Tallahassee, FLA (WMBB) – On December 23rd, defense attorneys for former Lynn Haven Mayor Margo Anderson and Phoenix Construction owner James Finch, through a series of filings, asked for charges and key witnesses to be dismissed ahead of their February trial.

Now, federal prosecutors Andrew Grogan and Justin Keen have filed their response to the motions, asking the court to not provide any of the requested actions.

Finch’s attorney, Guy Lewis, listed several “Bad Actors” that they wanted to be excluded from testifying at trial.

The first person was now former Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Kunz. Kunz retired on December 31st, 2022, and is no longer participating in the case. Regardless, the prosecution makes no mention of Kunz by name in their filing, though they do state “many of the assertions and contentions in both Defendants’ papers are just not accurate. Addressing all of them here would take longer than the time afforded the government to respond. Therefore, this paper attempts to address the ones that appear to be most useful to the Court’s resolution of the motion… but that is not a concession regarding the other inaccuracies or distortions.”

A footnote in the filing does acknowledge an error by “the prosecutor” at an earlier grand Jury, stating:

The government does not make excuses for the question asked by the prosecutor before earlier grand juries. It should not have been asked. It was not asked at the new Tallahassee grand jury on October 18, But if bad questions by lawyers outside of trial are admissible at trial, the government can easily present a list of improper questions by the other side from the two evidentiary hearings.

Case 5:20-cr-00028-MW-MJF Document 421, Page 19, Footnote 10

The second was the former FBI case agent on the case, who is also now retired, Lawrence Borghini. The defense claims that Borghini mislead multiple Grand Juries throughout the process and was instrumental in bringing in what they call “flawed indictments”.

Prosecutors have responded to this claim by stating, “Apparently, the defense hopes to exclude that testimony and then spend the duration of the trial attacking that agent and the investigation, with the Court’s assistance… and without rebuttal.”

Specifically, the defense takes aim at the testimony by Borghini in relation to the design-build process that Defendant Finch wanted the city to pursue post-Hurricane Michael. Prosecutors cite witness testimony here that was the basis for Agent Borghini’s testimony, quoting from an undisclosed witness interview the following:

Finch wanted the city to do everything design build. Finch
wanted to use the city’s insurance money and get things
started. [The witness] advised [City officials] to be careful
with Finch. If the city did not follow FEMA’s rules and the city
lost the FEMA money, it would be unfair to the taxpayers.

Witness Interview Report

While the Government acknowledged again (as they have in previous filings) that some of the testimony that Borghini gave was later found to be inaccurate, they state “the defense’s remedy regarding inadvertent errors of this sort would be to cross-examine witnesses or present other evidence.”

Next, defense attorneys take aim at a Bay County Sheriff’s Office investigator, who they claim is corrupt and unduly influenced by the now-deceased former owner of Gulf Asphalt Company (GAC), Derwin White. The prosecution disputes this claim, arguing that the defense claims they have direct evidence that the Investigator leaked information to Derwin White but have yet to produce said evidence. Without substantiated evidence, “Defendants requests… are not tailored to any legitimate complaint they have.”

Lynn Haven Police Chief Ricky Ramie was next on the “Bad Actor List” produced by the defense. The basis of the defense complaint is that Ramie allegedly sat on evidence gathered by Defendant Anderson for several days before turning it over to the Sheriff’s Office and that he had a close friendship with former City Manager Michael White, who had already pled guilty in a related case that demonstrated ‘shocking misconduct and bias’.

The government responds to this claim by saying they have seen no proof Ramie sat on evidence and do not believe it to be accurate to say that Ramie sat on evidence and that “even if it were (true), it is not a basis to exclude the Police Chief’s testimony.”

Addressing the accusations of misconduct and bias, the Government first takes issue with the defenses’ claim that the text messages were “buried”. Prosecutors say they delivered the entire contents of Ramie’s phone to the defense, in a searchable format that was the same way the Government used the information. Furthermore, the information disclosed during the evidentiary hearing “is not relevant and probably could not be used at trial.”

The Defense also asks for the testimony of former City Manager Michael White and current City Manager Vickie Gainer to be excluded. On that, the prosecution says they can find “no basis whatsoever for the exclusion of their testimony.”

After the “Bad Actors” list, the Defense had a list of “Bad Acts” they wanted to be inadmissible.

The first was a charge of “multiple flawed indictments” and “extraordinary, repeat misconduct and law enforcement corruption.” The basis for this is the fact that the indictment has been whittled down to just a few counts from the original 63. Here, the prosecution says that Finch cites no basis for any charges to be dismissed.

The Prosecution then goes on to address some of the now-former charges, such as the allegation that former Mayor Anderson’s property was cleaned up by ECS. In it, they discuss the “three Anderson properties” which they say are “Anderson’s home with her spouse, her mother’s house next door, and what is apparently her cousin’s house next to that.”

