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Attempt to Discredit JQC Witness Results in 18-Month Term

, Daily Report

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A Murray County man has been sentenced to prison for conspiring to distribute illegal drugs after he planted five packets of methamphetamine under the car of a witness cooperating with the state Judicial Qualifications Commission in an effort to discredit her. U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy sentenced Clifford Joyce, 27, of Dalton, to an 18-month term on Friday, according to the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

Federal prosecutors said Joyce, who pleaded guilty in June, planted the drugs in the tire well of a car belonging to Angela Garmley of Murray County, who was cooperating with the JQC in an ethics probe of then-Murray County Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran. Garmley claimed the judge solicited sexual favors from her in return for the promise of a favorable ruling on a matter pending before him. Joyce lived in a trailer park owned by Cochran.

Prosecutors said Joyce hid the drugs on Aug. 12, 2012. Two days later, then-Murray County deputy Joshua Greeson stopped the car near Garmley's home and proceeded to search it using a drug dog. According to prosecutors, Greeson eventually found the drugs after getting information from his supervisor, Michael Henderson. Garmley and the driver were charged with felony drug possession. Shortly after the charges were filed, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation recommended they be dismissed, saying the drugs had been planted.

Cochran resigned after Garmley was arrested to end the JQC probe but he denied having solicited sexual favors. Joyce is one of three men sentenced for crimes associated with the false arrest. Henderson was sentenced in October to one year and a day for witness tampering. Greeson was sentenced in September to 10 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to obstructing the investigation.

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