Sheriff Nick Finch spoke to Historic City News yesterday from the steps of the Liberty County Courthouse, where he was joined by his wife, Angela, and 16-year-old daughter, Amber. Finch was acquitted of allegations that he improperly freed a concealed-weapons suspect whom he decided was just exercising his Second Amendment right to bear arms.
On March 3 of this year, 58-year-old Floyd Parrish was pulled over on a rural road by former Liberty County Deputy, Jody Hoagland. Parrish was searched, and Hoagland discovered a small pistol in the man’s pocket. Parrish said he forgot he had the gun when he drove to his brother’s home on an errand. Hoagland arrested Parrish and charged him with carrying a concealed weapon; a felony in Florida.
“Sheriff Finch came to the jail on Friday evening to talk with me,” Parrish testified during the trial. “The sheriff advised me to get a concealed weapon permit if I wanted to carry my gun — then he sent me home with my brothers.”
When he heard that Parrish had been released by the sheriff, Deputy Hoagland went to the office the next day and retrieved his own copy of the arrest affidavit; which he told the jury he sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Finch was a deputy for two years in Liberty County and worked for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation as an investigator, before defeating former Sheriff Donnie Conyers last year.
Defense attorney Jimmy Judkins of Tallahassee successfully argued that the sheriff “had no corrupt purpose” and got no reward for releasing Parrish from the jail. Judkins said computer records still existed, although the jail log had been “whited out” — and, the original copy of the arrest affidavit was gone.
Finch denied deleting Parrish’s name from the police blotter or disposing of the file. Campbell argued that no one else had access to the documents.
“After I testified, I felt really good about it because the jury was very attentive,” Sheriff Finch said. “That jury knows that I was telling them the truth.” After hearing the testimony, the six-member jury was out little more than an hour for deliberation then published their verdict to the court.
State Attorney Willie Meggs said, “We’re disappointed” by the verdict. He and Assistant State Attorney Jack Campbell, who handled the prosecution, maintained that Finch illegally altered jail and court documents to erase records of Parrish being at the jail.
Historic City News was informed today that, as soon as his four-day trial had ended, Sheriff Finch grabbed his cellphone and left a voice message for Governor Rick Scott; requesting reinstatement to the job he won in a bitterly contested election last November.
“Sheriff Nick Finch will be reinstated immediately,” Scott told the press a few hours later. “I would like to thank the members of the jury in Liberty County for their service in this trial. I would also like to thank interim Sheriff Buddy Money for his service to the State of Florida.”
Photo credits: © 2013 Historic City News contributed photograph by Bill Cotterell, Florida Current