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This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Four of the seven law enforcement personnel making our hall of shame this week were women. You've come a long way, ladies! Let's get to it:

In Washington, DC, a Prince Georges County (Maryland) police officer was arrested last Monday as part of a drug-dealing investigation in which more than a dozen people were also busted. Vanessa Edwards-Hammond is accused of tipping off a suspect that he was being wiretapped. The investigation by local and federal authorities targeted a drug-dealing network that authorities say sold heroin, cocaine, marijuana and prescription pills throughout the region. It is unclear what the exact charges are.

In Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, a Wauwatosa police detective was arrested last Tuesday after being caught red-handed pilfering drugs from the evidence room. Detective Robin Schumacher was caught on surveillance cameras entering the evidence room and leaving with bags of drugs, then sorting through them at her desk. She went down after a review of computer records showed that the evidence room door was opened with a standard key within minutes of Shumacher entering the building on six different in a one-month period ending earlier this month. Investigators then set up the cameras designed to catch her in the act. They did. Among the drugs she pocketed on the day she was busted were oxycodone, diazepam, Cymbalta, hydrocodone, and lorazepam.

In Milwaukee, a Chicago Aviation Police officer was arrested last Wednesday on charges she worked as a mule for a Chicago "drug kingpin." Angela Brown, 47, is accused of driving loads of heroin from Chicago to Milwaukee for the past six months. She went down after narcotics agents tracked her with a GPS device placed on her vehicle. She is charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

In Columbus, Ohio, a Columbus police detective was arrested last Thursday on charges he was providing protection to a drug dealer. Detective Stevie Billups, 48, allegedly met a drug dealer at a local casino where he gambled heavily and provided paid protection for the man when he had to pick up payments for drug transactions and when he had to deliver loads of heroin. Billups went down after federal agents working a narcotics case saw him giving casino chips to a drug dealer, and when they arrested that dealer, he alerted them to Billups' involvement. Billups had been to the casino more than a hundred times since it opened in October and had bought at least $100,000 worth of chips there. But he lost more at gambling than he won and was suffering financial distress. He is charged with attempted distribution of heroin and possession of weapon during a drug trafficking offense.

In Salt Lake City, a former West Valley City police officer was arrested last Thursday on charges he stole morphine pills from a deceased cancer patient. Ryan Humphrey is accused of pocketing 22 pills when he responded to the death of the patient. He went down when a backup officer reported his actions to a supervisor and resigned shortly thereafter. He is charged with theft and felony possession of morphine.

In Littleton, Colorado, a Littleton police officers was arrested last Friday after buying 37 ecstasy tablets and 6.3 grams of powder ecstasy in an undercover drug buy at his home. Jeffrey Allan Johnston, 46, went down after the FBI recorded phone calls between him and a confidential informant and raided his home after the deal went down. During the search of his home, investigators also found suspected cocaine, steroids, and hundreds of prescription pain pills.

In Toledo, Ohio, a Lucas County Jail guard was arrested Saturday on charges she was smuggling drugs into the jail. Michelle Vining, 31, went down after a three-week investigation and was caught carrying marijuana and prescription pills as she headed to work. She faces three unspecified felony charges and is now looking for a new job.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Two Virginia top cops copped to drug corruption offenses this past week, and that's just for starters. There is more as well. Let's get to it:

In Halifax, Virginia, the former Halifax County sheriff pleaded guilty last Friday to ripping off drug task funds and asset forfeiture funds for his own personal use. Former Sheriff Stanley Noblin copped to five counts of embezzlement in connection with the thefts. According to prosecutors -- and uncontested by Noblin -- Noblin ripped off at least $48,500 from the department's asset forfeiture fund and $32,500 from the drug task force fund. He cited financial hardships. He will be sentenced in October.

In Milwaukee, a Milwaukee police officer pleaded guilty last Friday to conducting illegal strip searches of drug suspects. Officer Jack Knight, 32, also agreed to resign from the department. He is the second officer convicted in the case. Michael Vagnini was sentenced to 26 months in prison last month, and two other officers face similar charges and are scheduled for trials. Vagnini appears to have been the active perpetrator of the strip searches, which included rectal probes, but the other three officers are being charged because their presence without objection asserted to victims that they were not free to leave and had to consent to the searches. Some of the victims have now filed a civil rights lawsuit against the department and individual officers.

In Abingdon, Virginia, the former Marion police chief pleaded guilty Tuesday to dealing meth, cocaine, and pain pills. Michael Dean Roberts, 54, copped to one counts of conspiring to distribute controlled substances. He conceded selling at least 7,331 hydrocodone pills, 365 grams of methamphetamine, and small amounts of cocaine and oxycodone from 2006 through June. A confidential informant bought hydrocodone pills from the police chief on three separate occasions in May and June. Some of the drugs came from the department's evidence room. He's looking at up to 20 years in federal prison when he's sentenced in October.

