LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WMBB) — Judge Mark Walker has ruled on one of several motions in the Lynn Haven corruption case and announced that jury instructions will be sufficient to deal with a legal issue going forward.
But the legal wrangling is far from over and James Finch, the owner of Phoenix Construction, and Margo Anderson, the former mayor of Lynn Haven, could still see the case dismissed.
Finch and Anderson are charged with conspiracy and bribery in connection with Lynn Haven projects. Anderson asked Walker to throw out the conspiracy charge against her because she was unaware of Finch’s alleged bribery of former City Commissioner Antonious Barnes. How could Anderson be part of a conspiracy if she did not even know about the actions of two of the alleged conspirators?
“Anderson argues that Count One contains ‘independent, disconnected alleged conspiracies’ because it ‘lacks any allegations that the alleged Finch-Anderson and Finch-Barnes conspiratorial agreements shared a common goal greater than themselves,'” Walker wrote. “Further, there is no allegation that ‘Anderson knew of the alleged Finch-Barnes agreement’ or that this conspiracy was in any way ‘dependent on, facilitated by, or furthered by Anderson.'”
Walker likened the situation to a previous ruling involving drug dealers.
“Various drug dealers connected to the same central distributor cannot be part of the same wheel-shaped conspiracy simply because they all sought to sell drugs for money,” he wrote.
However, instead of throwing out the charge altogether, Walker ruled that the issue can be solved with jury instructions.
“Unlike previous iterations of this indictment where the duplicitous charges could not be disentangled, the two conspiracies alleged in Count One can be feasibly separated,” he wrote. “Here, this Court will offer a curative instruction to the jury that specifies the offense charged in Count One of the third superseding indictment.”
Walker is expected to rule soon on several other defense motions in the case. A trial is currently set for late February.