintiff husband set up a meeting with Judge Cochran to try to get an arrest warrant against three former tenants who assaulted her in her front yard.

At the meeting, she says, Cochran showed no interest in the assault, but was more interested in her private life.

"While she was in Cochran's chambers Cochran never asked about the facts of the assault or about witnesses," the complaint states. "Instead, Cochran made comments to Garmley about how pretty she was and that he had heard that Joe Garmley had a pretty wife. Moreover, Cochran told Garmley that 'damn [she] was fine' and kept on asking if she had cheated on her husband Joe Garmley. ...

"During the conversation, personal discussions continued with Cochran telling Garmley that '[Cochran's] wife doesn't take care of [Cochran's] needs in the bedroom and that [Cochran] would like to have a mistress that he could trust.'" (Brackets in complaint.)

There was nothing subtle about it, Garmley says in the complaint: "In the initial meeting, Cochran was flirting with Garmley telling her he had a 'boner' and then Cochran began talking about his marriage and how he would like to find a woman to visit him a couple of mornings a week in his office. He then asked Garmley to come back to his office on Wednesday to talk about the case and to appear in his office without her panties, suggesting they have sex. As she was leaving Cochran told her that she should come back and wear a dress with no panties. He, thereafter, handed her a piece of paper with his mobile number on the paper."

Later that day, Garmley claims, Cochran "called her on her phone and changed the 'date' to Thursday. He again asked her to wear no panties, giving her instructions on what to tell the employees in the front office and what to tell her husband."

To be absolutely specific, Garmley says in the complaint: "Cochran used the power of his office to attempt to solicit sexual favors from Garmley. He suggested that she come back to his office in order to have her commit certain sexual acts. Cochran suggested to Garmley that she send a picture of herself to let him see what he was going to be getting. Garmley photographed herself in her underwear to placate Cochran. Garmley had no intention of moving forward by appearing in Cochran's chambers with a dress and no panties, instead sending the picture in hopes that Cochran would permit her case to move forward without having to commit sexual acts to receive the justice she wanted from the Court."

Garmley claims Cochran continued to call her and to solicit sex, but she refused to return to his office. She says she sought justice against her assailant's in Cochran's courtroom.

She claims she "returned to court on her scheduled hearing date to face her

attackers and have action taken against them. When she appeared in court she was

verbally abused by an obviously unsatisfied Cochran."

The day before Cochran resigned, Garmley claims, Murray County Deputy Joshua Greeson and Capt. Michael Henderson pulled over the car driven by co-plaintiff Jason Southern, with Garmley in it as a passenger.

Greeson "allegedly found a metal can containing methamphetamine hidden in the wheel well of Garmley's car," the complaint states. "She was arrested, charged with possession of methamphetamines. She was later exonerated after the GBI [Georgia Bureau of Investigation] investigated the facts and circumstances of the traffic stop.

"The Georgia Bureau of Investigation received information that the methamphetamine had been planted on Garmley's car, resulting in the drug charge being dismissed against Garmley. A subsequent investigation ensued, with the U.S. attorney in Atlanta launching a grand jury investigation into the Cochran affair.

"Sheriff's Deputy Joshua Greeson and Captain Michael Henderson, Cochran's cousin, were fired for lying to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and were charged with obstruction of justice by the U.S. attorney. Greeson is to go on trial related to allegations contained in this complaint and Henderson has pled guilty to information containing similar charges lodged against him," the complaint states.

Garmley adds "that the 'drug plant' was coordinated by Cochran acting in conspiracy with Greeson and Henderson."

"Henderson, Greeson and Cochran all communicated with one another regarding the Garmley vehicle and drugs being on the vehicle resulting in Garmley and Southern's subsequent arrests. They acted in concert with one another and actively participated in the 'drug plant' in Garmley's car leading to Garmley's and Southern's arrest," the complaint states.

Garmley's husband claims that he too was harassed and falsely arrested in retaliation for his wife's testimony against Cochran. He claims that he saw his wife's car being pulled over and went to investigate why she was pulled over, and was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor obstruction.

The plaintiffs seek damages for negligence, f emotional distress, and civil rights violations.

They are represented by McCracken Poston of Ringgold, Ga., and Stuart James, with James, Goins & Carpenter, of Chattanooga, Tenn.

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