published Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Clifford Joyce gets 18 months for planting drugs in Murray County

When a man illegally planted drugs on a Murray County woman a year and half ago, a federal prosecutor said, he did so to please one of the county judges.

Clifford “C.J.” Joyce, 27, appeared in the U.S. District Court in Rome on Dec. 13 for a sentencing hearing. Six months earlier, Joyce pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy charges because of his role in framing Angela Garmley.

On Aug. 12, 2012, Joyce placed five packets of methamphetamine inside a metal tin. Then, he placed that metal tin near one of the tires on Garmley’s car. Two days later, a deputy and a captain from the Murray County Sheriff’s Office pulled Garmley over and arrested her.

Since the day of the arrest, Murray County Chief Magistrate Bryant Cochran has been linked to the crime. In April 2012, Garmely asked him to take out a warrant against three men who beat her up. During that meeting, she said, Cochran asked her to be his mistress. He would continue to harass her after that, she said.

As a result, the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission investigated Cochran for ethics violations. In the meantime, Joyce planted the drugs on Garmley’s car. At that point, Joyce lived in a trailer park that Cochran owned.

During Joyce’s sentencing hearing in December, U.S. Assistant Attorney Jeff Davis argued that Joyce committed the crime because Cochran wanted him to. During the 16 months that investigators have examined the case, this hearing marks the first known time that the prosecutor has linked the judge to Joyce’s crime.

“The investigation has caused a citizen of this district thousands of man hours and thousands of dollars,” Davis said during the hearing. “And why? Because Mr. Joyce wanted to help out his landlord.”

Joyce’s attorney, Scott Forster, also acknowledged Cochran’s role during the same hearing.

“You had law enforcement folks and folks who were sworn judges who were involved in this,” the defense attorney said.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Harold Murphy sentenced Joyce to 18 months in prison. Michael Henderson, the Murray County captain who arrest Garmley, was sentenced to one year in prison in October. And Josh Greeson, the deputy who was also involved, was indicted in January 2013.

Cochran, meanwhile, has not been charged in the case.

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