Defense seeks sealed, redacted info in Lynn Haven case

Local News

James Finch

LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WMBB) — A new motion filed on behalf of James Finch, the owner of Phoenix Construction, suggests that there are other bribery schemes connected to Lynn Haven leaders.

Finch’s attorney, Guy Lewis, filed a motion Friday asking Judge Mark Walker to force prosecutors to release the full discovery in the case including statements by defendants that were heavily redacted and statements by witnesses that were supportive of Finch.

Finch and Margo Anderson, the former mayor of Lynn Haven, are accused of corruption involving several city projects. Federal prosecutors say Finch bribed Anderson with trips and a $100,000 RV in exchange for votes that favored his lucrative city contracts. Finch is also accused of bribing former City Commissioner Antonious Barnes. Barnes has since pleaded guilty to a separate charge but has apparently agreed to testify against Finch and agrees with the government that Finch bribed him.

Former City Manager Mike White; Adam Albritton, the former city attorney; David Horton, the former head of leisure services; Barnes; and three others; have already pleaded guilty in the case.

“Based on contextual clues, and our own independent investigation, Michael White’s (statement) contain redactions related to deceased individuals and Michael White’s involvement in other unindicted bribery schemes and criminal conduct,” Lewis wrote. “It amounts to uncharged conduct for which he for which he received a pass and is, therefore, subject to discovery and rigorous crossexamination.”

This screenshot of redacted statements was included in a defense motion in the Lynn Haven corruption case.

Lewis added that he is seeking statements made by Albritton after he agreed to plead guilty. He is also seeking statements made by Lynn Haven employees and elected officials who witnessed Finch and Phoenix’s interactions with the city.

“For example, a current Lynn Haven City Commissioner provided testimony to the FBI … that ‘all Finch wanted him to do was make decisions that were best for the city.'”

Lewis adds that he believes that there is substantially more information like this that has not been provided to the defense.

Lewis also said it will be important for his case to let the jury know what witnesses will receive by testifying for prosecutors and against Finch. He notes that the defendants who have pleaded guilty have not been sentenced. Those sentencings have been postponed, presumably until they testify and the case against Finch and Anderson is resolved. Lewis called the delay a “benefit” that allows the defendants to remain at liberty.

And, “Based on a review of the file, it is clear that many of these cooperating witnesses will be facing lengthy, substantial prison sentences,” Lewis wrote. “We have developed evidence that many have indicated that they expect a minimal sentence or even probation based on their cooperation despite what has to be a serious and substantial sentencing guideline range.”

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