August 16, 2012

Murray County judge accuser booked on meth charge

Attorney calls arrest circumstances ‘very suspicious’

Rachel Brown
rachelbrown@daltoncitizen.com

— Angela Garmley, who prompted an ongoing state ethics investigation when she accused Murray County Chief Magistrate Bryant Cochran of propositioning her, is out on bond after being arrested on a methamphetamine charge.

Garmley told a deputy at the scene of her arrest she was being “set up” after a magnetized metal can filled with meth was found under her car during a traffic stop by the Murray County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday night. Her attorney, McCracken Poston, called the circumstances surrounding the arrest “very suspicious.”

Poston said a man employed in a trailer park business Cochran owns appeared at Garmley’s home at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday near her car where the meth was found and gave what she felt was a “lame” excuse for being there. Poston said she told several people about it the next day but didn’t file a police report.

Cochran has not returned several phone calls from The Daily Citizen since issuing a statement denying Garmley’s initial claims. His attorney, Chris Townley, did not answer at his office late Wednesday evening. Sheriff Howard Ensley provided a copy of the arrest report but didn’t immediately return calls to answer additional questions.

The state Judicial Qualifications Commission has been investigating Cochran after Garmley said he made unwanted sexual advances. District Attorney Bert Poston, who is not related to McCracken Poston, confirmed to The Associated Press that the watchdog agency is investigating whether Cochran pre-signed warrants for law enforcement officials. Townley has denied both allegations, and Cochran has said Garmley’s claims, which came out before he was re-elected in the July 31 primary, were politically motivated.

According to the incident report of Garmley’s arrest, Deputy Josh Greeson stopped the car Tuesday night because the driver failed to dim his headlights, an act Greeson said sometimes indicates drunk driving. Jason Anthony Southern, 29, 11 Acorn Drive, Chatsworth, pulled off in an area on Browns Bridge Road and was later charged with possession of methamphetamine, driving with a suspended license and failure to dim headlights.

The report states Greeson used a drug dog to search the car after noticing Garmley stumble slightly and that she had “slurred speech.” Garmley had told the deputy earlier she had been stung on the foot while at a friend’s house and had Southern drive her home. 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. He said he learned in K9 training school that drug users sometimes use magnetic boxes to hide their drugs under their vehicle. Poston said he had never had a client hide anything valuable that way because the boxes can easily become detached from the vehicle.

“I asked Ms. Garmley if it belonged to her and she stated no,” Greeson wrote in the report. “Due to the vehicle belonging to Ms. Garmley and Mr. Southern driving it, both subjects were charged with possession of meth.”

“...Ms. Garmley stated this was a setup and that the dope was not hers. I advised her that it was in her possession and that she would have to speak with the judge and a lawyer.”

Garmley’s husband, Edward Joseph Garmley, 57, 4129 Browns Bridge Road, was charged with obstruction of an officer. According to the report, Joe Garmley pulled up to the vehicle when Greeson stopped it near where the Garmleys live and didn’t listen to repeated instructions to stay away. Instead Joe Garmley kept “fussing at” Angela Garmley and Southern while the investigation was ongoing the report states.

Angela Garmley is out on a $2,500 bond, and her husband is out on bond as well. Southern remained in jail as of late Wednesday evening.