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DA: Ruling would let 35 drug traffickers off the hook

LAWRENCEVILLE -- If a recent ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court remains, it would allow dozens of suspected drug traffickers to walk free.

The state's highest court released Monday its decision regarding an alleged multi-county ecstasy drug ring brought down in 2007 by Gwinnett authorities and the Atlanta High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force. The court upheld an appeal -- filed by three key defendants -- that called wiretaps ordered in the case by the Gwinnett County District Attorney's Office unconstitutional.

The ruling, Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter told the Daily Post, could spell big problems.

"We are deciding whether to file a motion for reconsideration," Porter said. "If the decision stands, it will result in the dismissal of cases against approximately 35 drug traffickers. We're evaluating its effect on pending cases."

During the course of the original investigation, Porter's office obtained from a Gwinnett County Superior Court judge 25 warrants authorizing wiretaps on 18 telephones, including those of appealing defendants Khamone Luangkhot, Isaac Saleumsy and Santisouk Phommachanh.

Those three men were arrested after numerous recorded phone conversations and undercover buys with law enforcement.

The problem, according to the Supreme Court, however, is the manner in which the wiretaps were acquired. The Gwinnett judge issued warrants, but the "listening post" -- where law enforcement first heard the contents of the tapped communications -- was at HIDTA's Fulton County headquarters.

The Court has now ruled that those calls, pieces of key evidence, should have been suppressed by the trial court.

"Having reviewed the applicable law, we conclude that superior courts do not currently possess the authority to issue wiretap warrants for interceptions conducted outside the boundaries of their respective judicial circuits," Chief Justice Carol Hunstein wrote in the unanimous decision. "Accordingly, the Gwinnett County Superior Court did not have the authority to issue the warrants in this case, and we thus must reverse."

The decision reversed a previous ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Comments

rco1847 1 year, 9 months ago

What else would you expect from Gwinnett County

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MissDaisyCook 1 year, 9 months ago

The better question should be, "what else would you expect from a terribly left leaning, liberal Georgia Supreme Court." They continuously torture the law to reach the decision they want. Justice Hunstein has never met a criminal defendant that she didn't love.

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Cleanupguy 1 year, 9 months ago

Oh puuuuuleeeese give that simplistic claptrap garbage a rest. Among the fundamentals upon which this country exists is caution for the rights of the accused. How many of your rights would you be willing to give up? Arrested and jailed for fashion violations? Socialist Security abuses? You might be better served to discuss your concerns with the DA, his office and/or the police appear to have dropped the ball - Law School 101 stuff.

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MissDaisyCook 1 year, 9 months ago

What's your experience hot shot? Does it compare to 30+ years legal experience, practice and judicial? These justices are not correct, they just get to have the last word. Maybe next time you will have some knowledge from which you speak instead of simply changing feet when you open your mouth.

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Cleanupguy 1 year, 9 months ago

Now that you mention it, my spouse served as an attorney at the DOD (mostly "black court"), including as a direct report to Dick Cheney. She currently works under the golden dome in Atlanta. In Georgia she goes back as far as George T. Smith (we are still close friends with his widow) - everyone I know sees the aforementioned judges as being just about as far right leaning as can be.

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CD 1 year, 9 months ago

Perhaps Shirley can get a "do-over".

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kevin 1 year, 9 months ago

and people wonder why more drug deals are settled with guns? The justice system keeps letting them back on the streets to kill each other. The cops are probably happy about all this. They can hope they kill each other off so they don't have to keep arresting the same dirty slugs over and over again.

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Sentinel 1 year, 9 months ago

Prior to this decision, Georgia law was silent as to whether the listening post was required to be physically located in the jurisdiction of the issuing judge. Georgia law specifically says that anything permitted under the Federal wiretap statute is permissable under Georgia law. Federal circuits are divided on whether the listening post has to be in the same jurisdiction as the issuing judge. The DA had a valid legal basis to proceed -- the Supreme Court ruled the other way. No one, not even a first year law student could have predicted how the court would rule in a case of first impression given the current state of the law.

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SuxBeanU 1 year, 9 months ago

once again another case of judicial nulification. Will the ga supreme court ever act to uphold convictions of those deemed to be a hazard to the community? next time around let's get rid of everyone serving on the s/c.

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