August 28, 2012

Murray officers involved in alleged bogus arrest on leave

Rachel Brown

— Two Murray County Sheriff’s Office employees involved in the arrest of a woman who made allegations that led to the resignation of the chief magistrate have been placed on administrative leave with pay.

Ray Sitton, a chief deputy with the sheriff’s office, said Capt. Michael Henderson and Officer Josh Greeson were placed on leave according to a department policy that governs officers involved in ongoing investigations. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding the arrest.

Angela Garmley, who accused former judge Bryant Cochran of using his power to solicit her for sexual favors, was arrested by Greeson on a possession of methamphetamine charge weeks after she went public with her story. The arrest occurred during a traffic stop in which Greeson uncovered a magnetized metal can underneath her car that he said contained meth.

District Attorney Bert Poston asked the GBI to investigate after Garmley said the drugs were not hers and that she had been set up, possibly by an employee at a trailer park Cochran owns. The investigation is ongoing, but Poston said he had enough information to dismiss the charges against Garmley.

A phone number for Greeson could not be found. Ringgold attorney Larry Stagg, who is representing Henderson, said his client has “tried to stay out of it as much as possible” in regard to anything to do with Cochran, who was under investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission before he resigned. Stagg said Henderson is Cochran’s cousin.

“For the most part, he didn’t have a lot to do with (Garmley’s arrest),” Stagg said. “There was an officer that pulled this young lady over, and he was present when she was placed under arrest, but he did not find the drugs on the car and did not make the arrest.”

Stagg said Henderson was the closest officer available for backup when Greeson made the stop, so he responded.

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

McCracken Poston, Garmley’s attorney who is not related to Bert Poston, said placing the officers on leave was “the right thing to do.”

Sitton said placing officers on leave is a routine practice while investigations are ongoing.

“It’s not a suspension, it’s just until the investigation is completed, and when that will be I don’t know,” he said.

Cochran resigned in mid-August after admitting he pre-signed warrants. Through his attorney he has denied wrongdoing with Garmley and another woman whom McCracken Poston said has made similar allegations.

“He adamantly denies both of them and feels that if the case ever goes to court the truth will come out and that it will be resolved in his favor,” said Chris Townley, Cochran’s attorney.

Townley said that while Cochran did admit to pre-signing warrants, it was an “extremely limited circumstance.”

 “It’s not anything like what has been portrayed,” he said. “It’s a real limited circumstance that he was addressing ... He has accepted responsibility, and that’s as far as I can go with that at this time.”

Sitton said he could not discuss details of the investigation and referred questions to GBI officials. Special-Agent-In-Charge Jerry Scott declined to discuss the investigation.

“We’re just still conducting the investigation, and it’s ongoing and we’ll see what happens,” he said.