Defendant pleads guilty to computer porn in controversial North Georgia sex sting task force case

Defendant pleads guilty to computer porn in controversial North Georgia sex sting task force case

December 5th, 2018 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

RINGGOLD, Ga. — One of the last open loops in a controversial North Georgia sex sting task force closed this week.

Auner Landaverde, 29, pleaded guilty to two counts of computer pornography in Catoosa County Superior Court on Monday, receiving a sentence of 15 years on probation. He will not spend any time in prison as a result of the case. Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin agreed to drop charges of attempted child molestation and attempted aggravated child molestation.

Police arrested Landaverde in January 2012 after he allegedly chatted with an undercover officer. According to an indictment, Landaverde exchanged emails with an agent who offered his 11- and 14-year-old daughters for sex. When Landaverde drove to an agreed upon location, officers arrested him.

Auner Landaverde

Auner Landaverde

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

If convicted of attempted child molestation, Landaverde faced one to 10 years in prison. A listed phone number for him in his court file did not work Wednesday, and his attorney, Cindi Yeager, could not be reached for comment.

The task force that nabbed Landaverde disbanded about a year after his arrest, when the FBI suspended Special Agent in Charge Ken Hillman. Hillman, who oversaw the task force, allowed a woman he was sleeping with to participate in the task force, chatting undercover with some targets. She is not a trained police officer, nor did Hillman get special approval to bring her into the investigations.

In July 2017, Hillman pleaded guilty to disclosing confidential information. A federal judge sentenced him to six months of probation and he retired from the FBI.

The pending cases that Hillman worked, meanwhile, stalled. Defense attorneys wanted to put Hillman on the stand to discredit the task force's reputability. On Nov. 15, an assistant U.S. attorney wrote Franklin a letter, telling him that Hillman would only be able to narrowly testify, sticking to just the scope of the investigation on a particular defendant.

A federal attorney would sit in on any trials, objecting if a lawyer asked Hillman questions the U.S. attorney's office did not want him to answer.

Judge Grant Brantley scheduled Landaverde's case for a trial Monday, but he instead pleaded guilty. This leaves only one case: Brad Lee Jones, whom members of the task force arrested in August 2012. Jones faces the same charges Landaverde did.

According to a letter in his court file, Jones told Brantley in November that he planned to represent himself in the trial. He has talked with a lawyer about his representation. Brantley scheduled the trial for Feb. 11.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.