Sunday, May 20, 2018

Suspended Liberty County sheriff defends his actions to jury

BRISTOL — Suspended Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch took the stand on Wednesday and told jurors he did nothing wrong when he intervened in a gun case earlier this year.

Finch's decision to testify on his own behalf came in the closing moments of his trial on charges of official misconduct and falsifying public records. The case, which has divided this small rural county west of Tallahassee, is expected to go to a jury today.

Finch, who was at times combative with the lead prosecutor handling the case, repeatedly insisted that he did not destroy or alter records related to the arrest of Floyd Eugene Parrish. Prosecutors contend Finch destroyed records in order to cover up his actions.

Parrish was arrested in March after a traffic stop during which he was discovered carrying a pistol in his pocket without a concealed weapons permit. Finch released Parrish from jail a few hours later.

Finch repeated his assertion that the reason he let Parrish go was that he does not believe that the state's concealed weapons law should trump the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He called it the "supreme law of the land."

"I think the Constitution has to mean something at some point," Finch testified.

Finch also said arresting people for not having the proper permits would be impractical in Liberty County.

"If I arrested everyone in Liberty County who had a gun in the car, we are going to have to build a bigger jail," he said.

Assistant State Attorney Jack Campbell disputed Finch's handling of the case and said Finch released Parrish because members of Parrish's family were political supporters. He put on the stand two top officials with the Liberty County Sheriff's Office who said they were never told by Finch to stop charging people for concealed weapons offenses.

Gov. Rick Scott suspended Finch from office this past summer. The case has attracted attention among gun rights activists and conservative media and prompted some Floridians to email Scott and demand that he reinstate Finch.

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