Jury finds sheriff not guilty of misconduct

Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 12:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 12:55 p.m.

BRISTOL — The suspended sheriff of Liberty County was found not guilty by a Panhandle jury on charges that he tried to cover up his role in intervening in a gun case.

The jury reached its verdict Friday afternoon, a short time after prosecutors and defense attorneys wrapped up closing arguments in the case of 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, who testified on his own behalf during the three-day long trial, said he let go Parrish go because he believed that 2nd Amendment gun rights trumped state gun laws.

But Assistant State Attorney Jack Campbell contended that Finch was lying about his reasons for letting Parrish go. He pointed out that other Liberty County sheriff's office officials were never told about a policy to not prosecute gun crimes.

"The 2nd Amendment doesn't have anything to do with this case," Campbell told jurors during his closing statement on Thursday. "It's about the truth."

Finch's case has divided this small rural county of 8,000 people located west of Tallahassee. It also gained attention among conservative media outlets and gun rights activists who have criticized prosecutors and Gov. Rick Scott for suspending Finch from office.

The state built its case around the fact that the original document used to charge Parrish was missing and that someone had whited out logs used at the Liberty County jail. A jail employee testified that she gave Finch the file that contained information about the case.

Campbell argued that the jail employee had no reason to lie about what happened last March. He alleged, however, that Finch did have a reason to lie, saying he wanted to make sure that no one knew he had released Parrish.

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