Lynn Haven prosecutors to go back to grand jury in November

Local News

James Finch

LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WMBB) — The Lynn Haven corruption case continues to grind on.

One year and three months after they initially indicted Margo Anderson, the former mayor of Lynn Haven, and James Finch, the owner of Phoenix Construction, in a bribery and corruption case federal prosecutors will return to a grand jury in hopes of getting a new indictment against the pair.

Prosecutors announced the plan to go for the indictment on November 16 or 17 in Pensacola during a Tuesday morning hearing.

“We can press forward with a narrower scope with a second superseding indictment,” said Assistant United States Attorney Andrew J. Grogan.

This new indictment was deemed necessary after Judge Mark Walker threw out a grand conspiracy charge in the case in August. Walker determined that the charge was too broad and that there were several separate criminal conspiracies in the case that did not connect with one another.

Prosecutors haven’t been sitting on their hands in that time. Former City Attorney Adam Albritton plead guilty in the case and agreed to testify. Former City Commissioner Antonious Barnes plead guilty to a separate charge but also agreed with the government that he had been bribed by Finch.

Whatever information Barnes and Albritton are offering is expected to be part of the new indictment.

Prosecutors said they had hoped to present to the grand jury a week ago but instead decided that they would allow Finch and Anderson to present a defense to the grand jury.

“We have been in some discussions with some of the defense counsel about some presentation that they would like to be made as part of our presentation of the second superseding indictment and we would like to afford them sufficient time to put that together,” Grogan said.

However, the attorneys for Finch and Anderson lamented the slow pace of the case and said they expected to file new motions arguing several points including their issues with the government’s evidence and procedures.

“We’ve been treading water for six weeks not knowing what the government is doing,” said Rob Vezina, Anderson’s attorney. “We are frustrated.”

He added that the defense “showed our hand a year ago,” in a meeting with federal prosecutors where they identified issues with the indictment.

“And then we saw in the superseding indictments the same mistakes and misstatements that we had brought to the government’s attention,” Vezina said.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are expected to respond this week to a motion from Finch’s attorney, Guy Lewis, who is asking Walker to unseal witness statements.

An email to Lewis from the prosecution “makes some very sharp pointed comments about counsel for Mr. Finch and if that makes it into … their response … I may ask your Honor to reply.”

Walker said he didn’t see any reason for sharp or “unpleasant” comments in the motions. He added that Lewis would be allowed to respond to the prosecutor before he made his final ruling on the matter.

“I would prefer for this case to be run like the Great British Bake Off and not Squid Games,” Walker said. “If y’all want to turn it into Squid Games that’s fine.”

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