Suspended Sheriff Nick Finch says video and audio from the Liberty County Jail will substantiate his claim that he didn’t remove and destroy public documents as charged. The problem?
The video has reportedly been recorded over.
Ever heard the old saying, “You can’t be walked on unless you lie down?”
Amid allegations of official misconduct and falsifying public records, recently suspended Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch is refusing to lie down.
As previously reported, Finch is accused of destroying documents following the arrest of a Liberty County man charged with having a concealed weapon without a permit. Finch says he believes in Second Amendment rights and felt the man never should have been charged. Finch was arrested June 4.
Sources report Finch insists video and phone records from the night in question will prove he acted appropriately. He reportedly told a jailer on a recorded phone line not to take any action on the case, including beginning the booking process, until he arrived to review the matter. However, according to the arrest affidavit, Sgt. Lisa Smith, a jailer, began processing the suspect, creating an arrest file with required documentation. She also wrote his name and arrest information on the jail log and entered his arrest in the LCSO computer database.
Upon arrival at the jail with the suspect’s brother, Sheriff Finch allegedly instructed Sgt. Smith to release the man and told her no charges would be filed. White-out was used to remove his name from the jail log. Sgt. Smith further stated to FDLE investigators that Sheriff Finch left the jail at 8 p.m. with the arrest file and she hasn’t seen it since that time.
However, Finch says video surveillance cameras at the jail will prove he did not take a file out of the jail.
Sounds simple enough to prove? Get the video. Get the phone recording. Make your case.
Not so fast.
Sources indicate Finch’s attorney, James P. Judkins has requested the videotape and phone evidence from State Attorney Willie Meggs’ office during the discovery process. However, Finch says the items have not been provided.
Last week, a local man made a public records request to the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office for the same evidence - the video and the phone recording. He said he was told the items were available, but would cost $100 to obtain due to the time it would take to retrieve and burn the disks. An hour later, Sheriff Buddy Money reportedly told the man the items would not be available until the case is closed, standard procedure when an investigation is open. The man asked for verification at that time that the recordings did exist and was given written confirmation they would be available once the case is closed. During a conversation with Sheriff Money, the man says the sheriff told him he could probably save the $100 and simply request the items from State Attorney Meggs’ office upon closing of the case.
The man said he then asked, just to confirm, that Meggs’ office was in possession of the recordings. He says Sheriff Money confirmed that the State Attorney’s Office did have the tapes.
Finch was stunned to learn the tapes were available since his attorney had reportedly been unable to obtain them. Then on Monday, the case took another turn when Finch was advised by his attorney that the videotape had reportedly been recorded over and the footage was unavailable.
The County Record attempted to contact Meggs midday Friday to get comments on the matter. He was reportedly on a phone call and his assistant said he would phone as soon as that call ended. As of press time Tuesday morning, the call had yet to be returned.
Last week, The County Record reported that Finch had been offered a deal by the prosecution to resign and all charges would be deferred. He refused, insisting on a jury trial. Meggs has allegedly told Finch attorneys if a hearing is held Thursday on the Bill of Particulars, there will be no deferred prosecution deal and “we will go to war.” (Editor’s Note: A Bill of Particulars is a written demand by the defendant for the specific facts alleged in the complaint.)
Finch has taken every opportunity to speak out about his stand on the matter, even taking the case to the airwaves last Wednesday on the Burnie Thompson show, a statewide talk radio show that airs on Tallahassee’s 93.3 and Panama City’s 101.1 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. CT/12-3 p.m. ET. Thompson has issued a challenge on his show and Facebook page asking Gov. Rick Scott to offer a lie detector test to both Finch and State Attorney Willie Meggs. If Finch passes, Thompson is asking Gov. Scott to reinstate him. Finch has agreed. No word from Meggs.