Local News

May 15, 2014

Bryant Cochran pleads not guilty

— The former Murray County chief magistrate who faces several criminal charges related to the planting of drugs on a woman’s car pleaded not guilty in federal court Thursday afternoon.

Bryant Cochran resigned in 2012 in the middle of an ethics inquiry and civil rights investigation. He was indicted on six charges by a grand jury in U.S. District Court in Rome on Wednesday.

Murray County resident Angela Garmley has said Cochran asked her for sexual favors when she approached him as chief magistrate for help with a case. Her attorney, McCracken Poston, has said that when Garmley refused and filed a complaint with the Judicial Qualifications Commission, Cochran arranged to have meth planted on her car and schemed to have her arrested. Through his attorneys, Cochran has repeatedly denied those claims.

The counts against Cochran are:

• “conspiracy against rights” for working with “others known and unknown” to intimidate Garmley in her right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure under the U.S. Constitution.

• “deprivation of rights under color of law” for violating a former court clerk’s “right to be free from willful sexual assault.”

• “deprivation of rights under color of law” for searching someone’s personal cellphone without permission.

• “deprivation of rights under color of law” in that he “caused” Garmley “to be arrested for possessing methamphetamine, knowing that (she) did not knowingly possess said methamphetamine.”

• “conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance” for working with others to plant the meth.

• “tampering with a witness” for persuading someone to provide false information to law enforcement officers.

Cochran’s attorney, Page A. Pate, has said he doesn’t believe the government has a substantive case.

The most serious of the charges carries up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Cochran does not have another court date scheduled at this time.

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