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Sheriff Reinstated After Jury Acquits

By: Associated Press, Lanetra Bennett, Emily Johnson Email
By: Associated Press, Lanetra Bennett, Emily Johnson Email
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Associated Press Release

By GARY FINEOUT

BRISTOL, Fla. (AP) -- Gov. Rick Scott is reinstating Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch to his job after a jury acquitted him of official misconduct and falsifying public records.

Scott issued an executive order on Thursday just a few hours after the acquittal.

Scott's order says the reinstatement takes effect immediately. He thanked jury members in a statement.

Finch was arrested in June after prosecutors insisted he had destroyed official records related to the March arrest of Floyd Eugene Parrish. Parrish was arrested for carrying a pistol in his pocket without a concealed weapons permit but Finch let him out of jail.

Finch said he released Parrish because he did not believe state gun laws should trump the Second Amendment. He also denied destroying any records.


By: Lanetra Bennett
October 31, 2013

Bristol, FL - It took a jury less than an hour-and-a-half to come back with a verdict in the official misconduct trial of the former Liberty County sheriff.

That verdict was not guilty; and Nick Finch has already been reinstated as sheriff.

Finch was accused of getting rid of arrest reports and changing the booking logs after he released a man from jail on March 8th.

In closing arguments Thursday, the prosecution said that Finch corrupted the system and that he took the files because he didn't want anyone to know what he did.

Finch denied those claims when he testified in trial, and says he was confident the moment he left that witness stand.

Finch says, "That jury knows that I was telling them the truth. If they'll go in there and judge the facts of the case, it's going to be a not guilty verdict. i'll be honest with you, I havent' been a bit nervous at all."

Both sides agreed that Finch came into the Liberty County Jail and allowed Parrish to walk out of his holding cell with him. But, what was in question was whether Finch took the arrest records from the control room when he left.

The jury did not believe the jailer's testimony that Finch took the arrest file, and found Finch not guilty.

State Attorney Willie Meggs says, "I'm actually disappointed in the verdict. We thought we established a case. The verdict should've been guilty on both counts. but, it wasn't."

The man Finch released from jail, Floyd Parrish, was arrested for having guns without a concealed weapons permit.

Finch says he let him go free without charging him because Finch believes in the second amendment right to bear arms.


Associated Press Release

BRISTOL, Fla. (AP) -- A Panhandle jury has found a suspended Panhandle sheriff not guilty of trying to cover up his decision to intervene in a gun case.

The jury reached its verdict early Friday afternoon, shortly after prosecutors and defense attorneys wrapped up closing arguments in the case of Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch.

Finch was charged with official misconduct, a felony, as well as falsifying public records.

Prosecutors insisted that Finch tried to destroy and alter records in the arrest of Floyd Eugene Parrish. Parrish was arrested in March following a traffic stop where he was discovered carrying a pistol in his pocket without a concealed weapons permit.

Finch said he let go Parrish go because he believed that 2nd Amendment gun rights trumped state gun laws.

The case has divided this small rural county of 8,000 people located west of Tallahassee.


By: Lanetra Bennett
October 31, 2013, 1pm

Nick Finch, former Liberty County Sheriff on trial for official misconduct and altering evidence has been found not guilty on both counts.

Finch says he has already left a voicemail with a government agency asking to be reinstated.


By: Lanetra Bennett
October 31, 2013, 11:30am

The trial of former Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch continued this morning with closing arguments.

The case was turned over to the jury at 10:50 to start deliberating.

While both sides agree that Floyd Parrish was arrested on gun
charges, went to jail, and was then released from jail by Finch, the State and defense disagree on whether Finch is guilty of official misconduct and altering or destroying evidence.

In closing arguments, the State said Finch took the arrest file and altered the booking logs to cover up Parrish's arrest.

The defense said there is no evidence to prove that. It is now in the hands of a six-person jury.


By: Lanetra Bennett
October 31, 2013, 11am

The jury began deliberations in the Nick Finch misconduct trial at 10:50 a.m. this morning.

WCTV will update you on a verdict or the latest information as it is available.


Associated Press Release

BRISTOL, Fla. (AP) -- A Panhandle jury is expected to deliberate over the fate of suspended Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch.

Finch's trial on charges of official misconduct and falsifying public records is scheduled to end Thursday. Closing arguments will be held in the morning.

Prosecutors have insisted that Finch tried to destroy and alter records in order to cover up his role in securing the release of a man who had been arrested on a concealed weapons charge.

