A Murray County deputy who stopped a car driven by a woman who said she had spurned the sexual advances of the Murray County chief magistrate has been sentenced to 10 months in federal prison. Authorities said then-Magistrate Bryant Cochran called Greeson and told him he could find drugs on the woman's car. Authorities said those drugs were planted.
Joshua Lamar Greeson, who earlier pleaded guilty to obstructing a public corruption investigation, appeared before Federal Judge Harold Murphy in Rome, Ga. He also must perform 100 hours of public service.
Judge Murphy said he had been prepared to impose a harsher sentence, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Herskowitz recommended that he get the low end of the 10-16 months sentencing range.
Judge Murphy rejected an idea by attorney Ed Marger of Jasper, Ga., that Greeson do five months in prison and five months on home detention.
The attorney said Greeson, "Other than his family, loves hunting and being a police officer. Those are both gone."
Greeson, 26, made a tearful statement in which he said, "I apologize for my part in this whole mess. From the bottom of my heart, I'm sorry for what I done."
His grandfather, who was with the state patrol for over 20 years, said when he talked with Greeson about the case, "I told him to tell the truth."
Greeson's wife of two years, Adrian, called him a good husband who is a faithful churchgoer.
Judge Murphy said it was a "most serious offense" and "reprehensible conduct on the part of a police officer." He added, "It's a most sad occasion."
Prosecutor Herskowitz said Greeson "violated the oath he took. For our system to work, police officers have to be someone the public can trust."
He said the officer lied when he was asked "if anyone put him up to this." He said Greeson had received a phone call from then-Magistrate Cochran.
The prosecutor said Greeson also caused a flurry of activity on the part of prosecutors and law officers who were getting ready for his trial. He entered his guilty plea on the Friday before the trial was set to begin.
Attorney Marger said Greeson had been raised "to always listen to the people who are above you."
He said Greeson "has tremendous remorse."
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “This defendant took an oath to uphold the law and protect the citizens of Murray County. Instead, he lied to GBI agents investigating an ongoing public corruption case, betraying the community he swore to protect.”
Mark F. Giuliano, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated, “The criminal conduct of former Murray County Deputy Sheriff Greeson is unconscionable and unthinkable for those serving faithfully within the criminal justice community. Today’s sentencing of Greeson will provide many opportunities for him to reflect on those actions and to serve as notice to others that this conduct will not be tolerated.”
Angela Garmsley, who said she was stopped after Magistrate Cochran made inappropriate sexual overtures towards her in April 2012, was on the front row of the courtroom with her attorney, McCracken Poston of Ringgold.
Authorities said in the days and weeks following the complaint, then-Judge Cochran called several police officers to pass along a "tip" that Ms. Garmsley carried drugs in her white Dodge vehicle.
On Aug. 9, 2012, Cochran called Greeson. Five days after the call, Greeson conducted a traffic stop of Ms. Garmsley's white Dodge. During the traffic stop, Greeson found methamphetamine in a metal can hidden under the tire well of the car. After locating the drugs, Greeson arrested the driver as well as the owner of the vehicle sitting in the front passenger seat.
On Aug. 15, 2012, Greeson met with a Superior Court judge to obtain a search warrant for a urine sample from Ms. Garmsley. Authorities said, "During the meeting, Greeson falsely stated to the judge, in sum and substance, that he had not received any prior information about the white Dodge vehicle prior to stopping it."
Shortly thereafter, the GBI received information that the drugs had been planted on the vehicle by another individual. As a result of that information, the local district attorney’s office dismissed the charges against Ms. Garmsley.
GBI agents said Greeson lied when he was interviewed about the incident on Aug. 23, 2012. He falsely stated to the GBI agents that he had not received any information about the white Dodge car before he pulled it over.
He met with the GBI for a second interview on Aug. 27, 2012. During this meeting, Greeson admitted to the GBI that he had lied—in that prior to stopping the white Dodge he had, in fact, been provided with information that the vehicle was supposed to be carrying drugs.
Greeson was earlier terminated from the Murray County Sheriff’s Department.
Capt. Michael Henderson, first cousin of Cochran, was also fired and arrested by federal agents. He has not been senenced.
No charges have been brought against Cochran.