published Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Catoosa sheriff says office did nothing criminal

Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk said Wednesday he won't ask for an investigation into whether any of his officers failed to report traffic stops involving a federal agent suspected of drinking and driving.

Last week, local attorney McCracken Poston asked the newly elected sheriff to bring in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into whether FBI Agent Ken Hillman had abused his authority with sheriff's office employees in the last year and a half.

Poston asserts that Hillman had been pulled over at least twice under suspicion of drinking and driving, but he either was let go or allowed to call a friend.

Hillman -- who already is being investigated by the FBI -- leads the Northwest Georgia Crimes Against Children Task Force, an undercover agency that trolls the Internet looking for people who will agree to meet for underage sex. The Catoosa County Sheriff's office had been involved in this task force until last month.

Sisk said he won't ask for an investigation into his office because no one is being accused of committing a crime, and the GBI investigates criminal activity.

"Even if I had an employee violate policy, I can't ask the GBI to investigate it," Sisk said Wednesday. He said there are no allegations that Hillman was "falling down drunk or in a wreck."

Sisk said officers have discretion when pulling over motorists and he isn't going to start questioning how officers use their discretion.

The sheriff said "there is no evidence" of his office showing an FBI agent preferential treatment.

But Poston now is questioning why the sheriff refuses to look into the allegations at all.

"This reluctance to conduct his office with transparency is troubling," Poston said in a written statement. "The citizens deserve to have confidence in their government."

The firing of a Ringgold, Ga., police sergeant on Feb. 15 first revealed that Hillman was under federal investigation. The police investigation also revealed that Hillman persuaded former Sgt. Tom Evans to leave his post last October and drive Hillman and the women he was with -- local millionaire Emerson Russell's wife, Angela Russell, and their daughter, Katherine -- from a nightspot in Ringgold to a Chattanooga apartment.

Several local defense attorneys, including Poston, are now questioning whether the task force that Hillman led has been compromised.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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