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Ga. Supreme Court to hear appeal of ecstasy ring suspects

ATLANTA -- Three men charged in a multi-county drug ring are attempting to get key evidence against them suppressed because they say the wiretap issued by a Gwinnett judge was unconstitutional.

The Georgia Supreme Court will hear Monday the appeals of Khamone Luangkhot, Isaac Saleumsy and Santisouk Phommachanh, all arrested in 2007 for their alleged part in an ecstasy distribution ring brought down by the Atlanta High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force.

According to information released by the court, the Gwinnett County District Attorney's office obtained 25 warrants authorizing wiretaps of 18 telephones -- including those of the defendants -- during the investigation. The three men in question were arrested after numerous phone conversations and undercover buys with law enforcement, officials said.

The trio has filed appeals and arguments to suppress evidence during trial based on the fact that while the wiretaps were ordered from the Gwinnett County Superior Court, the "listening post" -- where law enforcement first heard the contents of the tapped communications -- was at HIDTA's Fulton County headquarters.

The defense for the appellants argues that, since the wiretapping investigation was physically carried out in Fulton, the Gwinnett judge acted out of territorial jurisdiction.

The state has argued that amendments in 2000 and 2002 "intended to broaden the scope of a superior court's territorial jurisdiction with respect to issuing wiretap warrants and no longer limit the court's jurisdiction to the county where the listening post was located." It also has argued that it has jurisdiction because the criminal activity occurred in Gwinnett.

The state Court of Appeals previously upheld the state's position. The Supreme Court will hear the case on Monday.

Luangkhot, Saleumsy and Phommachanh all face multiple indictments of trafficking in ecstasy, conspiracy to traffic in ecstasy and conspiracy to possess ecstasy with intent to distribute.