North Georgia judge resigns amid judicial inquiry
MURRAY COUNTY, GA (WRCB) - Over the past few weeks, Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran has been accused of asking a woman for sex while working on her case and pre-signing police warrants.
Amid the scandal, Channel 3 has confirmed Cochran submitted his letter of resignation to Governor Nathan Deal this week.
Channel 3 has obtained the inquiry the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission submitted to the Supreme Court, detailing parts of its investigation.
In the meantime, the attorney representing Angela Garmley, the woman accusing Cochran of unwanted sexual advances, is speaking out about her recent arrest.
In his letter to the Governor, former Murray County Magistrate Bryant Cochran thanked the people of Murray County and Georgia for allowing him to serve.
He also released the following statement:
"As of 8/15/12 at 5:00 p.m., I resigned my position of Chief Magistrate Judge of Murray County. I accept full responsibility of the warrants that were pre-signed. This is SOLELY the reason for my resignation. My first responsibility is to my family and our well-being. Eight years ago I asked to be a public official, but I never asked for my loved ones to be brought under fire. Your family and mine should be off limits! These attacks have crossed a line that shouldn't be acceptable to anyone. At the end of the day this is just a job and I can't think of any job worth what we've been put through. Thank you to my friends, family and supporters for everything. I hope you understand and respect my decision. Sometimes it is not a question of whether or not to fight but what are you going to win?
An inquiry submitted by the Judicial Qualifications Commission to the Supreme Court shows on top of pre-signed warrants, the JQC was looking into whether Cochran "allowed the prestige of his office to advance his private interests."
The JQC submitted a consent order to the Court acknowledging Cochran's resignation. It also says Cochran can not seek or accept an appointed or elected judicial office in the state of Georgia again.
"This investigation, I think, only scratches the surface of a lot of things that were going on by this judge," says McCracken Poston.
Poston represents Angela Garmley, who is accusing Cochran of propositioning her in turn for a favorable ruling.
On Tuesday, according to a Murray County arrest report, Garmley was pulled over for having bright lights on.
She consented to a search of her car and a drug-sniffing dog located a magnetic container under the car.
She was booked for meth possession.
Poston claims, "Someone was in her yard, less than 24 hours before, with connections to the judge, in the middle of the night, near her car."
Poston says she was a passenger in the car and was singled out.
He says beyond the sexual allegations, Cochran is also being investigated for other possible criminal activity, including allegations of witness intimidation and witness influencing.
"Collectively, it raises more than an eyebrow and needs to be investigated by an independent agency," says Poston.
Poston is calling for the GBI to do an independent investigation not only on Garmley's arrest, but also Cochran's activities both in the office and out of the office.
The Murray County District Attorney, Bert Poston, tells Channel 3 he will meet with the JQC Friday, to decide if he will conduct a separate investigation.
As far as Cochran's vacant seat, the Superior Court judges of Murray County will have to make an appointment.
Count on Channel 3 to follow this story.