In San Diego, a former Calexico-area Customs officer was sentenced last Tuesday to 12 years in federal prison for taking tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to allow drugs to be smuggled into the country. Oscar Osbaldo Ortiz-Martinez had been convicted of bribery and conspiracy to import controlled substances in September 2012 after he went down in a sting. Undercover agents and cooperating witnesses posed as drug traffickers seeking free entrée through Customs inspection lanes and paid Ortiz-Martinez $22,000 to clear the way. He also agreed to allow kilograms of cocaine through his lane in exchange for another $30,000 and 15 kilograms of meth, but was then busted.

In New York City, a former NYPD officer was sentenced last Friday to six months in prison for lying about a supposed drug deal he said he witnessed. Isaias Alicea had said he saw two men involved in a drug sale in the lobby of the Manhattanville Houses housing project, but surveillance video from the lobby that showed the two men never coming into contact with each other. The drug charge against the suspect was dropped, and Alicea was charged instead. Known as an aggressive cop with a lot of arrests, Alicea had earlier pleaded guilty to administrative charges of violating someone's constitutional rights by unlawfully entering and searching a Brooklyn home.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

More trouble for Philly and its rogue narcs, an Alabama jail guard goes down, so does a Mississippi narc, and a Calfornia narc cops a plea to stealing dope for resale. Let's get to it:

In Philadelphia, another lawsuit was filed last Wednesday against the city's rogue narcs. A Philadelphia family sued the city and five individual members of a narcotics strike force over a December 2011 drug raid at their home. They claim the officers never identified themselves, burst into their home with guns drawn, "grabbed and verbally abused" them, and assaulted some of them. The suit also claims the narcotics officers falsified an affidavit used to obtain a search warrant, then fabricated evidence to support their claims that the family was involved in criminal activity. "The unlawful searches, use of force and detentions in this case were the direct result of all defendants’ pattern, practice and custom of subjecting citizens such as the plaintiffs to search, force and detention in the absence of probable cause," the complaint reads. "The defendant officers acted willfully, deliberately, maliciously or with reckless disregard of the plaintiffs’ constitutional and statutory rights." In addition to the federal civil rights count, the suit also contains supplemental state law claims of false arrest and imprisonment, assault and battery, negligent infliction of emotional distress, outrageous conduct causing emotional distress, defamation, and invasion of privacy. The Philadelphia PD has been hit by numerous lawsuits related to its narcotics squads.

In Brewton, Alabama, an Escambia County jail guard was arrested last Friday on charges she was smuggling drugs and other contraband into the jail. Jane Rogers Johnson, 58, went down in an unrelated investigation into another person posing as an attorney to get access to inmates, which led to her activities being revealed. She is accused of smuggling cocaine, pills, and other items into the jail and faces two counts of possession of a controlled substance, one count of drug trafficking, and one count of violating the state's ethics law. At last report, she was being held without bond.

In Jackson, Mississippi, a former Jackson narcotics detective pleaded guilty last Wednesday to helping in a scheme to get a man a reduced sentence in a drug case. Robert Shegog was one of three officers who took $45,000 in return for telling prosecutors that the man was an informant and deserved a lesser sentence. He pleaded guilty to one count of bribery. He's now looking at up to 10 years in federal prison.

In San Luis Obispo, California, a San Luis Obispo police officer pleaded guilty Monday to taking cash and drugs from two people, then selling fake drugs to dealers. Corey Pierce had been assigned to the county sheriff's narcotics unit, but has been on administrative leave since the FBI began investigating after his arrest in February. He has now copped to one federal count of extortion and will be sentenced in December.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Thuggery in Philly, protecting drug shipments in Houston and Detroit, sticky fingers in Los Angeles, and that's not all. Let's get to it:

In Philadelphia, five undercover narcotics officers are the subject of a civil rights lawsuit filed by a man who claims he was wrongfully arrested during a drug raid at a friend's auto shop that included acts of police brutality directed at him and others present. Thomas Basara claims the narcs used a battering ram to break down an office door and conduct a search without a search warrant.  The lawsuit says the narcs never identified themselves as police, asked those present "where the money and drugs were hidden," then brutally assaulted them. Office Thomas Liciardello was named as an officer who struck one man with a steel pipe, knocking him unconscious, then kicked him in the mouth so hard his front upper row of teeth were separated from their roots.  He also broke the man's index finger and pointed his service revolver at the man's head, threatening to kill him. Basara claims that officers also beat him, knocking out two of his teeth and causing rib and back injuries, and that the narcs stole $41,000 in cash as drug profits, but only turned in $6,600, keeping $34,400 for themselves. The other officers named in the suit are Brian Reynolds, Brian Speiser, Michael Spicer and Lt. Robert Otto.

