UPDATE: Former Murray County magistrate sentenced to 5 years - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Former Murray County magistrate sentenced to 5 years

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MURRAY COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -

It is a case that has been three years in the making. A former Murray County judge found guilty on federal charges was sentenced to prison Wednesday.

Former magistrate Bryant Cochran was convicted of orchestrating the false arrest of a woman he had sexually propositioned. 

The judge ordered Bryant Cochran to serve five years in prison.

Here is a brief timeline of what led up to the sentencing:

In July 2012, allegations surfaced Cochran told Angela Garmley he would help her on a case if she would have sex with him in return.

Then in August, Garmley was arrested when meth was found under her car. Investigators later found Cochran pressured a friend of his and two people in the Murray County Sheriff's Office to orchestrate the arrest.

In May 2014, Cochran was indicted and in December of 2014 his case when to trial, where he was found guilty on six federal charges.

"Do not feel sorry or have any sympathy for judge Cochran. He did it. He is corrupt. He is a corrupt judge and he besmirches the image of the court," said Stuart James, Angela Garmley's attorney.

Attorneys for Angela Garmley say they are pleased with the 5 year sentence.

 "I think Judge Murphy summed it up today when he said this was 'a case of absolute corruption of a judicial officer,'" said McCracken Poston, Angela Garmley's attorney.

Before the sentence was handed down, Garmley told the court how Cochran's actions have affected her: "I am in fear of going everywhere because of not knowing what could happen next. The embarrassment and the emotional impact, and fear, will be felt for many years to come."

The judge scolded Cochran for violating the public's trust.
  
"Whenever you have a public corruption offense it creates a dynamic where the public doesn't trust the government or its judges. Here, Mr. Cochran completely subverted the judiciary and basically used the bench to promote his personal agenda," said U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Davis.

 "To be representing a client who then is targeted by law enforcement and a judicial officer is a feeling that I hope I never have again in my career," said Poston.

Poston says there was a silver lining for his client. Garmley, who was legitimately arrested for meth last year, has since turned her life around.
  
"Take a look at this girl. If you look at her on her mugshot and you look at her today, this is one clean person and Ken and I are exceptionally proud of her," said James.

As for Cochran, his attorney Page Pate said after the sentencing, "He is confident that we're going to pursue the appeal for him. We are going to pursue the appeal for him. We want another trial. I know it sounds crazy to say that I want to come back here and retry this case but I really do. And he does as well."

Several of Cochran's family members were in the courtroom Wednesday. They did not want to comment. 

The judge denied Cochran's request to be out on bail during the appeal process meaning he will being going straight to prison soon. An appeal can take anywhere from one to two years.

Once Cochran is out, he will have three years of supervised release.


PREVIOUS STORY: Bryant Cochran, the former Murray County Magistrate, was sentenced to 5 years in federal prison Wednesday, which will be followed by 3 years of supervised release and 100 hours of community service for his role in the 2012 case that involved witness tampering, sexually assaulting a county employee and illegally searching a county employee's personal cellphone.

“Cochran completely abused the trust given to him by the good citizens of Murray County,” said Acting United States Attorney John A. Horn. “Cochran used the power of the bench to victimize a citizen seeking justice and to exploit his staff. There is no greater breakdown in the justice system than when the judge himself violates other citizens’ rights to simply advantage himself.”

The judge also denied a defense request for Cochran to stay out on bail pending the appeal. This ruling means that Cochran will stay behind bars while the appeal process takes place. The appeal could take up to a year or longer.

In December, 2014, Cochran was found guilty on six federal charges: conspiracy against rights, three counts of deprivation of rights under color of law and conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and tampering with a witness.

Below is the victim impact statement read by Angela Garmley in court today: 

Your Honor Judge Murphy,
 
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak to the court.
I would also like to thank the GBI and FBI for all of their hard
work bringing this case forward, revealing the conspiracy that the
former Judge Bryant Cochran set in motion. And I would also like
to thank the federal prosecutors in this case, Jeff Davis and Bill
McKinnon, for their determination in seeking justice. I know that I
was not always an easy witness for them.
 
Your honor, Judge Cochran tried to take advantage of me on
two different occasions. In the first, I would have had to perform
sexual favors to get justice in his court. For a couple of days I
actually thought this was the only way I would get the people who
assaulted me brought to justice. When I ended up not complying
with his requests, he treated me rudely in court, and the cases of
the three people who assaulted me vanished soon after their arrests.
 
Secondly, after I went public with Judge Cochran’s sexual
demands, the JQC was called in to investigate. Judge Cochran,
knowing that I had issues with meth, for revenge or to damage my
credibility, or both, had meth planted on my car, had me stopped
and arrested, taken from the car in front of my 6-year-old daughter
Nikki Jo, and I was sent to jail. My daughter was terrified and
heartbroken. Later, my mug shot was all over the news.
 
Your honor, Mr. Cochran caused me great emotional pain by
having the drugs planted on my car and having me falsely arrested.
From that moment my life would never be the same, nor would
that of my children. We find it hard to trust anyone, especially the
law. This drove me even deeper into my meth habit and bad
associations and I was arrested again, legitimately, last July. That
arrest was a wake-up call for me. The Court should know that I
have completed the house arrest portion of my sentence for that
offense and have been in counseling and that l am drug free, and
have taken on greater responsibilities in my career.
 
These things that were caused by Bryant Cochran, however,
have hurt my family and me, emotionally and financially. Even
since he was found guilty, my car has been vandalized on three
different occasions that l have reported. l am in fear of going
everywhere because of not knowing what could happen next. The
embarrassment and the emotional impact, and fear, will be felt for
many years to come.
 
Your Honor, l urge this court to send the message in the
sentence that in North Georgia corrupt judges will not be tolerated
If citizens cannot trust judges, then there is no one to trust.
 
Thank you,
Angela Garmley


PREVIOUS STORY: A former Murray County magistrate has been denied a new trial.

That means sentencing for Bryant Cochran will move forward.

He was convicted in December on six federal charges including witness tampering, and conspiracy against rights.  

One of the victims in the case, Angela Garmley, sued Cochran in 2013 for soliciting sex in his chambers, and then coming up with a drug-planting scheme to get her arrested.  

Cochran later resigned from his position.

He filed for a new trial citing errors, including testimony that was excluded.

No date has been set for his sentencing.  

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