Former Murray County Judge Found Guilty By Federal Jury
ROME, Ga. – Former Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant L. Cochran has been found guilty by a federal jury for arranging the false arrest of a woman who alleged that she had been sexually propositioned by Cochran, for tampering with a witness, and for sexually assaulting a county employee.
“Cochran abused the trust placed in him by the people of Murray County,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “Cochran used the power and influence of his judicial position in a way that is the fundamental opposite of justice, arranging to have a citizen falsely arrested after she accused him of sexual misconduct. There is no greater breakdown in the justice system than when a judge uses his authority to wrongly seek to deprive a citizen of her liberty.”
J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated: “The FBI continues to commit significant resources toward investigating allegations of criminal conduct by public officials. This conviction of former Magistrate Judge Cochran in federal court illustrates our commitment in following the facts in these otherwise sensitive investigations.”
“The GBI is committed to working with our federal partners to hold accountable those whom the public trust to uphold the law. When someone in a position of authority victimizes citizens, law enforcement must be prepared to fully investigate these abuses of power,” said Vernon Keenan, Director, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
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 based on the attempted “framing”) planted a metal tin containing five packets of methamphetamine under 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 ten 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 of her car. 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: (1) Conspiracy against Rights; (2) Deprivation of Rights under Color of Law, (3) Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance, and (4) Tampering with a Witness. The trial in this case began on Tuesday, December 2, and the jury began deliberations on December 10, 2014. The jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts the following day, December 11, 2014. Cochran will be sentenced February 20, 2015, at 1:30 p.m.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey W. Davis and William L. McKinnon, Jr. are prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Rome Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.