TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WMBB) — A Lynn Haven businessman says his next federal bribery trial will be different.
This time, James Finch, the owner of Phoenix Construction will take the stand.
“If they want to retry it I’m all for it,” Finch said in a Thursday night phone call to News 13.
Federal prosecutors accused Finch of a host of crimes but after years in court the case is down to two bribery charges involving former Lynn Haven City Commissioner Antonius Barnes.
Prosecutors say Finch bribed Barnes with $45,000 in checks. Finch and Barnes say the money was a loan to help Barnes start an insurance business.
After a three-day trial and about 9 hours of deliberation, an evenly split jury said they couldn’t determine if Finch was guilty.
So, Judge Mark Walker declared a mistrial.
Responding to juror comments relayed to the attorneys by Judge Mark Walker, Finch said the next jury will need more “content.”
In particular, he said the jury did not understand how his business dealings in Lynn Haven actually worked. In one project, for instance, he loaned the city money.
“Hell I loaned them the money to do the job,” Finch said, “5 million of it was my money.”
Finch said his attorney cautioned him not to take the stand in his trial over concerns that prosecutors could bring up any of his other business dealings or his close relationship with Margo Anderson, the former mayor of Lynn Haven. Anderson previously faced dozens of charges in the case but ultimately plead guilty to a single count of lying to an FBI agent.
“If you get on the stand then they can bring anything up about Margo or whatever,” Finch said.
He also talked about federal bribery laws and how the government was not required to prove that there was a quid pro quo in his case. The defense argued at trial that Finch did not need Barnes, as all of the votes on his projects were unanimous.
Finch said you can give politicians both gifts and loans.
“The problem is they got to prove I did it with criminal intent. And there is no criminal intent on my part,” Finch said.
Finch also said he plans to explain to the next jury that he is smart enough to know better than to bribe a politician with checks that can be traced through the banking system.
“If I was going to bribe him I would have give him cash and there would have been no reason for me or the jury to be in court because nobody would have ever known about it,” Finch said.
A retrial is scheduled for May 15.