The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The GBI has launched a criminal investigation of a judge who pre-signed arrest warrants and is also looking into the arrest of a woman just days after she publicly accused the judge of propositioning her, a prosecutor said.
Murray County District Attorney Bert Poston said that after meeting Friday with Judicial Qualifications Commission investigator Richard Hyde, who discovered the pre-signed warrants, he formally asked the GBI to look into the matter.
Bryant Cochran resigned Wednesday as the county’s chief Magistrate Court judge, ending the state judicial watchdog agency’s probe into ethical violations. Cochran, a former police officer who is not a lawyer, issued a statement Thursday accepting responsibility for the pre-signed warrants that were left for officers to fill out when he was not around.
GBI Director Vernon Keenan said his investigation is a top priority. “It strikes at the heart of the criminal justice system and the rule of law,” he said.
When seeking a warrant, an officer gives sworn testimony to a judge to make a case for the arrest. Upon finding probable cause, the judge then signs the warrant, which can be used to take a suspect into custody.
“Absent that happening,” Keenan said, “it strikes at the heart of the administration of justice. These are very serious allegations.”
The GBI also will look into Tuesday’s arrest of Angela Garmley, a Chatsworth woman who recently accused Cochran of propositioning her when she appeared before him in his office. She said Cochran told her he wanted a mistress he could trust and asked her to return to his office in a few days wearing a dress with no underwear.
Garmley was arrested during a traffic stop and charged with possession of methamphetamine. Her lawyer, McCracken Poston, who is not related to the district attorney, said Garmley did not know the drugs were in a magnetic box underneath her car. Poston suggested the drugs had been planted there and that arresting officers had been tipped off.
Cochran has denied propositioning Garmley. His lawyer, Christopher Townley, referred to allegations that Cochran set up his accuser as “silliness.”