In Orange, Texas, a former Orange police officer was arrested last Tuesday after a citizen's complaint that he was stealing prescription pain pills. Taylor Scott Saleme resigned from his position as the complaint was investigated. He had worked as a Jefferson County sheriff's deputy for two years before joining the Orange Police Department last August. He is charged with possession of a controlled substance -- hydrocodone. He has bailed out of jail.

In Washington Park, Illinois, a Washington Park police officer was arrested last Thursday on charges he smuggled drugs to a female jail inmate. Douglas Young, 61, is charged with official misconduct for bringing narcotics and prescription drugs to an inmate of the St. Clair County Jail, where he "used his position as a law enforcement officer" to arrange jail visits to a woman in custody on theft charges. He was being held on $25,000 bail.

In Los Angeles, a former LA County sheriff's narcotics sergeant was arrested Monday on charges he stole $4,000 in cash during a sting set up by his own department. Bonnie Bryant III, 57, took the money in a July 2012 sting set up by the department's criminal internal affairs division. That sting went down after Bryant was caught on a business surveillance camera stealing money during a May 2012 bust. He is charged with one felony count each of grand theft of personal property and embezzlement by a public official. He was a narcotics task force supervisor when arrested and resigned from the department in December. He's looking at up to four years and six months if convicted.

In Houston, two former Houston police officer were convicted last Friday of protecting what they thought were drug shipments in return for bribes. Emerson Canizales, 27, and Michael Miceli, 27, went down after investigators learned they were involved in illegal conduct involving drugs and bribes. Both men acknowledged taking money to protect the drug load. They were convicted of extortion under color of law and face up to 20 years in prison when sentenced in September.

In Detroit, a former Highland park police officer was sentenced last Thursday to a year and a day in prison for agreeing to take money in exchange for delivering a shipment of cocaine. Craig Clayton, 55, was one of four Highland Park officers charged with taking bribes and conspiring to distribute cocaine. Clayton was accused of bringing his badge and gun to protect a shipment, and accepting $1,500 in cash from an FBI informant. He copped to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion. Two other officers in the case have pleaded guilty.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Wisconsin cop and a Washington cop face justice for their pervy behavior, and a New Mexico jail guard and a Georgia cop get in trouble over marijuana. Let's get to it:

In Macon, Georgia, a Macon police officer was arrested last Thursday on drug and child endangerment charges. Officer Kontrina Lanette Toomer was arrested after a raid of her home turned up 11 ounces of marijuana packaged for sale. She is charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and child endangerment. Internal affairs officers took her gun and badge. The child endangerment charge appears to be merely because children were present in her home when marijuana was present.

In Clovis, New Mexico, a Curry County jail guard was arrested last Tuesday on charges she tried to smuggle marijuana into the jail. Erin Shields, 22, allegedly communicated with an inmate her willingness to bring in contraband and arranged for a third party to place it in her vehicle. She was carrying marijuana and tobacco on her when she was stopped and searched by sheriff's detectives as she arrived for work at the jail. She is charged with distribution of marijuana and bringing contraband into a place of imprisonment. Both are fourth-degree felonies. She is now a former Curry County jail guard.

In Auburn, Washington, a former Auburn police officer pleaded guilty Monday to fondling a woman he had pulled over for a traffic violation and then accused of smoking marijuana. John Michael Clemmons, 50, went down for a January 2012 incident in which he pulled over a 24-year-old woman who had pulled out of a bar parking lot. After following her to her home, where she parked her car, he had her take a field sobriety test, which she passed. Clemmons handcuffed the woman in the back of his patrol car and told her she could be taken to jail, that he smelled marijuana, and that he needed to search her. The woman said that while she was still handcuffed, he felt underneath her bra and clothing below her waist. She said he also used his flashlight to look inside her pants. Clemmons then asked for her phone number and if he could enter her residence, then grabbed her buttocks when she said no. The woman told him she felt that he may be trying to arrest her for prostitution or offering a sexual act, but he replied that he wouldn't arrest her for that and said he was off duty. (Court records and a police statement make clear he was on duty and in uniform.) Clemmons did not record the stop or notify dispatch. He pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault and was sentenced to 80 hours of community service and two years deferred adjudication.

