ROME, Georgia (press release)—Former Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant L. Cochran has been sentenced to federal prison for orchestrating the false arrest of a woman who had been sexually propositioned by Cochran, for tampering with a witness, for sexually assaulting a county employee and for illegally searching a county employee’s personal cell phone.
“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.”
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Horn, 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, Georgia.
In that position, on April 9, 2012, Cochran met with a female citizen regarding a routine legal matter. During the meeting, Cochran made inappropriate sexual advances towards the citizen, including an offer to trade sex for a favorable legal ruling. By mid-July 2012, the allegations of Cochran’s sexual misconduct towards the citizen had become public and gained significant media coverage. In response, Cochran called at least six local and state police officers providing them with a so-called “tip”—that the citizen carried drugs in her vehicle. Cochran also encouraged several of the police officers to stop the citizen because pulling her over would assist Cochran and would dissipate the heat caused by her complaint.
In a further effort to discredit the citizen, Cochran conspired with Clifford J. Joyce (who was Cochran’s tenant) to have the citizen framed for drug possession. Specifically, on or about August 12, 2012, Joyce planted a metal tin containing five packets of methamphetamine under the fender of the citizen’s car.
As the Chief Magistrate Judge, Cochran also sexually assaulted a Murray County court employee and unlawfully searched the personal cellular telephone of another Murray County employee.
On May 13, 2014, a federal grand jury indicted Cochran, 45, of Chatsworth, Georgia 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 of Cochran began on December 2, 2014, and on December 11, 2014, the jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts (after one day of deliberations).
Bryant L. Cochran is now sentenced to five years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and 100 hours of community service.