LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WMBB) — The man at the center of the Lynn Haven corruption case spoke out Wednesday shortly after the latest filing from federal prosecutors became public.
James Finch, the owner of Phoenix Construction, and Margo Anderson, the former mayor of Lynn Haven, are accused of bribery and fraud over several city projects.
Finch called News 13 Wednesday afternoon and listed a litany of issues he had with prosecutors and investigators over the case.
The most recent was a new accusation that the evidence in the case allegedly proves that Finch, “was the impetus for Derwin White instructing Mickey White to create backdated invoices.”
The invoices and the allegation that White was told about an FBI raid before it happened has been one of several contentious issues in the case. Finch and his lawyers claim that White had a connection inside the investigation.
“They forgot the policeman who told Derwin the raid is coming,” Finch said.
Finch’s attorneys have referred to White, who has since died and was the former owner of local construction company GAC, as “the godfather” of Bay County.
He also reiterated that Anderson was the true whistleblower in the case. Prosecutors argue that she only came forward to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office after the investigation was underway and in hopes of shielding herself from prosecution.
“When Margo went in April (of 2019) to the sheriff and told them what was going on in the City of Lynn Haven that’s when they started investigating,” Finch said. “That’s when Derwin and his friends at the Sheriff’s Department tried to pin it on Margo and myself. To change the narrative. And that’s what will be decided at the trial.”
Anderson and Finch have filed motions to have a portion of the case severed so that the alleged crimes that only involve Anderson will be dealt with in a separate trial. Prosecutors opposed the move and Judge Mark Walker has not yet ruled on the issue.
“I wanted to sever the charges because the prosecutor couldn’t just throw it up and confuse the jury,” Finch said. “There’s nobody that hasn’t read this stuff that is not confused.”
Finch added that the prosecutors have not been able to articulate the alleged crimes.
“They have their theory the way they think it should happen and they have had a problem with it since they come out with their theory,” Finch said. “They got the toothpaste out of the tube and can’t put it back in.”
There is a solution to this problem though, Finch added.
“I asked months ago, let’s stop all these motions and let’s go to trial to a bench trial. Let the judge decide. The judge agreed. They said they would have to think about it but I don’t guess they trust the judge,” Finch said. “They think they can confuse the jury a lot easier than they can the judge. I thought the judge would be more than capable of keeping up with the case any way they wanted to put it out.”
Finch also took issue with how prosecutors plan to proceed if there are separate trials. They wrote they intend to take Anderson to trial first and then if she is convicted they will then determine if she will take a plea on the other charges. Presumably, they hope that if she is convicted she will testify against Finch.
“There won’t be any of Margo going against me or me going against Margo. There’s just one direction and that’s not guilty,” Finch said.
Federal prosecutors are often successful because defendants cannot afford a protracted legal battle.
“They have a 96 percent conviction rate because people run out of money,” Finch said.
Another issue he raised is the idea that because Finch and Anderson were friends who went on vacations together that meant she was essentially on the take for every Phoenix Construction bid in Lynn Haven.
“They gotta prove a quid pro quo and they are saying the quid is the airplane rides and the quo is any business interest of mine that came up,” Finch said. “That is a broad brush.”
He also defended the company’s work on the 17th Street Construction Project. The project is one of several that are at issue in the case.
“The 17th Street ditch is one of the best things that ever happened to Lynn Haven and their stormwater problems. I loaned them $5 million and financed it for two and a half percent when their own estimates to fix it was $7.5 million,” Finch said.
Another project that is part of the case is paving work that was paid for with Half Cent sales tax money.
“We had paved 28 miles in Lynn Haven and I had to invoice every month to be paid and they charged me for every invoice I turned in. So that’s some of the 16 charges,” Finch said.
He also noted that prosecutors alleged that Anderson vacationed on Finch’s yacht.
“I would like them to find my yacht that they lost. In the first indictment, they said the week after the Hurricane she was floating around on my yacht in Key West. I had sold it 6 months earlier,” Finch said. “I would like them to find it for me. Being that they got the FBI, the greatest detectives in the world.”
Finch also took issue with America’s criminal justice system.
“The grand jury after 250 years needs to be revamped. Because there’s only two countries in the world that use it anymore. Which is the United States and Liberia,” Finch said. “It’s the only time a man will go to the courthouse and not be represented. They don’t have to produce all the evidence. Hearsay is good enough. I predicted they would take this grand jury system and try to take Donald Trump down with it.”
He also brought up a scandal that involved one of the prosecutors that is now on his case. An issue his defense team has also brought up in previous filings.
“And for a real treat read the Aisenberg case which is by the main prosecutor, in this case, this is worth looking up,” Finch said. “In this process, that’s lasted for over a year now, the only one that’s been called unprofessional and haphazard — among other things — by the court, has been the prosecutors.”
Finch added that prosecutors threatened Anderson with 1,050 years in prison. He said after hearing that he offered her some advice.
“Well, Margo, you should have told them you are going to screw them out of most of that,” Finch recalled.
Anderson responded as well Wednesday afternoon. Shortly after News 13 posted a previous story to Facebook and highlighted a prosecutorial statement that Finch and Anderson had “clumsily” tried to cover up their crimes an account believed to be hers commented on the story.
“Not guilty,” she wrote. “And I did not say that “clumsily.” She followed that with 10 American flag emojis.