FBI, millionaire's wife linked to fired Ringgold cop

FBI, millionaire's wife linked to fired Ringgold cop

February 22nd, 2013 by Joy Lukachick Smith in Local Regional News

Tom Evans

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

It was late October 2012 when Ringgold, Ga., police Sgt. Tom Evans drove to the Acoustic Cafe to check on a report of a drunken driver.

He found FBI Special Agent Ken Hillman with Angela Russell, the estranged wife of millionaire local businessman Emerson Russell, and their daughter Katherine. The three were trying to drive away from the nightspot on RBC Drive.

Records show at least one of the three had been refused drinks after dancing and weaving through the live music cafe making a scene, and they all appeared drunk.

Instead of arresting someone on a DUI charge, Evans left his post in Ringgold and drove the three out of state to Chattanooga. Then, when Katherine Russell needed a ride back to Ringgold, she said that he requested that she flash her breasts to Evans, according to an interview in a Ringgold Police Department internal investigation.

Officer Evans said, "If you take your shirt off, I'll take you back to your car," Katherine Russell told Assistant Chief Greg Wingo, the investigator. Evans denied the allegation and the police didn't prove the claim.

The police investigation, which led to Evans being fired from the department a week ago today, also revealed that Hillman -- who leads the Northwest Georgia Crimes Against Children Task Force -- is under investigation himself by the FBI.

The Times Free Press obtained the investigation file under a Georgia Open Records Act request.

Neither the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Atlanta office nor its agents in Dalton, Ga., where Hillman is based, would comment Thursday on whether Hillman has been suspended from his post.

They also would not say whether the task force, responsible for arresting people trying to meet underage boys and girls for sex, is still operating.

Evans began working under Hillman on the FBI task force on a part-time basis around the time of this incident. Officials wouldn't say if Evans was promoted to the job before or after he helped Hillman avoid scrutiny.

Also, on the night of the Oct. 24 incident, Angela Russell referred to herself as a member of the FBI task force, working under Hillman, according to the investigation. No one from the FBI responded Thursday to the question of whether a civilian could serve on an FBI task force.

Ringgold police Chief Dan Bilbrey said Evans was not investigated for doing a favor for an FBI agent but for breaking departmental policy and leaving his post.

McCracken Poston, a local defense attorney, said he told the police chief in early February that the FBI was scrutinizing his department because of its own investigation into Hillman.

He said that's when Bilbrey opened an investigation on Evans. But now Poston questions why the police chief didn't interview the FBI agent himself.

In written documents, Evans, who couldn't be reached Thursday for comment, admits to his supervisors that he was doing Hillman a favor when he drove him to Katherine Russell's condominium in Chattanooga. He also admits he likely would have arrested the Russells if Hillman hadn't been around, and that Hillman was the one who asked Evans not to write a police report.

Evans told investigators he wasn't "trying to do anything wrong, he didn't want the husband or news reporters to have access to that information."

During separate interviews, Angela Russell and Katherine Russell disagreed on some of the facts about that evening, the investigation shows. Angela Russell said her daughter fabricated her allegation that Evans was making advances to her.

"My daughter is a liar," she told police. "I don't believe it happened."

But Katherine Russell insisted she was telling the truth when she said that her mother was the one who had the idea to flash the officer and that Evans continually hit on her during the car ride.

"You're beautiful; if I were younger I would be all over you," she said Evans told her. "If I weren't married I would ask you out."

Catoosa County Superior Court records show Emerson Russell filed for divorce from his wife in late January, citing adultery. The couple were in that courthouse Wednesday working on an agreement, attorneys said.

Staff writer Tim Omarzu contributed to this story.