LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WMBB) — A federal judge has reinstated one of the most serious charges against two Lynn Haven corruption defendants.
Judge Mark Walker threw out a conspiracy count against former Lynn Haven mayor Margo Anderson and James Finch, the owner of Phoenix Construction about two months ago. Several others, including the former city manager, leisure services director and city attorney, have already pleaded guilty in the case.
Walker’s initial ruling was to be the basis, in part, for a plan for the defense to split the two defendants so that they would be tried separately. However, prosecutors asked Walker to reconsider his ruling and argued that both were part of a single conspiracy even though at times, Anderson allegedly committed crimes that Finch was not involved in.
Walker wrote that he views the conspiracy count as legally flawed but said that he was mistaken with his remedy for that flaw. Instead of throwing the count out entirely Walker said a lesser remedy will suffice.
“Thus, in some cases, only a dismissal will suffice. But in others – typically before conviction -“ prosecutors can move forward either by proceeding with only one of the crimes in the count or with jury instructions that deal with issue, Walker wrote.
However, in order for this ruling to take effect Walker said prosecutors must only discuss three projects while asking jurors to consider the conspiracy charge. Those are the 17th Street project, debris disposal and rebuild projects. A jury instruction at trial will also be required.
The other projects, World Claim and ECS, will still be on the table in other counts and in other portions of the same trial. So far, Anderson faces those charges alone.
Prosecutors have until August 19 to respond. A trial is set in this case for November 28.