FBI special agent Ken Hillman was one of the key figures in an internal investigation of a Ringgold police sergeant, who was fired Feb. 15 after his superiors learned he let Hillman off during a possible DUI call at Ringgold’s Acoustic Cafe, and instead taxied Hillman and two women to Chattanooga, Tenn., on Oct. 24.
That investigation also revealed that Hillman himself was under investigation by the FBI, according to Ringgold attorney McCracken Poston.
Poston said he notified the FBI of allegations that Hillman had been letting civilians assist with his task force.
Hillman’s group, the Northwest Georgia Crimes Against Children Task Force, is a unit made up officers from different local agencies that look to catch people online who respond to ads and chats for the purposes of having sexual encounters with children.
The task force agents post the ads on such websites as Craigslist, arrange meetings with the would-be offenders who think they are meeting with children, and then arrest the suspects on child sex charges at the designated meeting place.
Poston said he learned that a woman named Angela Russell, who was also one of the women with Hillman during the Oct. 24 incident, might have been recently posing as an undercover task force officer under Hillman.
“The officers that work on tasks forces like this are specially trained in how to communicate with targets,” Poston said. “Private citizens should not be communicating with possible suspects in an undercover operation. If they are, then it certainly raises a lot of questions about the credibility of the operation.”
Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit district attorney Herbert E. “Buzz” Franklin said that recent issues regarding Hillman currently have nothing to do with cases that involve charges filed by the task force.
“From what I’ve been advised, there is nothing at this time that would change or jeopardize any of our current cases,” Franklin said.
David Dunn, lead public defender for the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit, which includes Catoosa, Walker, Dade and Chattooga counties, offered a similar opinion, saying that more information would have to be obtained before any cases would be affected.
“We are aware of the scrutiny surrounding the task force,” Dunn said. “We will evaluate the situation as to whether or not it could possibly impact our current cases.”
Dunn also addressed the idea of past cases being affected.
“Theoretically it could impact old cases, but at this point it does not appear so.”