Angela Garmley, the key federal witness in the case against former Murray County (Ga.) Magistrate Bryant Cochran, pleaded guilty Friday morning to distributing methamphetamine.
Garmley was sentenced to 90 days on house arrest and 10 years of probation. She also will have to participate in a drug treatment program.
In December, Garmley testified against Cochran in U.S. District Court. Garmley testified that Cochran sexually harassed her in April 2010 after she asked him to issue warrants against neighbors who had fought her.
Later, after Garmley said publicly that Cochran harassed her, the Murray County Sheriff's Office arrested her on a charge of possessing methamphetamine. Two months ago, a jury convicted Cochran of orchestrating that arrest on false pretenses. Separately, a Murray County deputy and a captain pleaded guilty in federal court to obstructing the Georgia Bureau of Investigation during the case.
Cochran is not yet in prison. U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy delayed his sentencing hearing while deciding whether Cochran deserves a second trial.
Three months before Cochran's trial, in September, Dalton police arrested Garmley for selling meth to an informant. Her attorney, McCracken Poston, said the circumstances of that arrest are similar to the first case.
He said the informant reached out to Garmley months before the arrest and began doing drugs with her.
She then asked Garmley to sell her methamphetamine, and they met at a Wal-Mart, Poston said.
Wearing a hidden video camera, the informant bought the drugs in the restroom.
But Poston believes the Murray County Sheriff's Office targeted Garmley because she was about to testify against Cochran.
"Of course this was retaliation, because she caused two of their own to go to federal prison," Poston said.
Bert Poston, the Conasauga Judicial Circuit district attorney, denied that investigators targeted Garmley. Poston is not related to Garmley's attorney.
In the first case, when the sheriff's office arrested Garmley under false pretenses in August 2012, Bert Poston dropped the charges days later, saying the evidence felt shaky.
Bert Poston said the investigation began because the Chatsworth Police Department was working with an informant who knew several drug dealers. The prosecutor could not remember how many other arrests came from the informant's tips.
The detective working with that informant left his position, Bert Poston said, so the informant started working with the Murray County Sheriff's Office.
In Garmley's case, the two agreed to meet for the sale in Dalton, so the Murray County department gave the evidence to that city's police department.
"We were involved in the decision-making process the entire way," Bert Poston said. "There was nothing improper about the way they handled it."
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at email@example.com.
News report from the arrest: