FBI headquarters, Washington D.C.
FBI headquarters, Washington D.C. (Photo: Michael A. Scarcella/ The National Law Journal)

Former FBI agent Kenneth W. Hillman III and a female acquaintance did a good job luring would-be sexual predators. Only problem: The woman was reportedly his lover, with no authority to access sensitive law enforcement files—a detail that ultimately has left Hillman with a federal conviction.

Hillman, 47, of Dalton, once supervised a North Georgia joint law enforcement task force that cruised the internet for would-be sexual predators. He pleaded guilty Thursday to the unauthorized release of confidential information, according to federal prosecutors and court papers. His plea in U.S. District Court in Rome, Georgia, came nearly five years after he first began disclosing information from the North Georgia Internet Crime and Child Exploitation Task Force to two individuals identified by federal prosecutors only by their initials, E.R. and A.R.—neither of whom were law enforcement officers or members of the task force.

A.R. has since been identified in court papers, including subpoenas for Hillman, and by defense attorneys as a civilian named Angela Russell, with whom Hillman was allegedly having an a affair.

Defense attorneys identified E.R. as Russell’s husband, Emerson Russell, a Chattanooga businessman who rented the task force a building on property he owned in Rossville, Georgia, to house the internet sting operation.

Federal prosecutors in South Carolina, who investigated Hillman after the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta recused from the case, said Hillman allowed E.R. and A.R. to watch as task force members engaged in internet chats with suspected child predators and allowed them to accompany agents when they made arrests.

Hillman also allowed A.R. to use the FBI’s computer to conduct online chats as a lure to would-be predators, who were subsequently arrested, South Carolina prosecutors said.

William Witherspoon, an assistant U.S. attorney in South Carolina who prosecuted Hillman, said that under the terms of the negotiated plea Hillman will serve four months on probation.

FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett said Hillman, whom the agency suspended without pay more than two years ago, has since retired.