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Former Chief Magistrate Bryant Cochran and Angela Garmley. Garmley's accusations against Cochran initiated a state investigation that led to the judge's resignation.
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Cochran Lawsuit Filing

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Now that a former Murray County, Ga., judge is staring at prison time, his accuser is going after his pocketbook.

Attorneys for Angela Garmley filed a motion in U.S. District Court on Thursday asking a federal judge to reconsider a civil lawsuit against Bryant Cochran, who was convicted last month of framing Garmley for a possession of methamphetamine arrest after she accused him of sexual harassment.

U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy dismissed a lawsuit against Cochran last February, saying that the evidence wasn't strong enough to prove that Cochran framed Garmley while he was Murray County's magistrate. Murphy said any theory that Cochran was behind an illegal arrest was not plausible.

But nine months later, a jury in a criminal case convicted Cochran of six federal crimes, convinced he ordered someone else in town to plant drugs on Garmley's car. Cochran is due back in U.S. District Court on Feb. 20 for a sentencing hearing.

"It would be a strange contortion of the law for Cochran to stand in one courtroom of the United States District Court and have it declared 'not plausible' he committed these acts, yet stand in another courtroom in the same courthouse and have it be declared beyond a reasonable doubt that he violated the plaintiff's rights," attorney Stuart James wrote in his motion Thursday.

James and Garmley's other attorney, McCracken Poston, have also asked Murphy to bring a civil lawsuit case against two former Murray County Sheriff's Office employees: Deputy Josh Greeson and Capt. Michael Henderson. Murphy dismissed civil lawsuits against them on Oct. 14.

The lawsuits stem from a dispute that began in April 2012. Garmley went to Cochran's office and asked him to take out warrants against some neighbors who fought her the day before. Garmley said that Cochran then began hitting on her, telling her he needed a mistress, asking her to send him naked pictures.

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Garmley sent him a picture of her in her underwear, and Cochran issued warrants. Months later, amid a divorce, Cochran told Garmley's husband that Garmley tried to have sex with him.

Garmley then told multiple media outlets that Cochran sexually harassed her. A couple of weeks after that, on Aug. 14, 2012, Greeson stopped Garmley's car and began to search it for drugs. He couldn't find any. Neither could a drug-sniffing dog.

Henderson, who was at the scene and is Cochran's cousin, then called the magistrate. Cochran told him to check the wheel well of the car, where police then found a magnetic, metal tin with five packets of methamphetamine inside.

Conasauga Judicial Circuit District Attorney Bert Poston later dropped charges against Garmley, claiming the circumstances seemed suspect. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation began looking into the case.

Greeson and Henderson later pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. Clifford "C.J." Joyce, a Murray County resident and one of Cochran's tenants, pleaded guilty to planting the drugs on Garmley's car.

Contact Staff Writer Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6476.

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