Former Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant L. Cochran has been found convicted by a federal jury in a bizarre case where he engineered the false arrest of a woman who alleged that she had been sexually propositioned by Cochran. He was also convicted of tampering with a witness and for sexually assaulting a county employee. The conspiracy detailed in the indictment is a rather twisted tale of a sex-crazed judge, meth-using mother of four, treacherous friends, and corrupt cops. Hint: it turns out that like Agatha Christie, virtually all of them are guilty of something.
Cochran was the chief magistrate from January 1, 2004 to August 15, 2012. During that time, he allegedly sexually assaulted a Murray County employee and unlawfully searched the personal cellular telephone of another Murray County employee. Then on April 9, 2012, he met Angela Garmley who had come to obtain a warrant after a physical assault by a couple at a trailer park. The mother of four was married to an acquaintance of Cochran, Joe Garmley, who the judge had known him for about 18 years. She was in the process of a divorce. When she went into the courthouse, she said that Cochran asked that only she come back to his office despite the fact that she was there with her oldest daughter and sister. She said that he asked her about her divorce and whether she “cheated.” She said that he added “I heard Joe had a pretty wife, but d—, you’re fine.” He then asked for her phone and she said he took time to go through it. She also said that Cochran told her that his wife “was not taking care of his needs at home and he needed a mistress.” He is then quoted as saying that if she came to court in a dress and no panties “I would be happy with (the hearing) Friday.” She said that she agreed because “I wanted justice.”
She also admitted to texting and calling him and that she agreed to send him a revealing picture because Cochran “wanted to see what he would be getting.”
She stated that she became angry when Cochran told her husband that it was she who propositioned him.
The woman was an easy target for planting drugs. She admitted to being a meth user and to buying material to make meth. Indeed, the couple that attacked her in the trailer park were, according to her, involved in the drug trade. On the day of the planting, however, she became suspicious when Clifford “CJ” Joyce (someone with whom she had smoked pot) seemed very nervous and climbed out a back window at her house. She and a friend searched the house to see if he planted drugs but never checked her car. The drugs were planted under the car.
In 2012, she was smoking meth with friends at a house. Her daughter and her friend were also there. A friend, Randy “Bubba” Crook, allegedly asked her to go buy $80 worth of meth from “Yank.” Because she had injured her foot by stepping on a nail, Gormley asked Jason Southern, who was at the party, to drive her home. The vehicle was stopped near her house after an officer said that he saw the bright lights on and turned around to check it.
Notably, the frame did not immediately work. The officer at the scene, Murray County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joshua Greeson (who was later convicted of witness tampering) did not find any drugs. Then former Murray County Capt. Michael Henderson (who is Cochran’s cousin and who was also later convicted of witness tampering) had an approximately two minute telephone conversation with Cochran. Following that call, Henderson told an officer to look for a magnetic box under the left, rear of her car. Upon receiving that information, Greeson found the metal box magnetically attached to the car in that precise location. Inside the box, Greeson recovered five small packets containing methamphetamine. Garmley immediately said that it was a setup.
Things then began to fall apart. Under pressure from a state Judicial Qualifications Commission investigation, Cochran resigned a day after the arrest and a week later Joyce admitted to law enforcement officers that he planted drugs. Then Cochran allegedly tried to persuade a witness to provide false information to law enforcement officers.
Here is the indictment: Cochran indictment