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a former Milwaukee police officer was sentenced last Wednesday to two years in prison for performing illegal strip searches and body cavity searches on dozens of drug and other suspects. Michael Vagnini had pleaded no contest in April to four felonies and four misdemeanors. Prosecutors said Vagnini conducted searches inside men's underwear, sometimes inserting his finger in their rectums. Body cavity searches by police are prohibited by state law. Although Vagnini pleaded guilty weeks ago, he remained suspended with pay until he resigned at sentencing. Three other officers were charged with Vagnini. They were also suspended with pay pending trials later this year.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Two of our three cases this week involve cops protecting their steroids dealers. Go figger. The other one is a crooked police chief who bragged, "I'm the best cop money can buy." Let's get to it:

In Arlington, Texas, an Arlington police officer was charged last Wednesday with revealing the name of an undercover narcotics officer to an illegal steroids dealer. Officer Thomas Kantzos is accused of using state and federal law enforcement databases at least a half-dozen times to check names and license plates for the dealer, who also peddled the pills to Kantzos and another Arlington police officer, Danial Vo. Vo shot and killed himself last Tuesday. The first time Kantzos checked records for the dealer, the dealer discovered that the man with the laptop parked down the street was a member of a local drug task force and that someone had hidden a tracking device on his car. The investigation into Kantzos and Vo revealed that a number of Arlington police were using steroids, at least one of whom also ran a records check for the dealer, who has since become a cooperating witness. Kantzos is charged with exceeding authorized access to a protected computer, which carries a maximum 10 years in prison and $250,000 fine.

In North Bend, Oregon, a former North Bend police officer pleaded guilty last Tuesday to tipping off an illegal steroids dealer about an ongoing investigation. William Downing, 43, admitted to using steroids himself and was found in possession of them when his home was searched by federal agents in 2011. Downing went down in a spin-off from a broader investigation into fraud by a defense contractor, whose sons got steroids from the same dealer Downing did. When search warrants were issued in the fraud case, Downing notified the steroids dealer and warned him that the two sons were under investigation and the feds could be monitoring their calls. Downing will do five years probation.

In Pittsburgh, a former East Washington police chief was sentenced last Friday to more than 11 years in federal prison for extorting $8,000 from undercover FBI agents he thought were drug dealers. Former Chief Donald Solomon, 57, went down in a sting operation where he protected two staged drug deals and agreed to buy the dealers police-issue stun guns in return for the cash. A paid informant introduced Solomon to the fake drug dealers, and he was recorded saying, "I'm the best cop money can buy."

Judge's Handyman Cops Plea in Georgia Sex, Drugs, Frame-Up [FEATURE]

Earlier this week, investigative journalist Clarence Walker published a Chronicle feature article, "Sex, Lies, and a Georgia Drug Frame-up," about how now ex-Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran allegedly attempted to have local woman Angela Garmley framed on bogus drug charges after she accused him of seeking sexual favors in return for helping her in a pending court case.

CJ helped his boss, the judge, by planting dope for him. Now he's looking at prison time. (photo courtesy Angela Garmley)
Two Murray County sheriff's deputies have already pleaded guilty to participating in the frame job, which consisted of a handyman employed by the judge hiding methamphetamine on Garmley's vehicle and her subsequent arrest by a deputy alerted to be on the lookout for her vehicle by a sheriff's captain who just happened to be the judge's cousin.

Today, the handyman, Clifford "CJ" Joyce, pleaded guilty in federal court in Rome, Georgia, to his role in the conspiracy. Joyce copped to one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and is now looking at up to 20 years in federal prison, although federal sentencing guidelines call for a much shorter sentence.

"CJ pled, and the government colloquy was great and agreed to, saying that he did conspire to distribute meth, to 'discredit' the woman who had made complaints about Judge Cochran," Garmley's attorney McCracken Poston told the Chronicle. "It also came out that he was a tenant in Cochran's trailer park, and there is a third party intermediary that also needs to come to justice. He was the go-between with Cochran and CJ. He was not mentioned in court but I know who he is and got it confirmed with CJ's lawyer, as I developed the information and gave it to the feds."

The plea came after federal prosecutors presented evidence that Joyce was a middleman in the plot to get Garmley falsely arrested.

"The defendant attempted to manipulate the criminal justice system to serve his own purpose by framing someone for drug possession," said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. "While the narcotics charges were ultimately dismissed, this outrageous conduct cannot stand."  

"The investigation and prosecution of persons involved in public corruption are a priority of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Many of the cases such as this require partnership of local, state and federal authorities," said GBI Director Vernon M. Keenan.

The three perpetrators of the Garmley frame-up have now all pleaded guilty in the case, but the alleged instigator, former Judge Cochran, is yet to even be indicted. And now, there's a fourth player. Stay tuned.

Rome, GA
United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A pill-popping Florida cop goes to jail, a coke-slinging New York TSA agent gets busted, and a North Carolina narc gets fired. Let's get to it:

In Wilmington, North Carolina, a New Hanover County sheriff's narcotics officer was fired Tuesday, effective immediately, for violating departmental "truthfulness; evidence procedures; and drug policy." Lt. Joey LeBlanc was basically fired for violating procedures for handling seized drugs. He went down after his colleagues in the sheriff's drug unit began to notice "irregularities" in his actions and an internal investigation ensued. Local prosecutors said LeBlanc's actions have impacted several drug cases, both pending and closed. The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating, and local prosecutors will seek an outside prosecutor if any criminal charges are filed.

