Updated Story: LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WMBB) — After two years of fighting the former mayor of Lynn Haven is expected to plead to a single charge of misleading the FBI. The exact statute being used to charge Ms. Anderson is not known at this time.
The plea hearing is scheduled to take place Thursday afternoon in Tallahassee.
As part of the deal, Anderson will not have to admit guilt of any crime, according to Judge Mark Walker. Walker entered an order in the case Wednesday announcing that he would allow Anderson to make that plea in his courtroom.
Walker is allowing Anderson to enter either an Alford plea or a nolo contendere plea. An Alford plea is one in where the defendant does not admit guilt, but does acknowledge that the prosecution has enough to obtain a guilty verdict at trial. A nolo contendere plea is one in where the defendant neither admits nor denies guilt, but is willing to accept the punishment. A nolo contendere plea can only be entered with the Judge’s permission, which Judge Walker gave on Wednesday.
Anderson will still face the punishment for that single crime regardless of her plea. The plea deal looks to be a massive win for Anderson who at one time faced 64 felony charges in the case. Sources close to the investigation tell News 13 that Anderson is facing up to six months in prison but Walker could give her no prison time at all.
The plea leaves only one defendant in the case – James Finch, the owner of Phoenix Construction. It’s unclear how the plea will impact his case or the trial that was scheduled to begin in two weeks. Seven others, including Lynn Haven’s former city manager, city attorney, its leisure services director, and a commissioner have pleaded guilty in connection to the case.
Our original story is below:
LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WMBB) — It appears that the former Mayor of Lynn Haven has been offered a plea agreement in the federal corruption case.
Tuesday night News 13 learned that Margo Anderson had agreed to a plea arrangement in the case and that information would soon be filed with the court system. As with every other federal defendant in order for Anderson to take the plea she will have to admit her guilt to the information document before a federal judge.
Anderson and James Finch, are the two remaining defendants in the Lynn Haven corruption case. They faced bribery and conspiracy charges and were scheduled for a trial on February 27.
News 13 called the U.S. Attorney’s Office Wednesday morning and asked about the alleged agreement with Anderson.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office immediately emailed us an information document stating that Anderson willfully made “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements and representations,” during the criminal investigation of public corruption and fraud by the FBI.
“Defendant falsely stated that Anderson first met David ‘Mickey’ White in December 2018 or January 2019.”
The charge states that this was false because Anderson, “met David ‘Mickey’ White through City Manager Mike White shortly after Hurricane Michael and requested David “Mickey” White to have ECS perform work for the benefit of her private residence.”
The document is signed by three federal prosecutors but is not signed by Anderson. If this deal is finalized it appears Anderson will have gone from facing 64 charges to pleading guilty to a single charge.
For the plea deal to become official, Anderson will have to plead guilty in federal court to the single count of lying to the FBI.
The U.S. Attorney’s office did not elaborate further on the situation. A call to Anderson’s attorney was not immediately returned.