Local News

August 16, 2012

Cochran resigns as Murray chief magistrate (Updated 4:40 p.m.)

Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran resigned Wednesday, according to documents on the website of the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission.

The commission posted on Thursday Cochran’s resignation letter, a letter from Gov. Nathan Deal accepting his resignation and a copy of a consent order signed by Cochran agreeing to resign and to not seek any other elected or appointed judicial office.

A report accompanying those documents, also signed by Cochran, says the commission was investigating whether Cochran “allowed the prestige of his office to advance his private interests” and whether he “pre-signed blank arrest warrants for completion by law enforcement officers while he was absent from the office.”

The report says Cochran agreed to the consent order prior to the commission voting to hold a formal hearing on those matters.

Murray County voters elected Cochran to a third four-year term on July 31. Murray County Attorney Greg Kinnamon said Thursday afternoon the Superior Court judges of the Conasauga Circuit, which includes Whitfield and Murray counties, will appoint someone to fill Cochran’s unexpired term.

“Right now, we have part-time magistrates who can fill in, so there’s no disruption of duties. Part-time magistrates have the same power that the chief magistrate does,” Kinnamon said.

He said he did not know what sanctions, if any, law enforcement officials who may have used pre-signed warrants might face.

“I would not want to speculate about that,” he said.

In late July, Ringgold attorney McCracken Poston said the commission was investigating whether Cochran “made an unwanted advance” to Angela Garmley, Poston’s client, when she went to him in April seeking a warrant against someone who had allegedly assaulted her. Poston said Garmley was cooperating with that investigation.

In a statement at that time, Cochran said, “This is a politically timed, politically motivated personal attack on my family and I.”

Garmley was arrested Tuesday night by Murray County sheriff’s deputies and charged with possession of methamphetamine.

According to an incident report, Deputy Josh Greeson stopped the car in which Garmley was a passenger because the driver failed to dim his headlights. The report states Greeson used a drug dog to search the car after noticing Garmley stumble slightly and that she had “slurred speech.” Greeson’s report states his drug dog alerted near the front of the vehicle, and he found a small metal can stuck under the driver’s door. Inside was a substance that appeared to be meth, he said, along with a large, round magnet.

The driver, Jason Anthony Southern, was charged with possession of methamphetamine, driving with a suspended license and failure to dim headlights and Garmley was also charged since the car belonged to her.

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