At the evidentiary hearing in December, Anderson’s legal team presented evidence that the cleanup was done only on a city-owned easement. Here, the government pushes back:

Defendant Anderson’s argument would have the Court turn a “blind eye” to the following evidence: (1) Michael White’s account that Defendant Anderson asked him to clean up the easement and that she needed someone to clean up the rest of her property; (2) Mickey White and Josh Anderson’s account of how Defendant Anderson’s husband asked them to work on three separate properties; (3) Josh Anderson’s account of how the properties looked before and after ECS worked there; and (4) satellite imagery of the properties after the hurricane showing downed trees on the three properties outside of the easement.

Case 5:20-cr-00028-MW-MJF, Document 421, Page 22/23

Next, Anderson’s attorneys take aim at Borghini’s testimony about her travel with Finch before previous Grand Juries. In response, the prosecution pokes holes in several of the defense theories.

It is an attempt to limit the presentation of evidence and argument regarding a City contractor hosting the Mayor and her husband on his private jet, yacht, and compensatory rooms at a casino because the Mayor and her husband at times withdrew cash and spent their own money on the trips… There is no legal principle that precludes the government from calling something a bribe just because a defendant asserts, through counsel, that it is not.

Case 5:20-cr-00028-MW-MJF, Document 421, Page 23/24

The prosecution says that the while the Andersons withdrew money, there is no evidence that they paid for airfare or lodging on the trips. For instance, on the third trip noted, July 22, 2017, the Prosecution writes “there does not appear to be any airfare or lodging expenses for
that trip. This again suggests that the Andersons traveled on Defendant Finch’s private jet to the Keys, paid for two of their own meals, and stayed on Defendant Finch’s yacht—which is consistent with the former case agent’s testimony before prior grand juries.”

Prosecutors also say that a defense counsel exhibit of a $6800 withdrawal on July 17th by Lee Anderson, Margo’s husband, is misleading.

Defense counsel’s exhibit summary associated the $6,800 withdrawn on July 17, 2018, with a trip to Biloxi. The argument concerned the possibility that this, and $3,000 on August 1, 2018, before a cross country trip, might be monies paid towards the purported $70,000 purchase price of the motorhome. Recall, however, that the bill of sale Mr. Finch gave the FBI said that $35,000 had been paid by July 8, 2018. There is no record of that. The $6,800 went for a motorcycle. The $3,000 appears to have gone for the cross-country trip. The Andersons did not pay for the motorhome until they realized Defendants were under investigation regarding their relationship. And Defendant Finch (allegedly) lied to the FBI about it.

5:20-cr-00028-MW-MJF Document 421 Page 29 Footnote

The defense also asks that the Government make available documents seized in relation to another case from GAC in an electronic form. The prosecution points out that a hard copy of all the material has been available to the defense “since at least September 2022” and that the defense has “chosen not to inspect or copy it.” In essence, the prosecution is arguing that the Defense is trying to make the government do its job for them. The government points out that the Court has already noted that the government is not obligated to do this, “especially in a case where the Defendants are not indigent.”

They also point out that they have already produced some of the seized documents electronically after they made copies for Derwin White’s widow in relation to her estate litigation, of which Defendant Finch is apparently also a party.

In a footnote on this section, prosecutors take aim at the defense theory that Derwin White was the ringleader of corruption in and around Bay County.

The FBI case agent conducted a more detailed inventory keeping an eye about anything related to Defendant Finch. Some documents appear to be related to these business deals, including Defendant Finch making a $700,000 investment with Derwin White in late 2020, after Defendant Anderson was charged, and more than a year after Defendants say they had an angry confrontation with Derwin White about the ECS fraud. It thus seems that Defendant Finch was also a leader of the “team of bandits” until the other bandit leader died and became a convenient, distracting scapegoat. The FBI is scanning those documents and they will be produced electronically even though they are not directly relevant to the case; they merely show, as other lots of other evidence does, Defendant Finch’s knowing and willing association with what he describes as banditry.

In regard to the allegations surrounding Derwin White and GAC, the Government openly speculates about the relationship between Finch and White.

The government does not understand defense counsel’s apparently always-extant theory, which defense did not disclose to the government until after Derwin White’s death. Indeed, if defense counsel’s theory has always been that Derwin White was “managing the fraud,” why was Defendant Finch working with Derwin White and giving him sensitive discovery material until the time of the latter’s death?

ECS was defrauding the City by not performing work it claimed to have performed and, to some degree, performing work at the residences of public officials. The GAC search warrant affidavit details how GAC was doing something similar in relation to other local governments. Derwin White sought debris disposal business from the City but almost immediately got pushed out through Defendant Anderson’s efforts to route that debris to Defendant Finch. Derwin White sought and obtained disposal from another local government. Defendants say, and some hearsay accounts support, that he asked Defendants not to report ECS to the sheriff in March 2019.

The government does not understand how Derwin White’s apparent criminal activities in relation to local governments other than the City are relevant to whether $45,000 in checks to Commissioner Barnes and a Motorhome to the Andersons were bribes. For their part, Defendants have never articulated any coherent theory.

Case 5:20-cr-00028-MW-MJF Document 421 Page 12/13

You can read the entire filing below: