ONLY ON 3: FBI confirms investigation into chief of N. Ga sex crimes task force
A hearing was held Monday for several people accused of sex crimes in North Georgia, but the attorneys representing those suspects say their clients' cases have been jeopardized by the FBI special agent in charge.
It is a case that has made headlines over the past year.
The allegations surrounding FBI agent Ken Hillman first came to light last year during an investigation that cost a Ringgold Police officer his job. The officer was fired for failing to arrest Hillman and another woman for DUI.
The woman involved is Angela Russell, the estranged wife of local millionaire, Emerson Russell.
Allegations surfaced that Hillman was allowing Russell to tag along and participate in undercover sex sting operations in North Georgia.
"Some pretty shocking behavior by someone in an agency which is very professional," says defense attorney McCracken Poston.
Poston represents one of several people arrested and charged with sex crimes by agent Ken Hillman's task force.
Poston, along with several other defense attorneys, say Russell's involvement jeopardized at least 11 cases. The attorneys filed subpoenas for the FBI to testify in the hearing for the suspects. Superior Court Judge Grant Brantley, brought in from Atlanta, read aloud a letter from the FBI, explaining why it could not testify.
"The investigation is confidential and we can not publicly confirm or deny the investigation at this time but the issuance of subpoenas to the FBI in the above cases warrant our disclosure of the investigation to you," Brantley read to the court.
"Finally, we had actual proof that a federal investigation is ongoing," says Poston.
The Department of Justice confirmed in a separate letter that the FBI inspection division in Washington, D.C. is conducting its own investigation into the laundry list of allegations against Hillman, some of which Brantley read to the court.
"(He) made unauthorized disclosures regarding investigative targets and techniques," read Judge Brantley.
Other allegations read aloud say Hillman "misused his position by intervening in a traffic incident involving an acquaintance, transported an unauthorized passenger in a bureau vehicle, allowed unauthorized individuals to participate in an arrest, gave a handgun to an unauthorized individual, subsequent to a potential arrest, allowed unauthorized access to an undercover location, and misused his position during a traffic stop.
"Obviously, none of this has been proven yet," says Poston. "But it puts everything in a real quandary when you have a lead agent of the top agency that has these types of problems."
The FBI asked the court to postpone the hearing to another date. It says it will take at least six months to finish its investigation into Hillman's actions. Both the defense attorneys and the District Attorney agreed. A tentative date was set in February of next year.
In the meantime, Poston says it could be a long time before his client's case, or any person's case investigated by Hillman, is resolved.