In Buffalo, New York, a TSA officer was arrested last Thursday on charges he was dealing in cocaine. Todd Stoddard, 29, went down after law enforcement received information about his alleged drug dealing, leading to a month-long investigation by the sheriff's office and the FBI Safe Streets Task Force. Stoddard worked at the Niagara Falls International Airport, but authorities don't believe he used his position there to smuggle drugs. He was charged with three counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, criminal sale of a controlled substance and two counts of criminal use of drug paraphernalia.

In Brooksville, Florida, a former New Port Richey police office was sentenced last Thursday to three consecutive one-year jail terms after being convicted of possession of hydrocodone, fleeing law enforcement, and tampering with evidence. John Michael Nohejl had also been charged with trafficking hydrocodone, but the jury failed to convict him on that charge. Nohejl had been stopped for speeding by a Hernando County vice detective, but refused to identify himself and sped away. The detective and a police cruiser quickly caught up to him and found one pain pill on the driver's side floorboard and 27 more pills in a cellophane wrapper thrown from the vehicle as Nohejl fled. Nohejl had been suspended by the New Port Richey police before his arrest because of numerous disciplinary issues and was fired in February for failing to report his own arrest. While out on bail, Nohejl was arrested in April in Hernando County and charged with driving under the influence and possession of marijuana. That case has yet to be resolved.

Sex, Lies, and a Georgia Drug Frame-up [FEATURE]

Special to Drug War Chronicle by investigate journalist Clarence Walker, cwalkerinvestigate@gmail.com.

Part five of an ongoing investigative series, "Prosecutorial Misconduct and Police Corruption in Drug Cases Across America."

With a plot out of a Hollywood movie or a gripping Lifetime TV show, a mesmerizing drama of sex, power, frame-ups, planted drugs, and lies unfolded in real life in Georgia when two Murray County sheriff's deputies recently pleaded guilty in federal court for their part in a scheme to send an innocent woman to prison. Now both deputies await sentencing on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury stemming from an FBI civil rights investigation into the odd goings-on Down South.

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Angela Garmley (courtesy attorney McCracken Poston)
The woman in question, Angela Garmley, had filed a complaint with the Georgia Judicial Qualification Committee alleging that Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran solicited sex from her in return for legal favors in a pending assault case in which she was the victim. Shortly after Garmley filed her complaint, she was arrested on August 14, 2012 in sleepy Chatsworth, Georgia, and charged with possession of methamphetamines.

"My client was set up and framed with methamphetamine drugs by Judge Bryant Cochran, whom she had accused of soliciting her for sex in exchange for legal favors in a case she had in Cochran's court," attorney McCracken Poston told the Chronicle.

Poston, a former Georgia state representative from nearby Ringgold with a reputation as a crack attorney, is representing Garmley in a civil lawsuit against Murray County. And Garmley isn't alone. Since this scandal broke, three women who worked in Cochran's court have filed a separate lawsuit against the judge and the county claiming Cochran sexually harassed them while county officials negligently failed to protect their rights.

"The judge, two deputies, and a handyman named C.J. who is employed at Judge Cochran's property conspired to plant the drugs on my client. And if the frame-up hadn't been discovered my client would've been facing 25 to 30 years in prison," Poston said, echoing the allegations made it the lawsuit.

Although Garmley's drug charge was dismissed a week later at the request of investigators when the frame-up was exposed, she is still suffering the consequences of her false arrest. Under Georgia law, it takes one year for the charge to be removed from Garmley's record, and the arrest has already cost her.

"My client was denied a much higher paid job due to the felony drug charge on her record and what the judge and cops did to her. Nobody should have to suffer like that," Poston said.

Lust and Privilege at the County Courthouse

According to Garmley's lawsuit -- and largely supported by the record in judicial proceedings so far -- she went to the courthouse on April 9, 2012 in regard to an assault on her by three persons the previous day. When Garmley arrived at Cochran's office, he requested that she meet with him alone, preventing her sister, who had been an eyewitness to the assault, from attending or providing a corroborating statement.

"While privately sitting in chambers with Cochran, I related details about the assault," Garmley said in the lawsuit.

But Cochran was more interested in the state of her marriage, the suit alleges, whether or not she had cheated on her estranged husband, and whether the persons who assaulted her "have anything on her to hurt her divorce from Joe Garmley." While shying away from particulars of the assault, Cochran made repeated comments about "how pretty" Garmley was and then veered into even more uncomfortable territory.

"My wife doesn't take care of my sexual needs and I need a mistress to have sex with I can trust," Garmley said Cochran told her. He had "a real boner" for her and wanted her to return to his office the following week, he added flirtatiously, the lawsuit alleges.

