UPDATE: Reports are surfacing that the FL Sheriff was found “not guilty” and has been reinstated.
Liberty County, FL-
In a developing story, Sheriff Nick Finch was arrested, charged with a felony and suspended without pay for supporting a citizen’s 2nd Amendment rights. It’s not a story you hear every day. It’s certainly not a story you’d expect out of a county named Liberty.
The events began when Floyd Eugene Parrish, a Florida resident, was arrested and detained by one of Finch’s deputies for carrying a firearm without a permit on March 8th, 2013. In the state of Florida, this lands you a 3rd degree felony charge. Finch released Parrish because, in his assessment, Parrish was not a violent criminal and was acting innocuously. Finch called the clerk and told her not to draw up arrest documents until he was there to assess the situation. Note, Parrish had not been officially booked into jail- only detained.
The arresting deputy had multiple complaints for overstepping his authority from citizens over the past several months before Parrish’s arrest. A month after Parrish was released from jail Sheriff Finch decided he needed to launch an internal investigation against the deputy due to multiple complaints and phone calls he had received. Once the deputy found out that an investigation was going to be launched against him, he resigned to keep the investigation from occurring. On May 1st, the deputy, who was no longer employed in the state of Florida, filed a complaint against Finch for the Parrish arrest that took place more 2 months beforehand.
Rick Scott, Florida governor, stepped in and had Finch arrested. Governor Scott then appointed a new sheriff. Finch says he did not vote for the Governor. “I’m not a republican, or a democrat. Just a man who believes in the Constitution,” says Finch. A rally was recently organized by Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Adrian Wyllie. Governor Scott was invited to speak, but was a no show.
Below is our exclusive interview with Sheriff Finch:
Q1: How have things been going since the Governor stepped in and had you arrested?
A1: Things have been tough. Especially on the family. We are living on one income right now. Willie Meggs, the state attorney, actually has family in Liberty County and it seems they were part of the group who were against my election to begin with. This is one of the most corrupt attorneys in FL. Having to live at their side has not been easy.
Q2: Why do you believe Governor Scott had you arrested?
A2: I think that once the state attorney filed charges against me Governor Scott had to step in. I’m shocked and amazed that it has gone this far. The Governor claims he is pro 2nd Amendment, but I’m not so sure. I have offered to take a lie-detector test for the Governor if he thinks I’m not being truthful about the events that night. I am trying to work with the Governor- not against him.
Q3: Do you feel that the stop on Parrish (the man Sheriff Finch released from jail) by your deputy, which lead to discovery of the weapon and his subsequent arrest was constitutional?
A3: The deputy arrested Parrish for “failure to maintain the lane”. Upon stopping Parrish he was not drunk, or under the influence of any drugs. I myself have traveled that same road many times. It is a single lane and is crumbling. I have gone off the road there multiple times. Regardless, Parrish told the deputy that he did have a weapon. The deputy the arrested him for not having a licence. Sadly, we do not have cameras on the patrol cars, so it is really the deputy’s word against Parrish’s as to whether or not his driving warranted a stop.
Q4: If you could go back to that night in March would you do things differently?
A4: Absolutely not. I wouldn’t have done anything different. Once I became aware of the arrest, I immediately called the clerk and told her not to book Parrish. I am a Desert Storm veteran. I took an oath to protect the Constitution in the army and again as a sheriff. The state is charging me with destroying documents, which never existed. They do not have a case.
Q5: How long do you plan to fight for this case?
A5: I do not expect to be convicted of the crime. However, I’ll fight it all the way to the Supreme Court if I have to. The state already made me an offer that if I resign they will drop the charges. To me, this means they do not have a case and it seems there are political motives to push me out rather than seek justice.
Q6: It seems like the tea party, libertarian crowd has really got behind you. Is being an “independent” sort of code for being libertarian?
A6: Reagan was the first president I ever voted for. I was a republican for years before I became an independent. As far as I am concerned it seems like there is no difference now days between republicans and democrats. To answer your question though, yes I am certainly seeming to lean more libertarian now days.
Tea parties around the country have reacted. Mark West, Chattanooga Tea Party President, tells us in an exclusive interview:
“The Tea Party movement is united on multiple core issues. Of those core issues we hold the Constitution supreme. We are also united in protecting it from those who are attacking it in the states and federal government. This is probably one of the clearest examples of such an attack. Sheriff Finch took an oath to the Constitution of the United States of America. Because he took this oath seriously, Governor Scott sees it fit to have this elected sheriff arrested and charged with a felony. You’d expect more from a governor who claims to be a Republican, but no. As we are united on core issues, we must unite behind Sheriff Finch. This is a time for the grassroots to dig deep and take a stand. Finch is just one example of many. If we do not stand, it is only a matter of time before it is in our county. As an organization, the Chattanooga Tea Party has donated $500.00 to Finch’s defense fund, and many of our members have donated on top of that. Finch needs our support of the next months to years as he walks forward in this battle with his lawyers. He also needs our prayers. If we expect to have sheriffs who will protect our constitutional rights, then we have to support those brothers and sisters such as Finch who are willing to stand strong.“
West tells us that a fundraiser/rally is planned for Finch on August 24th. The Chattanooga Tea Party vice president is flying down to Florida to support Finch. Supporters have set up a Facebook page to keep up with Finch’s case.
Sheriff Mack, Founder, President of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), has taken a stand for Sheriff Finch. They have set up a defense fund for Finch and are rallying support from across the country. I spoke with Sheriff Mack about Finch’s case:
“Obviously we are getting very involved. We are having a fundraiser in Panama City, FL this weekend. Finch stood against the enforcement of a law, which is contrary to the Constitution. He stood in courage. Everyone would be in jail if it wasn’t for sheriffs like Finch setting a great example as to what all sheriffs in this country should be doing. We have been able to send Finch $3.5k already, and we have already raised about another $5k.“
Sheriff Mack tells me that the fundraiser in Florida this weekend will host some of the country’s finest constitutional sheriffs.
Finch is being charged with violation of Florida Statute 838.022(1): It is unlawful for a public servant, with corrupt intent to obtain a benefit for any person or to cause harm to another, to: (b): Conceal, cover up, destroy, mutilate, or alter any official record or official document or cause another person to perform such an act.
However, according to the state of Florida’s General Records Schedule any records of Parrish’s arrest lost their administrative value once Finch acted within his authority not to pursue charges against Parrish, and therefore could not longer be used or retained.
According to former prosecutor and attorney KrisAnne Hall:
“You see, when Sheriff Finch used his proper authority to not pursue charges against Mr. Parish, the records pertaining to his arrest lost their “administrative value.” Sheriff Finch, by this Florida Regulation was within his authority to destroy this record. The arrest affidavit of Sheriff Finch gives a pretty detailed account of what took place. But the arrest affidavit NEVER mentions Parish being booked into custody. Being placed in a jail cell is not being booked. If the arrest affidavit is accurate, and we have to trust it to be as it was given under oath, then Parish was never booked so the log that contained his name was in error and the Sheriff’s office also had full authority to white out his name and make space for someone who was actually booked into the jail.“
Finch first ran for Sheriff as a republican in 2008. He lost in that election cycle, and ran again as an independent when he finally won with the support of thousands in 2012. He first took office on January 1st, 2013.