published Friday, August 10th, 2012

Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran accused of propositioning woman for sex

A Murray County, Ga., judge is being investigated over accusations that he propositioned a woman for sex in exchange for a favorable ruling in her case.

McCracken "Ken" Poston, the attorney for Angela Garmley, said the Judicial Qualifications Commission is investigating whether Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran asked her to be his mistress when they were alone in his chambers on April 9 and later harassed her to sleep with him.

Both Poston and employees at the Murray County Magistrate's office confirm the watchdog agency for judges has been in the office this week investigating the claims.

Cochran, who was re-elected last week, denies the allegations, said his attorney, Chris Townley.

"Anybody can make allegations and when allegations are made, investigations have to be made," he said.

JQC Director Jeff Davis said he can't confirm or deny that the agency is investigating a judge until there is a complaint made with the Georgia Supreme Court.

Before Cochran was re-elected, he told a local news station the charges were politically motivated. But Poston claims he has been contacted by more women with similar allegations against the chief magistrate.

"This is a man with a real problem," he said.

On April 8, Garmley claims she was beaten by three people who used to be tenants at her husband's trailer park, Poston said. Garmley's husband knew Cochran from his business and he arranged a meeting so she could ask Cochran to take out arrest warrants, Poston said.

When Garmley met with Cochran, he instead asked about her upcoming divorce and then told her he "really wanted a mistress to come by his office just a couple of days a week," Poston said.

Cochran didn't take out the warrants but instead gave her his number and asked for hers, which she gave to him, Poston said. Then he continually called and texted her. After the hearing for the warrants was scheduled, Poston said the judge asked Garmley to come by his office two days before and "wear a dress with no panties."

Garmley made him believe she would go to his chambers, but she didn't show up, Poston said. After Cochran asked Garmley to send him a nude picture, she sent a picture of herself in her underwear.

"She was intimidated and feared the people who beat her would be given favorable treatment," he said.

The two women and man Garmley accused of beating her were arrested, but Cochran released them without posting bail.

The magistrate's office wouldn't give the warrants for the trio's arrest based on orders that Cochran gave not to talk about the case. Cochran wasn't in the office Thursday, and he didn't return messages his employees sent to him to talk about the case.

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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