Garmley played along as if interested in his offer, the suit alleges, and then Cochran upped the ante by asking Garmley to send him a photo of herself in a seductive way to let him take a "sneak peek" at what he was going to get. After giving Garmley his private cell number, Cochran, with a fixed stare at Garmley, gave her a direct order: "Come back on Wednesday with a dress and no panties so we can have sex."

Garmley told investigators and her attorney that she complied with Cochran's request for a revealing photo, sending him pictures of herself in her underwear.

"I sent the pictures hoping Judge Cochran would permit my assault case to move forward to get justice," Garmley stated in her suit. "But I had no intention of meeting behind closed doors without panties to have sex with the judge."

Instead, Garmley filed a complaint against Cochran with judicial authorities, and that's when her experience with Murray County justice shifted from bad dream to nightmare.

Deputy Josh Greeson (courtesy attorney McCracken Poston)
The Drug Bust That Wasn't

Within days of filing her complaint against Cochran, Garmley suddenly found herself on the wrong side of the law, charged with possession of methamphetamine after a roadside traffic stop by Murray County Sheriff's Deputy Josh Greeson. Greeson's arrest report -- now in the hands of the FBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the US Attorneys Office, and Garmley's attorneys -- provided the official version of events.

"On 8-14-2012, while patrolling Eastbound on the Brown Bridge Road I noticed a vehicle heading Westbound with its bright lights on. As the vehicle passed me I turned around to make a traffic stop for failure to dim its bright lights," Greeson wrote. "Failure to dim headlights is an indicator someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol."

Garmley was a passenger in the vehicle, being given a ride by a male friend, Jason Southern, who was also charged with meth possession, as well as driving with a suspended license, and who is also a plaintiff in Garmley's lawsuit. Southern was giving Garmley a ride to the property she shared with her estranged husband, who lived in a separate residence on the property.

"When the vehicle pulled into the trailer park at 4177 Brown Bridge, I turned my blue lights on for the vehicle to stop," Greeson wrote in his report. "When I got out I approached the passenger side and requested to see both the driver and the passenger driver's license. Mr. Southern stated his license was suspended."

Then Joe Garmley showed up and began angrily arguing with his wife and Southern. Joe Garmley repeatedly ignored Deputy Greeson's orders to step away from the vehicle and continued to argue with his wife. Greeson then arrested him for obstruction of justice. Joe Garmley is also a plaintiff in Garmley's lawsuit.

"When Mr. Garmley was arrested," Poston explained, "his offense was a simple misdemeanor that he could have bonded out on that same night, but guess what? Mr. Garmley was held overnight without bond."

Returning to the business at hand, Deputy Greeson continued to investigate.

"When Mrs. Garmley stepped out of the vehicle she stumbled and had slurred speech, which led me to believe that she was on some sort of illegal drug," he reported. "I asked Ms. Garmley if she had used any illegal drugs or if there was any illegal drugs inside the vehicle and she said no. I asked Ms. Garmley if I could run my dog around her vehicle to assure me that there wasn't anything illegal in the vehicle and she stated it was fine to search her vehicle if I wanted. I got my K-9 Ruhl out of my patrol car and started my search at the back driver's side tail light."

Greeson also noted in his report that during the first search of the vehicle with the K-9 dog that the animal sniffing enhanced at the driver's side front tire and front lower part of the door. "On my second pass by the driver's side, the sniffing of the K-9 enhanced again."

"Due to my training with Ruhl at the South Georgia K-9 school, I was certain that his alert was true," Greeson wrote. "And based on my police training about different techniques that are used to hide narcotics, I looked up under the vehicle and located a small metal can stuck to the front of the vehicle right under the driver's door. When I opened the can there were bags of a crystal substance believed to be methamphetamine."

Garmley denied that the drugs were hers. "Then Mrs. Garmley said this was a set up," Greeson wrote in the report.

At this point, Murray County Sheriff's Captain Michael Henderson, a first cousin to Judge Cochran, appeared on the scene. "You happen to be in the wrong place," he told Southern, according to the lawsuit.

Both Ms. Garmley and the driver, Jason Southern, were charged with possession of meth and hauled off to jail while her husband Joe was transported to jail in a separate vehicle. Garmley posted a $2,500 bond and was released from jail. Her husband Joe also posted bail, but Southern remained in jail.

"Once Angela told me what happened, I knew the whole case stunk to high heaven," attorney Poston said. "My client and I had been on TV about the sexual allegations that Ms. Garmley had filed against Judge Cochran with the State Judicial Qualification Board and all of a sudden, my client gets pulled over and drugs were found in her car. I told the judge in open court that my client had been set up and that I would have the case investigated," Poston added.

Poston complained to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), and GBI investigator James Harris launched an immediate investigation, questioning Deputy Greeson, Captain Henderson, and others involved. That's when the official story began to fall apart.

