Former Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran was charged in a six count federal indictment on May 13, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia with offenses that included planting methamphetamine on an innocent citizen according to facts revealed in both the indictment and the prosecutor’s press release. If true, corruption that makes it way to the Georgia judiciary is very disturbing. Mr. Cochran is of course presumed innocent of all charges. Of the three types of fraud – – corruption, misappropriation of assets, and financial statement fraud – – corruption is the most difficult to detect. Most public corruption cases involve bribes, and neither the corrupt giver or receiver have an incentive to report the crime. Further, the “victim” is usually the taxpaying public which is completely unaware of the corruption. This alleged corruption is much different in that the alleged victims had incentives to cry foul.
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court: From January 1, 2004 to August 15, 2012, Bryant Cochran served as the Chief Magistrate Judge in Murray County, Ga. In that position, Cochran sexually assaulted a Murray County employee and unlawfully searched the personal cellular telephone of another Murray County employee.
In addition, on April 9, 2012, Cochran met with a female citizen regarding a legal matter. During the meeting, Cochran made inappropriate sexual advances towards the citizen. By mid-July 2012, the allegations of Cochran’s sexual misconduct towards the citizen had become public. In response, Cochran called several local police officers providing them with a “tip” – that the citizen carried drugs in her vehicle.
In an effort to discredit the citizen, on or about August 12, 2012, Clifford J. Joyce (who was a tenant of Cochran’s and who has been convicted of conspiring to distribute a controlled substance) planted a metal tin containing five packets of methamphetamine under the fender of the citizen’s car.
Two days later, on August 14, 2012, Murray County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joshua Greeson (who has since been convicted of witness tampering) conducted a traffic stop on a car occupied by the citizen. During the traffic stop, several officers and a police drug dog searched the car for approximately 15 to 20 minutes – but did not find any drugs. Thereafter, Captain Michael Henderson (who is Cochran’s cousin and who has also been convicted of witness tampering) had an approximately two minute telephone conversation with Cochran. Following that call, Henderson told an officer at the scene that according to his information; the citizen hid her drugs in a magnetic box under the left, rear tire well. Upon receiving that information, Greeson found the metal box magnetically attached to the car in that precise location. Inside the box, Greeson recovered five small packets containing methamphetamine. Greeson then told the citizen that he had recovered drugs from her car. At that point, the citizen stated that she had been set up. Despite this, Greeson arrested the citizen and transported her to jail.
On August 15, 2012, the day after the arrest, Cochran resigned his position as Murray County’s Chief Magistrate Judge. On August 22, 2012, Joyce admitted to law enforcement officers that he planted drugs – after which the local District Attorney dismissed the charges against the woman. Finally, in an apparent effort to cover up the framing of the woman, Cochran tried to persuade a witness to provide false information to law enforcement officers.
On May 13, 2014, a federal grand jury indicted Cochran, 44, of Chatsworth, Ga. for: one count of Conspiracy against Rights; three counts of Deprivation of Rights under Color of Law, one count of Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance, and one count of Tampering with a Witness. The most serious of the charges carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. 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.