ED NOTE: We have updated this story with new information about the trial date.
LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WMBB) — Federal prosecutors have dropped another charge in the Lynn Haven corruption case, leaving a local business owner facing a single count of felony bribery.
James Finch, the owner of Phoenix Construction, is the last of nine defendants who were charged in connection to bribery and other crimes in Lynn Haven before and after Hurricane Michael. Every other defendant, including a former city commissioner, a former mayor, a former city manager, and a former city attorney, pleaded guilty to at least one felony charge.
Finch is accused of bribing then-City Commissioner Antonius Barnes. Federal prosecutors maintain that Finch bribed Barnes to get his vote on Phoenix projects. Finch and Barnes say it was a business loan between friends and that Finch never needed his vote for any of his projects.
Prosecutors cut a deal with Barnes that allowed him to plead to a lesser charge and keep the pension he earned as a teacher. As part of the deal, prosecutors expected Barnes to testify against Finch but instead, Barnes stated that the money was a loan and not a bribe.
On Friday, records in the case indicated that federal prosecutors dropped a conspiracy charge against Finch leaving only the bribery count. A trial in the case was expected to begin on Monday.
However, Finch said that at a hastily called Friday morning hearing in front of Judge Mark Walker the trial was postponed. The online court record does not yet reflect this change. Finch says the trial is now set for October 24.