A Frame-Up Exposed

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Garmley's distinctive automobile that was stopped (courtesy attorney McCracken Poston)
The day after the arrest, Deputy Greeson testified that he had not received prior information about Garmley's white Dodge vehicle prior to pulling it over. During GBI agents' interviews with  Greeson a week later, he insisted again that he had not been instructed to pull Garmley over. But by then, Poston and Garmley had reported to investigators that a man known as "C.J.," who worked as a handyman for Judge Cochran, had confessed to planting the drugs on Garmley's car.

"This C.J. guy confessed to me and Garmley that Judge Cochran paid him money to plant the drugs on Garmley's vehicle," Poston told the Chronicle. "She told both me and GBI investigators that on the night prior to her arrest, C.J. came by her house around 1:30am acting strange, asking Garmley if her father, who no longer lived with her, wanted to trade off his guitar. Mrs. Garmley said as C.J. talked, she noticed him watching her cell phone, but she moved it. C.J. said the judge told him that if he got ahold of Garmley's phone that he would get paid more, particularly because Garmley had the judge's phone number and text messages."

Realizing that his cell phone log could be subpoenaed regardless of whether his messages were deleted, Greeson finally cracked, telling investigators that Henderson had asked him to pull the drug-planted car over and to keep quiet about it.

"Henderson asked Greeson not to tell investigators about his order to pull Garmley's car over, which put Greeson in a position to lie about it, and that's a conspiracy," said Poston. "Captain Henderson then changed course and confessed his role in the scheme to have Garmley's car stopped so Greeson could find the planted drugs."

Surrounded by reporters, Greeson sobbed as he recalled having feared to refuse Captain Henderson's order to deny knowing ahead of time about Garmley's car having drugs. Greeson also said Henderson visited his home before he spoke with GBI about Garmley's arrest.

"I can't remember exactly how Henderson put it, but he said for me not to mention about the lookout on the vehicle and that I was the only one who knew about the lookout. And if I didn't say nothing about it, nobody would know," he said. "I was always told to stay on Henderson's good side."

Both Henderson and Greeson were fired from the sheriff department and Cochran,who had just been reelected for a third term, abruptly resigned his judgeship a day after the arrests of Garmley, her husband Joe, and Jason Southern.

Henderson later told investigators he arrived at the arrest scene to assist Greeson with Garmley's husband Joe after he appeared on the scene and disrupted the investigation. Judge Cochran denied Garmley's allegations and further denied that he resigned because of them, instead offering up that he had resigned over warrants he had pre-signed for officers when he wasn't available during normal hours. Pre-signing warrants is a breach of judicial ethics; it would allow any officer to pick up a blank warrant with Cochran's signature and fill in the blanks to effect the arrest of search of a citizen without the judge's knowledge or any judicial oversight.

Michael Henderson, 41, a former captain with Murray County Sheriff Department pleaded guilty on March 27 to obstructing a civil rights investigation into allegations surrounding the "throw down" dope found under Mrs. Garmley's vehicle as well pleading guilty to a charge of tampering with a witness pending a civil rights investigation. He faces up to 20 years in prison with a fine up to $250,000.

Josh Greeson, 26, pleaded guilty on April 12 to similar charges after previously denying he had not been instructed by then-Captain Henderson to pull over Garmley's drug-laden car as she headed home. Greeson admitted to obstructing a pending public corruption and civil rights violations by tampering with a government witness -- Angela Garmley. Greeson also admitted to deleting text messages and call logs that he received on his phone from Henderson and Cochran on the night he stopped Garmley with the planted drugs.

As part of their plea deals, both Greeson and Henderson agreed to tell everything they knew about the set-up, as well as what Judge Cochran knew. The investigation continues. Judge Cochran has yet to be indicted on any criminal charges, and the same goes for the man known as C.J., who admitted to planting the drugs. But both are named in Garmley's civil suit.

The case has drawn howls of outrage from prosecutors, law enforcement, and defense attorneys alike.

"The criminal justice system is based on the premise that police officers must be honest and truthful above all," said Northern District of Georgia US Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. "Mr. Henderson and Mr. Greeson weren't, and such conduct cannot stand."

"We as taxpayers should all be horrified," said prominent Houston criminal defense lawyer Vivian King. King is host of a weekly court justice program called Truth & Justice. "We as taxpayers should hold our judges and law enforcement officers to a higher standard and if found guilty they should be punished. And the judge in this case should be disbarred."

"I never had fellow narcotics officers plant drugs, but usually when something like this happens, there is usually a woman somewhere in the mix," said retired Houston police narcotics officer Billy Williams, and the case of Judge Cochran was no exception. "So he abused his power for sex and a woman brought him down."

Henderson and Greer await sentencing, and Poston is urging them to sing like canaries.

