LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WMBB) — The two remaining defendants in the Lynn Haven corruption case proclaimed their innocence and accused investigators and prosecutors of breaking the law Friday.
James Finch, the owner of Phoenix Construction, and Margo Anderson, the former mayor of Lynn Haven, are accused of bribery and corruption over city projects that happened both before and after Hurricane Michael. Six other people, including former City Manager Mike White and former City Attorney Adam Albritton, have pleaded guilty in the case. And a seventh defendant, Former City Commissioner Antonious Barnes, pleaded guilty to a separate crime connected to the investigation.
After Judge Mark Walker dismissed a grand conspiracy charge against Finch and Anderson prosecutors returned to a grand jury and got a new indictment. In response, Finch’s attorney, Guy Lewis, and Anderson’s attorneys, W. Robert Vezina and Anthony Bajoczky, Jr., filed motions that argued that the case should now be thrown out altogether.
They claim that prosecutors allowed an FBI agent to lie during testimony, that much of the facts presented by prosecutors are wrong and that prosecutors have repeatedly failed to provide important evidence to the defendants that exonerate their clients.
Prosecutors responded to those issues in a motion filed under seal and cannot be viewed by the public. On Friday, the defense attorneys filed two separate responses.
In his response, Lewis reiterated his accusations against the prosecution and wrote that an investigator on the case was “involved in deeply troubling corruption.”
This alleged corruption included “‘setting up’ another public official, as well as receiving a free motorcycle, pickup truck, and work on his home from a government witness,” Lewis wrote. “We have now uncovered direct evidence that this same co-investigator leaked information about this very case, including the timing of when a search warrant would be executed. According to the evidence, this corruption allowed for the destruction and fabrication of evidence that is being relied upon by the government’s case against Finch and Anderson.”
Lewis added, “Mr. Finch is innocent, having been the victim of sloppy investigation and false allegations spun by the government.”
Vezina and Bajoczky also took issue with the “sloppy” investigation.
“The Government paraphrased a text message in a manner that affirmatively changed its meaning and implicated Anderson,” they wrote. “The Government also presented to the grand jury an indictment including an inaccurate allegation that Anderson executed an unapproved promissory note in favor James Finch.”
“The fact that the note was approved by the City Commission, let alone that it was unanimously approved and that Anderson was obligated to execute the note in her position as the Mayor-Commissioner, was omitted,” they wrote. “These are known, indisputable examples that are not intended to be exhaustive. This creates grave doubt that the Government improperly influenced the grand jury in a manner that deprived Anderson of her right to an independent grand jury. … The Government should not be able to salvage its case.”
It is unclear when Walker will rule on these motions. The next hearing in the case is currently set for late February.