The FBI has confirmed it is looking into allegations involving Special Agent Ken Hillman, 10 days after revelations that the federal agent received special treatment from local law enforcement officers.
Since a Ringgold, Ga., police officer was fired in mid-February, several officers have acknowledged that Hillman used his badge to avoid arrest after being suspected of drinking and driving. In one case, according to an officer, Hillman drove away from an apparent wreck.
Several defense attorneys also are questioning how Hillman allowed a civilian to work on the Northwest Georgia Crimes Against Children Task Force that he leads and even to handcuff potential suspects. The civilian, the wife of businessman Emerson Russell, was spotted with Hillman late in the night last October when they were attempting to leave a nightspot in Ringgold but were stopped by police.
Until Monday the FBI had refused to comment on what's happening to Hillman. But in a prepared statement yesterday, agency spokesman Stephen Emmett said: "The FBI is aware of the allegations made against one of our special agents and we have launched an investigation into those allegations."
Emmett also said the Crimes Against Children investigations remain a priority within the FBI and those matters will continue to be addressed.
Asked whether that meant the task force in Northwest Georgia still is operating, Emmett said the emailed statement speaks for itself.
At least one local law enforcement agency already has backed out of the task force while Hillman is under investigation.
Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk confirmed his office left the task force a month ago after finding out about the FBI investigation.
Sisk has said he won't bring in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into whether officers in his department covered up traffic stops involving Hillman in which the agent is suspected of having been drinking and driving.
After Sisk said last week he wouldn't open an investigation because there was no evidence and his officers weren't accused of anything criminal, Officer Greg Cross admitted to his current supervisor, Fort Oglethorpe Police Chief David Eubanks, that he had pulled Hillman over.
Cross told Eubanks that the FBI agent's bumper was nearly dragging the ground and that he allowed Hillman to call another detective to pick him up and remove the car. That detective was Tim Deal with the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office, who at the time was a member of the task force Hillman leads.
Deal has declined to comment on the allegations.
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 ...