An FBI agent who is being investigated in his role as leader of an undercover sex crimes task force now is being accused of abusing his authority to avoid publicity and possible arrest.
A local attorney asked Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk to bring in an outside agency to investigate whether Special Agent Ken Hillman ever was pulled over by sheriff's office deputies on suspicion of driving under the influence and then allowed to leave or to be given a ride home by a friend.
Hillman is a central figure in a Ringgold, Ga., Police Department investigation for his involvement in persuading a Ringgold sergeant to leave his post last October and drive Hillman and the women he was with -- local businessman Emerson Russell's wife Angela Russell and their daughter, Katherine -- from a nightspot in Ringgold to a Chattanooga apartment.
The investigation of Sgt. Tom Evans, who subsequently was fired, also revealed Hillman now is under internal investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Local defense attorney McCracken Poston, who initially reported Hillman to the FBI, said he has been told the FBI agent was pulled over at least twice in the last year and a half by Catoosa County sheriff's officers on suspicion of DUI.
"There are some serious policy problems if a federal agent on multiple occasions is given this type of leeway," Poston said Tuesday.
On Feb. 22, Poston sent a letter via email to Sisk requesting he bring in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look at those accusations and any officers who may have been involved.
Repeated calls and emails seeking comment from Sisk went unanswered Tuesday. Poston said Sisk hasn't responded to his letter.
The FBI won't comment on Hillman or the Northwest Georgia Crimes Against Children task force he runs. FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett said the agency doesn't comment on personnel issues.
Catoosa County 911 director Rhonda Bass confirmed her office looked into an opens record request on traffic stops involving Hillman. She said her staff talked with two officers who said they remembered pulling over a federal agent but couldn't recall the details.
Bass said multiple employees in the sheriff's office searched for any record of Hillman involved in a traffic stop, but they couldn't find any such record because they didn't have the license plate number of Hillman's vehicle. Any such record cannot be found without more information, she said.
Officer Greg Cross, who now works for the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department, was one of the two officers who said they might have pulled over Hillman, according to Bass. Cross declined to comment for this story, Chief David Eubanks said.
Evans was fired from the Ringgold Police Department on Feb. 15. Records in his personnel file, requested by the Times Free Press, reveal this wasn't the first time he was involved in misconduct. It's also not the first time he has been fired.
In 1997, newspaper archives show, Evans was fired from the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office after a woman with whom he was in a relationship was found dead, shot with Evans' handgun. The GBI cleared Evans, and the woman's death was ruled a suicide. Evans later was hired by the Ringgold Police Department, then went back to the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office before returning to the Ringgold department.
In the investigation that led to Evans' firing in February, Hillman and Angela Russell admitted that she had been working for him on the task force. Sources have said Russell, a civilian, was allowed to ride along with the task force members when they went on stings and slap the handcuffs on surprised suspects.
Poston, along with several other attorneys who represent clients arrested by the task force, is questioning whether the work of the task force has been compromised.
In a previous interview, Sisk said he pulled his office off the task force while the FBI investigates the allegations, and he doesn't believe the task force now is operating.
Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin said late last week that he is aware of an FBI investigation but doesn't believe there was any misconduct that would jeopardize any cases.
Evans, who also worked on the FBI task force until he was fired, is married to Beth Evans, an assistant district attorney in the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit.
Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...