Feds hammer home response in corruption case

Lynn Haven

"It began with Finch having his way with the City."

The FBI raided former Lynn Haven Mayor Margo Anderson’s home in August of 2020.

LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WMBB) — The attorneys for the remaining defendants in the Lynn Haven corruption case are leaning on technicalities in hopes of getting some of the charges dismissed.

But this week prosecutors offered a blunt assessment and response to multiple motions to dismiss. The defendants are all part of the same conspiracy and that conspiracy is easy to understand: Steal as much as they could from the city and get as much as they could in kickbacks from businesses who worked with the city, they said.

“Simply stated, obtaining a significant amount of money from Lynn Haven was the object,” prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors have charged nine people in an ongoing corruption case involving government projects in the city. Five people have already pleaded guilty in the case while Phoenix Construction owner James Finch, former Lynn Haven Mayor Margo Anderson, former City Attorney Adam Albritton, and former City Commissioner Antonius Barnes are awaiting trial. 

Finch’s attorney, Guy Lewis, is seeking to get several charges dismissed under the legal theory that while Finch did, indeed, give or loan Antonius Barnes money while he was a sitting commissioner, and Barnes did, indeed, vote in favor of Finch’s business interests there is no actual evidence of a quid pro quo.

And, Lewis argued that count one should be dismissed because it alleges an overarching conspiracy that did not actually exist. Instead, there were seven different conspiracies and only four of them allegedly involved Finch.

But in their response prosecutors argue that Lewis is working very hard to ignore the facts and that the indictment clearly explains the conspiracy.

“But a reading of the indictment as a whole and by practical, not technical, considerations, and with a chronological description of the factual allegations, reveals a single conspiracy to defraud the City of Lynn Haven that evolved over time as opportunities for corruption presented themselves, with conspirators entering at various points,” prosecutors wrote.

They added that it started with Finch.

“In sum, the alleged conspiracy began with Defendant Finch bribing Defendant Anderson and Defendant Barnes to help Defendant Finch’s projects with official acts for several years before Hurricane Michael,” prosecutors wrote

Finch obtained city projects by offering Barnes “loans.” He then got Mayor Margo Anderson to award Hurricane Michael work to Phoenix and in return, she got trips to Biloxi, The Florida Keys, and an expensive RV.

And then when Finch was not around others stole from the city as well.

“These are not separate conspiracies; they are conspirators allocating shares,” prosecutors wrote. “But a conspirator need not even know all the members of a conspiracy to be held responsible as a co-conspirator. … Defendants who were public officials were enriched by business interests. Defendants who had business before the City did the enriching and received the City’s largess. To carry-out the conspiracy/scheme, Defendants modified the executions to the opportunities that were presented. And there was a substantial overlap of participants.”

Now that prosecutors have responded to motions from the defendants, More motions on these issue are expected before Judge Mark Walker rules. A trial in the case is currently scheduled for August.

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