August 17, 2013

Judge tosses sexual harassment complaint against Cochran

Rachel Brown
rachelbrown@daltoncitizen.com

— Attorneys for three women who are suing former Murray County Chief Magistrate Bryant Cochran on sexual harassment allegations said they’ll re-file the complaint after a federal judge tossed it out earlier this week.

Rome Judge Harold Murphy on Thursday dismissed portions of a lawsuit in which former magistrate court employees Yesenia Galvin, Sonya Petty and Virginia Rector and sued for unspecified damages on charges that Cochran sexually harassed them and created a hostile work environment during the years they were on staff.

The women’s attorneys, Stuart James and McCracken Poston, said they plan to re-file the suit naming Murray County government as a defendant after Murphy ruled that federal law prevents them from suing Cochran as an individual for something he allegedly did on the job. James said the women will also file charges specifically against Cochran in Murray County Superior Court where the allegations could be properly heard.

“It is just an adjustment,” Poston said. “It is not any vindication at all of Bryant Cochran.”

Cochran’s defense attorney, Phil Friduss of Woodstock, sees it differently.

He said Murphy’s ruling adopted the earlier recommendations of federal Magistrate Judge Walter E. Johnson.

“Again, we are pleased with the progress being made toward clearing Bryant Cochran’s good name,” Friduss said in a written statement. “There’s more to do.”

Cochran has faced multiple allegations and lawsuits in what some allege was a far-reaching scheme in which he used law enforcement officers to have a woman who refused to be his mistress arrested on trumped-up drug charges. Through his attorneys, Cochran has repeatedly denied those allegations. Cochran has not been charged.

Poston said a related lawsuit filed by his client, Angela Garmley, is still ongoing. Garmley was charged with meth possession in an incident that a Georgia Bureau of Investigation inquiry later determined involved someone planting the drugs on her vehicle. The charge was dropped soon after her arrest, and two former Murray County Sheriff’s Office officers have pleaded guilty to federal charges related to lying during the GBI investigation. One of those officers is related to Cochran.