The ongoing series of cases in the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit known as the “Craigslist Cases” have reached another interesting fork in the road as the circuit’s lead public defender has now filed a motion accusing prosecutors of stalling the fate of two cases as they await the presence of the key witness.
A conclusion to the cases continues to stall due to the FBI’s ongoing investigation of one of its agents, who happens to be the linchpin to the whole saga.
Those “Craigslist Cases” are child sex-related cases that were initially handled by the now-disbanded FBI Northwest Georgia Crimes Against Children Task Force, which served Catoosa, Walker, Dade and Chattooga counties. The task force was headed up by FBI special agent Ken Hillman, who continues to be the main cause for all the delays.
All the cases fell on Hillman’s watch, with the validity of the cases coming into question and falling under subsequent scrutiny in February 2013.
With the FBI still investigating its own man, Hillman is unable to testify in court until the completion of said investigation. … The problem is, it’s been over two years already and no one seems to know when or if that investigation will conclude.
Lead public defender David Dunn, who represents two defendants awaiting trial, requested a speedy trial earlier this year and had his request granted by Cobb County Superior Court judge Grant Brantley, who was brought in after all four Catoosa County judges recused themselves from hearing motions in the cases.
On June 4, after an assistant district attorney again requested the cases again be delayed past their July 20 trial dates, Dunn decided to file a subsequent motion claiming district attorney’s Herbert E. “Buzz” Franklin’s office is purposely trying to get the cases delayed again because they need Hillman’s testimony to make its claims.
Dunn’s defendants, Michael Anthony Bales and Robert Niles Swartout Jr., are accused of traveling to an electronically designated meeting are to have sex with a minor, only to be met by Hillman’s task force instead.
In their request to have the cases pushed back, the DA’s office sited the fact that Rossville police detective David Scroggins would be unavailable to testify due to being out of town on vacation.
Scroggins is a former task force member, who interviewed and helped arrest the defendants.
However, Dunn claims that the Scroggins’ vacation is just a smokescreen being created by the DA’s office because they know that Hillman will be unable to testify.
“Without his (Hillman’s) appearance and testimony,” Dunn wrote in his motion, “the State is unable to prove the charges against the defendant.”
Dunn went on to say that the DA knows its case would fall apart if the prosecution was to have to prove it on July 20, and that it could be dismissed due to the lack of evidence.
The investigation into Hillman has revealed that his then girlfriend, Angela Russell, had been allowed to work with the task force while Hillman was in charge where she chatted with would-be child predators and even handcuffed suspects in at least one instance.
That series of events, which ultimately lead to Hillman’s suspension from the FBI and subsequent investigation from federal prosecutors, has delayed all of the cases currently hanging in the balance due to the domino effect of Hillman’s alleged transgressions.
Dunn, Ringgold attorney McCracken Poston, and other defense attorneys whose clients are involved have argued that having an untrained civilian posing as an undercover agent and working with the task force raises a lot of questions regarding the validity of the charges in the cases.
Hillman’s attorney has already stated that his client would plead the Fifth Amendment to all questions during testimony.