An FBI agent who ran a "To Catch a Predator"-style task force in North Georgia pleaded guilty Thursday to disclosing confidential information.
According to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Special Agent Ken Hillman let Emerson Russell and his wife, Angela, observe agents chatting undercover with potential child predators. He also let them ride along for meet ups and arrests of the task force's targets.
In addition, Hillman let Angela Russell chat with suspects on an FBI laptop, as if she were an agent herself.
Hillman pleaded guilty in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Walter Johnson. District Court Judge Harold Murphy will sentence Hillman, though the release does not say when that will be. He faces a penalty of up to 1 year in prison, plus a fine of up to $100,000.
The Northwest Georgia Internet Crime and Child Exploitation Task Force, spearheaded by Hillman, also consisted of officers from multiple local agencies, including the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office. The investigators would post on websites like Craigslist or Backpage.com, pretending to be fathers and uncles willing to pawn off children for sex.
The task force disbanded after Hillman's relationship with Angela Russell became public in February 2013. According to an internal Ringgold police investigation, Officer Tom Evans stopped Hillman and Angela Russell in the parking lot of a local bar, after the staff called 911 to report a couple that might be driving away drunk.
According to the investigation, the officer drove them to an apartment in the Chattanooga area. The officer also said that Hillman told him he was having an affair with Angela Russell. Emerson Russell later said he watched his estranged wife chat with the task force's targets while they were still together.
Angela Russell is not a trained officer. According to the Department of Justice release, Hillman did not receive clearance from his bosses to include her in his investigations.
Hillman was given a "medical retirement" from the FBI, his sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 22 at 1 p.m.