Finch on Wednesday testified on his behalf and denied he had done anything wrong. He said that he released Floyd Eugene Parrish because he believed 2nd Amendment rights trumped state law.

Parrish was arrested in March following a traffic stop where he was discovered carrying a pistol in his pocket without a concealed weapons permit.


By: Lanetra Bennett
October 30, 2013

Bristol, FL - Former Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch took the stand today in his own "official misconduct" trial. He's accused of altering or destroying jail logs the night he freed a man from jail on weapons charges.

Nick Finch said that if they arrested everybody in Liberty County who had a gun, they would need a bigger jail.

He told the court today that he didn't believe in enforcing the concealed weapons law because he believes in the constitutional right to bear arms. Finch says that's why he doesn't feel he was wrong in releasing Floyd Parrish from jail on March 8th.

Finch testified that he met two of Parrish's brothers at the Liberty County jail and they all went into Parrish's holding cell. Finch says he lectured Parrish about getting a concealed weapons permit and told him how to get one.

He says Parrish promised to get a permit, therefore, he walked Parrish out of the jail that same night with no charges.

Prosecutor Jack Campbell says, "Don't you agree that the second amendment doesn't give you the power to pick and choose which laws you're going to enforce and which laws you're gong to not enforce?"

Finch answered on the stand, "The second amendment is very specific to keeping and bearing arms, Mr. Campbell. You're talking about many laws. What I believe is the second amendment requires me to make a decision based on that second amendment as to whether I'm going to go forward with the state charges. yes, I think the Constitution has to mean something at some point, Mr. Campbell."

Finch repeatedly and adamantly said that he did not destroy the files pertaining to Parrish's arrest. He also denied whiting out Parrish's name from the arrest logs.

The jury is scheduled to deliberate Thursday. We will keep you posted.


By: Lanetra Bennett
October 30, 2013, 2:40 pm

Finch was on stand for about an hour this afternoon. He says he released Parrish because of his personal belief in the 2nd amendment.

The prosecutor said he can't pick and choose which laws to uphold, but Finch says his opinion hasn't changed.

Finch constantly said he did not destroy arrest records, and said he never saw any arrest logs. He said he didn't white out Parrish's name on arrest logs nor instructed anyone to.

The defense rested at 2:30, and the court was on break until 2:45.


By: Lanetra Bennett
October 30, 2013, 1:00 pm

The State has rested after calling its two witnesses today.

The defense made a motion for judgment of acquittal, and says that there is insufficient evidence to prove official misconduct or altering public records.

Defense attorneys say former Liberty County Sheriff, Nick Finch did not show corrupt intent when he released a man from jail back on March 8th.

The man was charged with having concealed weapons without a permit. The defense says Finch let the man out of jail because Finch believes in the Second Amendment. The attorneys say, thus, that is not corrupt intent.

The judge denied the motion and said it will be left for the jury to decide. The State says saying you're doing something for the Second Amendment is not a cure all. Prosecutors say that's not a legal defense.

The defense called the brother of the man arrested to the stand. Lloyd Parrish testified that then Sheriff Finch told him to meet him at the jail at 8:00 that night. Parrish says he and another brother went inside the jail with the sheriff.

He says the sheriff gave Floyd Parrish a stern talk about not having a permit for his two guns that were found in his truck. The brother says the sheriff said he'll let Floyd Parrish out if he promised to get permits. Lloyd Parrish says all three brothers walked out of the jail with the sheriff.


By: Lanetra Bennett
October 30, 2013, 10:30 am

Bristol, FL -- Day two is underway in the trial of Nick Finch, former Liberty County Sheriff. Finch is accused of covering up the arrest of a Floyd Parrish, who was caught with concealed weapons.

The first to take the stand was a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) inspector who testified that Parrish's name was "whited out" on the jail log sheet.

As the trial continues, stay with WCTV Eyewitness News and wctv.tv for updates.


By: Lanetra Bennett
October 29, 2013

Bristol, FL - Testimony began today in the official misconduct trial of the former Liberty County Sheriff. Nick Finch is accused of covering up the arrest of a man caught with concealed weapons.

Floyd Parrish was the first person to take the stand Tuesday morning. He told the court that he was arrested for having two guns in his truck, handcuffed, and taken to jail.

But, only a couple of hours later, the sheriff walked in, and Parrish walked out with him.

Nick Finch is accused of destroying or altering documentation of that arrest in Liberty County back on March 8th.

