published Saturday, December 14th, 2013

Another man sentenced in 2012 Murray County incident over planted drugs

  • 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.

ROME, GA. — Clifford T. "C.J." Joyce is headed to prison for his role in a 2012 Murray County, Ga., incident involving sexual allegations against a judge and the planting of drugs on an innocent woman. Joyce was sentenced in United States District Court of Northern Georgia on Friday.

"By planting drugs on an innocent woman's car, Mr. Joyce attempted to use the criminal justice system to serve his own personal agenda," said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates in a news release. "In the end, however, it is Mr. Joyce, and not the Murray County woman, who will be headed to prison."

According to court documents and newspaper archives, in July 2012, county resident Angela Garmley went to then-Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran to discuss a legal matter.

Garmley later alleged that Cochran asked her for sex during that meeting. A state ethics probe later revealed Cochran had been presigning warrants for police. Cochran resigned, admitting to presigning police warrants but denying Garmley's sexual allegations.

In the aftermath of those allegations, two Murray County deputies and Joyce -- who used to rent from Cochran -- allegedly planted a metal package with five packets of meth under the tire well of Garmley's car.

Then-Murray County Deputy Sheriff Joshua Greeson -- since convicted of witness tampering for lying to law authorities and sentenced to 10 months in federal prison in September -- stopped Garmley and searched her car for drugs two days after the drugs were planted.

Greeson and then-Capt. Michael Henderson found the metal packet containing the meth and arrested Garmley and one other person on narcotics charges.

In August 2012, those charges against Garmley were dismissed, and a sweeping investigation into Cochran's role and the sheriff's department followed.

The two sheriff's deputies who allegedly planted the drugs on Garmley's car and Joyce were indicted in federal court and pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy charges back in the summer. In June, Joyce also pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine.

Friday, he was found guilty of framing Garmley for drug possession in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Harold L. Murphy sentenced him to one year and six months in prison, and three years of supervised release afterward, in addition to 100 hours of community service.

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