"Under federal sentencing guidelines the only thing the deputies can do to help themselves is to tell everything they know about my client being framed with the drugs and that includes everything they know about the judge's involvement," he said. "I suspect there are more people involved or knew the dope was planted because Judge Cochran made several calls to the sheriff department about my client's vehicle having drugs inside."

In this case of lust, power, and justice perverted, the fat lady is yet to sing.

Chatsworth, GA
United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's judges gone wild! Plus sticky-fingered narcs, lying narcs, crooked deputies, and more! Let's get to it:

In Philadelphia, a Philadelphia police officer was arrested May 23 for stealing drugs and money from a suspected drug dealer. Officer Jeffrey Walker was arrested after an FBI sting operation in which agents recorded him bragging about how easy it was to rip off drug dealers. Walker and a federal informant concocted a scheme to plant cocaine in a suspect's car, then rob him. Walker did just that, arresting the suspect, then entering his home and stealing $15,000. He was arrested with the cash in hand. At last report, Walker was still in federal custody.

In Pittsburgh, a former Washington County judge was arrested May 24 on charges he stole cocaine from evidence in cases over which he presided. Paul Pozonsky abruptly resigned from the bench in 2012 and moved to Alaska after police checked evidence envelopes and found the cocaine had gone missing. Court officers said that Pozonsky had begun asking them to bring confiscated drugs into the courtroom, where they would be entered as evidence and kept by either the judge himself of members of his staff.

In Des Moines, an Iowa state narcotics agent was arrested May 26 on charges he forged the signature of a Polk County judge in a bid to shortcut an after-the-fact approval of a drug-related search warrant. Jonathan Borg, 39, allegedly forged the judge's signature as he returned with the warrant after conducting a search in a drug investigation where the charges have now been dropped because of his actions. He is charged with one count of felonious misconduct in office and is looking at up to five years in prison if convicted.

In Belleville, Illinois, a St. Clair county judge was arrested last Friday in relation to the cocaine overdose death of another St. Clair county judge while the pair partied together at a hunting lodge in March. Judge Michael Cook, 43, who presided over the county's drug court, was charged by federal prosecutors with possession of heroin and possession of a firearm while illegally using controlled substances. His colleague, Judge Joe Christ died of a cocaine overdose. A St. Clair County probation officer, James Fogarty, has been charged with selling cocaine to both judges. Judge Cook had handled more than 500 criminal cases since 2010; now, those found guilty can come back and seek new trials.

In Baltimore, a Baltimore police officer was arrested last Friday on multiple charges, including trying to sell heroin. Officer Ashley Roane, 25, went down in a sting operation, accepting cash payments and providing protection for a man she thought was a drug dealer, but who was actually an informant for Baltimore police and the FBI. She agreed to access law enforcement databases listing informants and other sensitive information for the drug dealer, and provided Social Security numbers to him as part of a scheme to obtain false tax refunds, prosecutors said. She's looking at a mandatory minimum 17 years in federal prison if convicted on all counts.

In New York City, an NYPD officer was convicted last Wednesday for faking paperwork to cover up his involvement in the unlawful search and arrest of two men. Isaias Alicea had stopped and arrested two men in Harlem last year and later falsely told his supervisors he saw them in a drug transaction. But surveillance images showed no transaction occurred and the charges against the men were dropped. He was convicted of official misconduct, a felony, and will be fired based on that felony conviction. Sentencing is set for next month.

In San Antonio, five Hidalgo County narcotics officers pleaded guilty last Wednesday to federal charges in a wide-ranging drug conspiracy. The five, all members of now-defunct drug task force called the Panama Unit, including the son of the county sheriff, acknowledged roles in a scheme to steal drug loads from street-level dealers and sell them to a man alleged to be a local trafficker. Jonathan Trevino a 29-year-old former Mission police officer and the son of Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino, pleaded guilty to one count of drug conspiracy. Three other members of the unit, including ex-Hidalgo County Sheriff's deputies Salvador Joel Aguello, Claudio Alberto Mata, and Eric Michael Alacantar, also entered guilty pleas. The fifth man, Gerardo Mendoza Duran, is a former Hidalgo County Sheriff's deputy but was not assigned to the Panama Unit. He admitted last Wednesday that he had aided and abetted the group's plans to escort the drug loads. They're all looking at 10 years to life in federal prison.

In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the former commander of the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force agreed to plead guilty last Friday to stealing at least $125,000 from drug proceeds seized by the unit. Jeff Snyder, 55, embezzled money that the task force seized between June 2010 and June 2012, according to a release from U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance’s office. Snyder admitted to pocketing seized cash during drug raids and failing to log it into task force ledger books and deposit it in task force bank accounts. In his plea agreement, Snyder and prosecutors agreed to an 18 month federal prison sentence. That agreement has yet to be approved by a judge.

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