NationNation Now

Georgia judge indicted after claims of sex assault, framing accuser

Justice SystemCrimeSexual AssaultLaws and LegislationCourts and the Judiciary
Georgia judge who later resigned accused of his using his power, influence to frame accuser
Federal grand jury indicts former Georgia judge who's accused of depriving three people of their civil rights
Sexual assault, witness tampering and fake drug bust among accusations against Ga. judge, who later resigned

A former top judge in northern Georgia was indicted on allegations of abusing his position to solicit sexual favors and using his influence with police to frame a woman who accused him of propositioning her, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.

The indictment against former Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran accuses him of sexually assaulting a county employee, illegally searching the cellphone of another county employee and framing a woman who rejected his sexual advances. The suspected acts, prosecutors say, deprived the victims of their rights in violation of federal civil rights law.

The woman whom prosecutors say was framed had met with Cochran in April 2012 regarding a legal matter she wanted to pursue. In a lawsuit, she later accused him of being inappropriate at the meeting.  

Cochran, 44, presided as chief magistrate from 2004 until he resigned in August 2012 amid a judicial ethics investigation that among other things was probing whether he illegally pre-signed arrest warrants. As chief magistrate, Cochran was responsible for appointing judges and assigning cases involving small claims, misdemeanors and warrants.

Prosecutors allege that Cochran retaliated against the claims of the woman who had met with him in April by telling police that she was carrying drugs in her car.

Three days before he resigned, Cochran had one of his tenants at a property he owned plant methamphetamine inside the car, prosecutors say.  The day before Cochran's resignation, Murray County sheriff’s deputies pulled the woman over and searched her car but didn’t immediately find drugs.   

Cochran’s cousin, a sheriff’s captain, looped the judge in on the situation. Prosecutors say that Cochran relayed to his cousin the drugs' exact location, where the deputies then found them. The woman was jailed, though charges were later dismissed.

The deputy who pulled her over and the sheriff’s captain eventually pleaded guilty to witness tampering. But Cochran first tried to get a witness not to testify against them, according to prosecutors.

“Cochran is charged with crimes that reflect that he completely abused the power and trust given to him by the people of Murray County,” U.S. Atty. Sally Quillian Yates said in a statement. 

Cochran faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on one count of conspiracy against rights, three counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, and one count each of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and tampering with a witness. The indictment identifies each of the victims only by their initials.

At an arraignment Thursday, Cochran is expected to plead not guilty, his attorney told The Times. Page Pate said that the allegations and evidence presented in the indictment are no different than what was said early in the investigation in 2012.

“We thought then that the allegations [were] particularly weak and they still are,” Pate said. “If they had a good case, they would have charged him a long time ago.”

A lawsuit brought in federal court by court clerks who accused Cochran of sexual assault was dismissed last year and has since be refiled in state court. Pate said he expects Cochran to fight the new civil case as well.

McCracken Poston, a lawyer who represents the woman who was implicated in the fake drug bust, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she looks forward “to watching Mr. Cochran avail himself of each and every constitutional right and privilege that he wanted to deny my clients.”

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
Justice SystemCrimeSexual AssaultLaws and LegislationCourts and the Judiciary
  • White House intruder arrested after entering front doors
    White House intruder arrested after entering front doors

    An intruder scaled a White House fence and made it all the way into the building Friday evening before he was caught and wrestled to the ground by security officers, the Secret Service said. President Obama and his family had already left for Camp David when the incident occurred.

  • Man who killed daughter and grandchildren had violent past
    Man who killed daughter and grandchildren had violent past

    Don Spirit, a Florida grandfather who fatally shot his daughter Sarah Lorraine Spirit and six grandchildren before killing himself, had a long history of domestic violence — at one point pushing his pregnant daughter against a refrigerator and assaulting and threatening his former...

  • Rain pounds Texas: A sign the drought is ending?
    Rain pounds Texas: A sign the drought is ending?

    In Texas, where the governor once urged the public to pray for rain, this week’s torrential storms might finally be a sign of lasting relief for the state plagued by years of drought. Or maybe not.

  • For many in Congress, a first test on issues of war
    For many in Congress, a first test on issues of war

    Lawmakers' votes this week on whether or not to train and equip Syrian opposition forces in the fight against Islamic State were arguably the most consequential after nearly two years in which Congress is likely to set a new low for productivity.

  • Egyptian militant admits links to 1998 U.S. embassy bombings

    A longtime Egyptian militant with ties to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden admitted in federal court Friday that he had links to the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, a surprise guilty plea that the judge sharply questioned because it reduces his prison time from a potential life sentence to...

  • Four takeaways from the vote in Congress to arm Syrian rebels
    Four takeaways from the vote in Congress to arm Syrian rebels

    What was supposed to be a no-drama final session of Congress before the campaign season turned into anything but as President Obama's new strategy to combat the threat from Islamic State resulted in a wrenching vote that is likely to reverberate through the midterm election and...

Comments
Loading