Submitted by the U.S. attorney's office
Clifford J. Joyce has pleaded guilty to planting methamphetamine on the car of a Murray County woman for the purpose of getting her arrested.
“The defendant attempted to manipulate the criminal justice system to serve his own purpose by framing someone for drug possession,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “While the narcotics charges were ultimately dismissed, this outrageous conduct cannot stand.”
“The investigation and prosecution of persons involved in public corruption are a priority of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Many of the cases such as this require partnership of local, state and federal authorities,” said GBI Director Vernon M. Keenan.
According to Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: In July 2012, a Murray County woman met with then-chief magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran regarding a legal matter. Thereafter, the woman alleged that during the meeting, Cochran made inappropriate sexual advances towards her.
In an effort to discredit the woman, Joyce and others participated in a scheme to frame the woman for drug possession. On or about Aug. 12, 2012, Joyce hid a metal tin under the tire well of the woman’s car. The metal tin contained five small packets of methamphetamine.
Two days later, on Aug. 14, 2012, Murray County Deputy Sheriff Joshua Greeson (who has since been convicted of witness tampering for lying to law enforcement officers) conducted a traffic stop of the woman’s car. During the traffic stop, Greeson searched the vehicle for drugs. Ultimately, after receiving information from Capt. Michael Henderson (who has also been convicted of witness tampering), Greeson found the metal tin of methamphetamine under the tire well. After locating the drugs, Greeson and Henderson arrested the woman and the driver of the car on narcotics charges. On Aug. 24, 2012, the charges against the woman were dismissed.
Joyce, 27, of Dalton, could receive a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. However, in determining the actual sentence, the court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 23 at 1:30 p.m. before United States District Judge Harold L. Murphy.
This case is being investigated by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey W. Davis and Michael Herskowitz are prosecuting the case.