published Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Former Murray County judge faces new allegations

  • photo
    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.

Charges
Charges

A former Murray County, Ga., judge who resigned after being accused by a woman of propositioning her now faces a complaint by three of his ex-employees, who say he sexually harassed them and created a hostile work environment.

In the federal complaint, Magistrate Clerk of Court Virginia Rector and two other women say former Chief Magistrate Bryant Cochran -- who is under criminal investigation by the GBI -- sexually harassed them and demanded to see their personal cellphones and pulled data off them.

Cochran resigned on Aug. 15 after Angie Garmley filed a complaint, saying he asked her to have sex with him in exchange for a fair ruling in her case. The complaint led to an ethics investigation by the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, which oversees judges.

The investigation also revealed that Cochran had presigned several warrants for officers to use.

The day before his resignation, Garmley was arrested on drug charges, which her attorney said were a setup. Prosecutors later dropped the charges, and the two arresting officers -- Deputy Josh Greeson and Capt. Michael Henderson -- were fired for lying to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Cochran, who has denied propositioning Garmley, claims the latest complaints are a chance for the women he worked with to take advantage of the other allegations, his attorney Page Pate said.

"Right now folks are rushing to conclusion and rushing to judgment," Pate said. "There's blood in the water, and lawyers can turn into sharks."

McCracken Poston and Stuart James, attorneys for Rector, Sonya Petty and Yesenia Galvan, said the women were afraid to file the complaint until the judge resigned and that they will have clear examples of harassment as the investigation goes on.

"They were scared of retaliation," James said. "When he resigned, they felt like they had an obligation to do it."

In the complaint, the women also allege that Cochran threatened to punish them if they decided to work for Dwayne Hooper -- his opponent in July's elections for the judgeship -- if Hooper was elected instead of Cochran.

Cochran was re-elected.

In the criminal investigation, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are still looking into the allegations against Cochran but have not updated the status of the probe.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

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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