GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - Wiretap evidence is often crucial in drug dealing cases, but the Georgia Supreme Court has thrown out wiretapping evidence in a drug ring case, and it could impact hundreds more.
On Monday, Channel 2’s Tom Regan spoke to Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter about the case of an alleged international drug smuggling ring based in his county. The state Supreme Court ruled that wiretap warrants issued by a Gwinnett judge were invalid because the monitoring was done at a listening post in Atlanta, but Porter believes his investigators were well within the law.
“Basically what this will do is result in the dismissal of all these cases," Porter told Regan on Monday.
Porter said the ruling suppressing wiretap evidence has blown apart an investigation that resulted in the seizure of 65,000 Ecstasy tablets, the primary drug in an alleged international drug distribution ring in 2007.
Former Marietta police officer Issac Saleumsy was the among nearly three dozen arrested.
"We managed to disrupt a large international Ecstasy smuggling ring. We found people from Canada. They were actually bringing it through Canada, that's how we're finding it," Porter said.
The problem is the wiretap warrants were approved by a Gwinnett judge, but the listening was taking place at a federal monitoring station in Atlanta. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled that was in violation of state law, but Porter disagrees.
"Federal law was divided on whether or not the monitoring station had to be in the same jurisdiction as the judge who issued the order. We thought we were on safe legal ground going forward," Porter said.
The attorney for the former Marietta police officer charged in the case applauded the court ruling. Although he was out of state, Regan reached him by telephone.
"The state has an obligation to follow the law in obtaining these wiretaps, and they didn't do so, and therefore these wire taps cannot be used," defense attorney John Garland said.
Porter worries the ruling could jeopardize hundreds of the criminal cases -- both pending and those where defendants already are convicted.
“We have cases of large drug conspiracies that are going to be affected by this decision," he said. “We have cases of kidnapping with bodily injury, assault cases, so we are not just talking about drug cases.”
Porter said prosecutors will ask the state legislature to make changes in the law so wiretaps that cross jurisdictions are permissible in the future.