Benjamin Finney is appealing the judge’s decision to allow it. The Georgia Supreme Court is scheduled to hear these arguments next Friday, October 16.
Court records say the Jones County Sheriff’s Office asked the Bibb County District Attorney’s Office to conduct a wiretap investigation on Finney’s cellphone in 2008 because they believed he was dealing cocaine and other drugs in Jones and Bibb Counties. In February 2008, the district attorney’s office applied for a 30-day wiretap warrant to put Finney’s text messages, emails and phone conversations on his cellphone under surveillance. At that time Finney was also a suspect in the 2008 murder of Gwendolyn Cole in Bibb County. A judge granted the warrant in February. Another judge granted another order that extended the warrant another 30 days.
Federal law says if State prosecutors want to use the wiretap information, they must have the evidence sealed immediately once the warrant expires to make sure there is no tampering with the evidence. In Finney’s case, the surveillance stopped on March 20, 2008 and the warrant expired on April 7, 2008, but the evidence wasn’t submitted to the judge and sealed until April 23, 2008.
Finney was indicted in 2013 for murder, aggravated assault and gun charges, according to the Georgia Supreme Court. After his indictment he filed a motion to suppress the wiretap evidence. The trial court denied the motion claiming the State had provided a "satisfactory explanation" for its failure to immediately seal the evidence.
Court records show the State gave two reasons as to why the wiretap was sealed 16 days late. The State claimed the prosecutor had been busy with a high-profile death penalty appeal at the time and the judge wasn’t available until April 14, 2008 because he was attending a National Judicial Council training session for two weeks that ended on April 10.
Finney now appeals this pre-trial ruling to the state Supreme Court.