Deputy who arrested critic of judge is indicted
1:33 pm, January 9th, 2013
A federal grand jury has charged a former Murray County sheriff’s deputy with lying to state law enforcement agents and attempting to obstruct their investigation of a false arrest linked to a former Murray County magistrate judge.
Federal authorities on Wednesday unsealed a Jan. 3 indictment of former Deputy Joshua Greeson that stems from Greeson’s arrest of last summer of Murray County resident Angela Garmley. Greeson arrested Garmley Aug. 14 on a felony drug charge, the night before then-Murray County Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran resigned to end an ethics investigation by the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. Garmley had publicly accused Cochran of attempting to trade favorable legal rulings for sex and was, according to the JQC director, its “principal informant” in the probe of Cochran.
Within a week of Garmley’s arrest, the drug charge was dismissed on the recommendation of GBI agents who said they had determined that the illegal drugs Greeson found under Garmley’s car had been planted. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation then launched a probe of the circumstances leading to Garmley’s arrest.
The federal indictment accuses Greeson of lying to the the GBI about information that federal prosecutors said he had been
given concerning a police lookout for Garmley’s vehicle. The indictment also charges the former deputy with destroying a record with the intent to obstruct the GBI investigation. Federal prosecutors said Greeson deleted information relevant to the GBI investigation from his cell phone.
Shortly after Garmley’s charges were dismissed, Murray County Sheriff Howard Ensley fired Greeson and his supervisor, Capt. Michael Henderson. The sheriff told the Daily Report he fired the pair after the GBI informed him that both Greeson and Henderson—who is the former magistrate judge’s first cousin—had made false statements to GBI agents investigating Garmley’s arrest.
The federal indictment charged only Greeson, but U.S. Attorney Sally Yates said in a statement Wednesday that the investigation is continuing.
On Wednesday morning, Greeson’s lawyer, Edwin Marger of Jasper, said that Greeson “is innocent of doing anything wrong,” and expressed surprise that neither Henderson nor Cochran had been indicted. He said Greeson was en route to Rome Wednesday morning to turn himself in to federal authorities and that he intended to enter a not guilty plea to the charges in U.S. District Court.
“My client was a very good, able and caring policeman who was following the orders of his superior officers and meant no harm to the government or to society as a whole,” Marger said. “He’s a good guy.”
Marger also said that his client, who was patrolling with a drug dog the night that Garmley was arrested, was not under orders to arrest Garmley. Marger also said that Greeson did not plant the small tin of methamphetamine that he found attached to the underside of Garmley’s car during the traffic stop.
“The dog alerted to the drugs,” Marger said. “[Greeson] was doing his job, and doing it in the best manner he knew how, taking orders as he should from his superior officer.”
Marger said that Greeson’s orders “were to do something he probably shouldn’t have done. … He was ordered to be on the lookout for the particular car which Ms. Garmley was driving.”
Garmley actually was a passenger in her car when Greeson stopped it for failing to dim the headlights for an oncoming car. During the stop, the deputy also arrested the driver, Jason Southern, and Garmley’s ex-husband, Joe Garmley, who arrived at the scene during the traffic stop. Charges against both men also were dismissed.
Marger said that prior to his indictment, Greeson “sat down with a panel from the U.S. Attorney’s office, including the
FBI, the GBI and an assistant U.S. attorney. “My client did not ask for anything in order to do that,” he said. “He proffered the information which he gave them without asking for any type of recompense. My client feels that he is not guilty of anything, but he was told by the U.S. Attorney that he would be indicted.”
Former judge Cochran’s attorney, Atlanta lawyer Page Pate, and Garmley’s lawyer, former Georgia legislator McCracken Poston, have told the Daily Report that the federal grand jury also has been investigating Cochran.
Cochran resigned as Murray County’s magistrate judge shortly after he was re-elected last summer to end a JQC investigation into allegations that he had solicited sexual favors from women who had cases pending in his court. He also was being investigated for pre-signing blank search and arrest warrants for use by local law enforcement officers whenever he was out of the office.
Cochran said at the time he accepted “full responsibility for the warrants that were pre-signed,” emphasizing that they were “solely the reason” for his resignation.
Pate told the Daily Report in December that based on his investigation, he and Cochran believed that grand jury witness testimony would be “favorable” to the former judge. On Wednesday, Pate told the Daily Report that he had not seen Greeson’s
indictment or discussed it with Cochran and would “have no further comment.”
Ringgold attorney Lawrence Stagg, who represents Henderson, Greeson’s supervisor, could not be reached for comment. But he told the Daily Report shortly before the deputy captain was fired last summer that Henderson was called to the scene of the traffic stop that led to Garmley’s arrest to back up Greeson, although he did not make any arrests.
Stagg said “a non-law enforcement person” planted the illegal drugs beneath Garmley’s car and later confessed to law enforcement authorities. Stagg did not name the individual who had confessed but said Garmley and her ex-husband both knew him, adding, “There are games being played by people in this case that I’m not privy to.”
On Wednesday morning, JQC Director Jeffrey Davis said the commission had learned during the Cochran investigation that Garmley “was arrested under suspicious circumstances.”
“This was our principle informant against the judge,” he said. “We developed the evidence and initially provided it to the GBI.”
“We will continue to cooperate with law enforcement” in connection with criminal allegations that surface during judicial investigations, he added.
Poston, Garmley’s lawyer, said that Garmley has been cooperating with the federal investigation. “This apparently was a fairly widespread conspiracy to set my client up,” he said. “I’m glad now that it is moving forward. I wish Officer
Greeson and the others yet unindicted a fair judicial process, much more fair
than they were willing to give my client.”