published Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

North Georgia officers covering for FBI agent

A flash of a badge is all it takes to escape arrest in Catoosa County, Ga., if you're FBI Special Agent Ken Hillman, several officers admit.

Fort Oglethorpe Officer Greg Cross is the second North Georgia officer to tell his boss Hillman was given a ride by law enforcement after the agent was suspected of drinking and driving and that his name was kept out of any police reports.

Fort Oglethorpe Police Chief David Eubanks told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that Cross told him the story after joining the department.

According to Eubanks, Cross was a Catoosa County deputy sheriff when he pulled Hillman over after he saw the bumper on the agent's car "almost dragging the ground." Cross said Hillman appeared to be intoxicated.

According to Eubanks, Cross allowed the FBI agent to call his friend, Catoosa County Sheriff's Detective Tim Deal, to give him a ride, and then Deal removed the FBI agent's damaged vehicle from the scene.

At the time, Deal was a member of the Northwest Georgia Crimes Against Children Task Force, the task force that Hillman commands.

Deal declined to comment for this story. Neither Hillman nor the FBI will comment on the allegations.

Eubanks spoke to the Times Free Press on Thursday, one day after Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk told the newspaper "there is no evidence" that anyone on his staff ever pulled Hillman over on suspicion of drinking and driving and then let him go.

Questioned by a reporter about Cross' story, Sisk paused, and then said, "I didn't know anything about that." Sisk would have been chief deputy at the time of the incident. The exact date couldn't be determined because Cross didn't fill out an incident report.

Cross' statement is the latest in a string of revelations this week involving multiple North Georgia law enforcement agencies and Hillman, who is under federal scrutiny.

The task force, whose agents pose online to catch people seeking underage sex, also has come under fire. Multiple defense attorneys have questioned whether dozens of cases were compromised because a civilian was allowed to be a part of the task force. But prosecutors claim the FBI investigation into Hillman is personal and won't affect criminal cases.

Local attorney McCracken Poston first reported Hillman to the FBI. He also wrote Sisk on Feb. 22, asking the newly elected sheriff to bring in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into whether Hillman was abusing his authority with sheriff's office employees.

Sisk declined to investigate any of his officers, saying they have discretion when they make traffic stops. He said no one was accusing Hillman of being "falling down drunk or in a wreck."

The first allegation against Hillman spilled out after Ringgold police Sgt. Tom Evans was fired Feb. 15.

Evans admitted to investigators that he had driven Hillman and the two women he was with -- millionaire businessman Emerson Russell's wife, Angela Russell, and daughter, Katherine -- from a Ringgold nightspot to a Chattanooga apartment.

Evans also admitted he didn't make a police report because he didn't want Emerson Russell or news reporters to find out about Hillman.

Around the time of this incident, Evans began working part time under Hillman on the FBI task force. The police investigation also revealed Angela Russell, a civilian, was working on the task force.

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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