During trial Tuesday, Parrish admitted that he had a concealed gun on the truck seat and a gun in his pants pocket when he got pulled over.

He says Finch told him how to get permits for his guns, then released him from jail.

Finch has maintained that he was protecting the second amendment right to bear arms.

Richard Mack attended the first day of trial. He he the former sheriff in Grand County, Arizona, and the founder of an organization called Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. Mack calls Finch a hero and says Finch should not be on trial.

Mack says, "It should've been a little clarification; should've been a little education; should've been some communication between the State and sheriff Finch, and this thing should've been over. But, somebody's been after this man. If you ask me, it's a witch hunt."

The jailer, Lisa Smith, testified that Finch took the arrest file with him when he released Parrish from jail, and that Parrish's name was whited out on the arrest log.

The trial will continue Wednesday. Eyewitness News and wctv.tv will keep you posted.


Associated Press Release

BRISTOL, Fla. (AP) -- Prosecutors say suspended Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch tried to orchestrate a cover-up in order to hide his decision to intervene in a gun case in this small rural county.

But during opening statements on Tuesday an attorney for Finch said that the state had little proof that Finch destroyed or altered public records connected to the case.

Finch was first elected in November 2012 and is on trial for official misconduct and falsifying public records.

Finch has said he believes in 2nd Amendment gun rights and freed Floyd Eugene Parrish after one of his deputies arrested Parrish for carrying a gun without a concealed weapons permit.

Finch's trial has attracted attention among conservative media outlets and gun rights activists. It also has divided this county just west of Tallahassee.


By: Lanetra Bennett

The trial has begun for Nick Finch, a former Liberty County sheriff accused of official misconduct and falsifying public records.

Floyd Parrish was the first to take the stand, and testified that he was pulled over, cuffed, put in back seat of patrol car, and taken to jail. He then said that Finch arrived a couple of hours later and let him out.

The second to testify was the arresting deputy who testified that he arrested Parrish because he had two guns without permits.


Associated Press Release

BRISTOL, Fla. (AP) -- Opening arguments are scheduled to start in the trial of a former Panhandle sheriff accused of official misconduct and falsifying public records.

Prosecutors on Tuesday are expected to tell jurors that Nick Finch intervened in a case where one of his deputies arrested a resident for carrying a pistol without a concealed weapons permit. They contend Finch altered or destroyed records connected to the case.

Finch was elected Liberty County sheriff in November 2012. Gov. Rick Scott suspended him this past June.

Finch's attorneys will assert that the sheriff let the man go because he is a believer in 2nd Amendment gun rights.

The case has attracted attention among some conservative media outlets and gun rights activists. It has also divided this small rural county just west of Tallahassee.


Associated Press Release
By GARY FINEOUT

BRISTOL, Fla. (AP) -- A suspended Panhandle sheriff is going on trial for corruption charges in a case that has divided a small rural county.

Nick Finch was arrested earlier this year on felony charges of official misconduct and falsifying public records. Finch was accused in intervening in a case where one of his deputies arrested a resident for carrying a pistol without a concealed weapons permit.

A jury was picked for the case Monday.

Finch's attorneys will assert that the sheriff let the man go because he is a believer in 2nd Amendment gun rights. Prosecutors contend Finch does not have a right to ignore laws he does not believe in.

The case has attracted attention among some conservative media outlets and gun rights activists.


By: Emily Johnson
September 30, 2013

Liberty County, FL - The former sheriff of Liberty County Nick Finch is set to stand trial at the end of next month.

He's accused of freeing a man who'd been arrested on weapons charges and then altering jail record to reflect Floyd Parrish was never there.

Monday his attorney's claimed no one can prove Finch whited out the logs himself or ordered anyone else to do it. They tried to convince a judge that the jail logs in question were not public records.

"I think it's significant here that the log entries were never completed. For example on the booking log Mr. Parrish's name and some of the other information was put in that log the date he was being booked was never entered by the jail," says Defense Attorney Larry Simpson.

Both sides agreed that Sheriff Finch had the authority to let Parrish go, but prosecutors argued that the logs were public records and they should be able to argue to the jury those should never have been altered.

Now it's up to a jury to decide if the former sheriff falsified or destroyed public records.

"What's important about today's ruling is that it's going to go to a jury and they're going to be able to hear the facts and the truth of what happen," says State Attorney Jack Campbell.

The jury selection starts October 27Th and the trial begins October 28Th.


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