August 29, 2012

DA: Too early to know about criminal charges

Murray sheriff says told officers made false statements to the GBI

Victor Miller
victormiller@daltoncitizen.com

— The district attorney says it’s too early to know whether criminal charges will be filed against two Murray County Sheriff’s Office employees who the sheriff says he was told had made false statements during a GBI investigation.

“That’s going to have to wait until the investigation is completed or further along before we decide on any specific charges and who would be charged,” District Attorney Bert Poston said. “So those decisions haven’t been made yet pending the ongoing investigation.”

Deputy Josh Greeson was fired by Sheriff Howard Ensley after Ensley said he was presented evidence in a meeting on Wednesday with Poston and Jerry Scott, special agent in charge with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, that Greeson and Capt. Michael Henderson had made false statements to the GBI during its investigation into the arrest of Angela Garmley on a methamphetamine charge. That charge was later dismissed. The arrest followed a traffic stop in which Greeson found a magnetized metal can underneath Garmley’s car that he said contained meth.

Garmley had previously accused former chief magistrate Bryant Cochran of using his power as a judge to solicit her for sexual favors, which Cochran has denied. Cochran resigned during a Judicial Qualifications Commission investigation of Garmley’s claims and claims that Cochran had pre-signed warrants. Cochran has acknowledged pre-signing some warrants. The GBI is also investigating Cochran’s actions.

Both Greeson and Henderson — a cousin of Cochran, according to Henderson’s attorney, Larry Stagg — were on paid administrative leave. Ensley said he fired Greeson after learning of the evidence in the meeting. Ensley said Henderson’s paid administrative leave will be up on Friday, at which time Ensley said he will “deal with him.”

Poston said completing the investigation will “take some time. There’s a lot of details to look at ... .”

But he said “there was information (Ensley) needed to know so he could make decisions regarding those officers, so some information was provided to him from the investigation regarding the conduct of those two officers.”

Scott said, “We shared pertinent information with him pertaining to his employees for him to use that information as he saw fit within his department.”

Scott noted, “We’ve been meeting with him and discussing the case with him periodically as we’ve been progressing in the investigation.”

Asked about any false statements, Scott said, “We felt we had reached a point in the investigation where there was some significant information that he may need pretty promptly and that may require his prompt attention.”

Scott said when a GBI investigation involves a law enforcement officer or agency, “we meet periodically with the district attorney’s office or the proper prosecutorial authority and with the department head of that agency and share information with them. Typically, at the conclusion of the investigation, or at a certain point in the investigation if we feel like we need to have an immediate session with the appropriate prosecutor, we’ll meet with them to discuss the circumstances and make a decision in conjunction with them as to the next steps.”

Ensley said the sheriff’s office has “fully cooperated” with the GBI investigation “and will continue to do so.” Poston and Scott agreed that the sheriff’s office has been cooperative.

“Sheriff Ensley and Chief Deputy (Ray) Sitton and some other members of his department have been very helpful in the investigation and we will continue to share information with them as it develops,” Scott said.

“His department has been very cooperative with the investigation since the beginning,” Poston said.

Scott had a message for the public.

“I think there’s been a little public trust lost because of these circumstances,” he said. “We want people to know we’re doing what we can to show them there’s no reason to lose trust in the justice system.”

A phone number for Greeson could not be found. Stagg told a Daily Citizen reporter earlier this week that Henderson “didn’t have a lot to do with (Garmley’s arrest),” but that he was present when she was arrested as the officer who was closest by, and provided backup.

“He’s not done anything wrong,” Stagg said.

McCracken Poston, Garmley’s attorney (no relation to Bert Poston), said on Wednesday, “Obviously we’re pleased to see this investigation go forward and at least that they’re handling it in a vocational way at this point, and we hope that other justice follows. There are some laws that have been clearly violated. ...

“It seems obvious there is a link between those two aspects (the officers and Bryant Cochran) and I hope that they continue until they connect them.”