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Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch Acquitted in Ideology-Fraught Gun Case

| October 31, 2013

He walks.

He walks.

A North Florida jury on Thursday acquitted suspended Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch of official misconduct and falsifying public records in a case that roiled gun-rights supporters and reached Gov. Rick Scott’s office.

Scott, who has been under fire from Second Amendment backers since he suspended Finch on June 4, quickly reinstated the sheriff Thursday afternoon.

The criminal charges and suspension came after a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation concluded that the sheriff released a local man, Floyd Eugene Parrish, who had been arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, and that Finch destroyed or altered records of the arrest.

But a jury in the rural community west of Tallahassee reached a verdict within 90 minutes to acquit Finch, 51, who was engulfed with hugs and handshakes from family members and supporters who crowded the courtroom. .

The case drew widespread attention because of Finch’s claim that he was defending the right to bear arms when he came to the jail on March 8 to order Parrish’s release.

“It was his belief in the Second Amendment that prompted Sheriff Finch to release Mr. Parrish,” said defense attorney Jimmy Judkins in closing arguments. “It’s a way of life over here for people to own guns.”

But Assistant State Attorney Jack Campbell argued that Finch was “a politician” who owed Parrish’s family a favor for helping to elect him. Finch was elected in November 2012 in a close race, narrowly defeating the incumbent.

“The Parrish brothers — their support in the campaign led to a get-out-of-jail-free card,” Campbell said.

Campbell said Finch requested the paperwork on Parrish’s arrest when he visited the jail to release him and that the documents subsequently disappeared.

“He’s using the Constitution to cover up his criminality,” Campbell said.

Judkins told the jury the state hadn’t proved what happened to the documents beyond a reasonable doubt.

Campbell said Finch could have ordered Parrish’s release by phone, but instead came to the jail to take the paperwork with him.

“What he wanted to do that night, he couldn’t do on the phone,” Campbell said. “We have a sheriff who was trying to hide the truth.”

According to an FDLE affidavit, a Liberty County deputy arrested Parrish during a traffic stop for the felony charge of carrying a concealed deadly weapon — a loaded semi-automatic pistol that was found hidden in his right-front pants pocket.

The case came to FDLE’s attention through the deputy, who kept copies of the paperwork until he found a fire-rescue job in Jackson County and resigned from the sheriff’s office.

Judkins argued that Finch “didn’t have any relationship” with Parrish. He said Finch was trying to avoid “creating felons out of people who are minding their own business and not being a threat to society.”

“(Finch) made a policy decision that he’s not going to charge people with gun violations because of the distinct possibility that every now and then, one of y’all’s going to make a mistake,” Judkins said. “And he doesn’t want to create a convicted felon out of an innocent citizen.”

But State Attorney Willie Meggs, who was in the courtroom while Campbell prosecuted the case, stood behind the charges.

“We thought we established a case,” Meggs said. “The verdict should have been guilty on both counts.”

–Margie Menzel, News Service of Florida

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14 Responses for “Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch Acquitted in Ideology-Fraught Gun Case”

  1. Anita says:

    Anybody ever tell these people that the Second Amendment is not a sacrament and that the Constitution is not a religion? Sheriff Finch, claims he didn’t , “…want to create a convicted felon out of an innocent citizen.”. Fine! But in ordering the defendant, Mr. Parrish’s, release the sheriff acted above his pay grade, depriving him of due justice and of his day in court and should certainly have been relieved of duty. Guess Gov. Scott is more of a wuss than I thought.

    • Johnny Taxpayer says:

      What exactly would you have the Governor do? He suspended the Sheriff after he was charged, the sheriff was acquitted, the Gov has no choice but to reinstate him!

    • Daniel says:

      He didn’t act above his pay grade. He’s an elected official with the authority to cancel the actions of one of his deputies. The progressive states attorney from Tallahassee didn’t like what he did and went after him with the very little evidence he had and the citizens of that county found him innocent. You obviously have an axe to grind with the 2nd amendment.

      • A.S.F. says:

        @Daniel says–I have an axe to grind with any law enforcement official who takes it upon himself to abort the workings of the justice system for individuals of their own choosing and then covering up their actions with destroying and falsifying records.And that has nothing to do with the second amendment. The fact that this cop would use the Constitution as some grand excuse for his being able to circumvent the law when he feels like it is just obscene. The people who acquitted this officer love their guns more than they value their reason or their conscience. Either that, or they are so blinded by their need for weapons that it has made them stupid.

        • Ray Thorne says:

          As a staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment, even i can see the issue of destroying arrest documents. I think the Governor acted correctly by suspending him in the first place. But now in my opinion this Sheriff and those who defended him set a dangerous precedent that anyone carrying a concealed weapon illegally can argue.

      • Anonymous says:

        The people who acquitted the Sheriff recognize his authority to interpret and decipher what laws should be enforced and when. He recognized that the citizen had committed no crime. The constitution is in place to ensure he has a right to carry a weapon. Other than the inappropriate Florida law, which would deny him his constitutional right, there was no crime.

  2. Nancy N. says:

    Seems like a clear case of jury nullification to me…

  3. A.S.F. says:

    Question–If Sheriff Finch was so sure that what he was doing was not only not wrong, but so constitutionally correct, why did he feel the need to falsify some records and make others disappear? Why did he not let the arrest go through so that Mr. Parrish could have his day in court and be acquitted by a jury of his peers, just like anybody else? This is “backwoods” justice and back-office wheeling and dealing and this acquittal will make Florida even more of a laughingstock then it already is. But, then again, why shouldn’t people scorn us when we act like characters out of the Dukes of Hazzard?

  4. Sherry Epley says:

    OK. . . here I have read two stories (the Fireman in Flagler Beach and this sheriff) of people essentially “not jailed”, although obviously there was certainly corruption and wrong doing that should concern us all. Why are these two men still employed? Is there nothing between being in jail or being reinstated (and maybe even promoted) in a public services job? Why is our hard earned taxes being used to employ these dishonest, unethical people. . . especially when there are plenty of highly qualified, honest people who would jump at a chance for these kinds of positions. That sheriff should have some kind of disciplinary penality, and needs to be (I assume) voted out. The fire fighter needs to be fired, out right!

  5. A.S.F. says:

    I will eagerly await the day when we will hear a story coming from Liberty County about how one of their police officers (maybe stalwart Mr. Finch) decided to drop charges and get rid of any associated paperwork on a Black Man (without highly placed friends) arrested in their locality for possession of a loaded and unlawful weapon–on the basis of the Second Amendment, of course.

  6. truth monitor says:


  7. George Washington says:

    The second amendment , ” ..shall not be infringed”. Sounds absolute to me. If you don’t like guns then you must also hate free speech, your privacy, and religion.

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