Remember Sheriff Nick Finch? He’s the Liberty County, Fla., sheriff whom Governor Rick Scott suspended for allegedly violating the law by freeing a man who’d been arrested for carrying a gun in his car without a permit. Finch had freed the man and effectively nullified any charges against him in March, saying he believed the 2nd Amendment superseded more restrictive local gun laws.
That got the sheriff in hot water with State prosecutors, who said Finch had no authority to end a criminal proceeding against the suspect — Floyd Eugene Parrish — even though Parrish had never been formally booked into the Liberty County jail during his brief detention.
Last week, a jury demonstrated that common sense and the rule of law can still prevail. After about an hour of deliberation, the eight-member jury acquitted Finch of any wrongdoing. Scott spoke with Finch within moments of the verdict and reinstated him as sheriff of Liberty County.
Finch was charged with a single count of official misconduct (a third-degree felony) and a separate count of falsifying public records after Finch freed Parrish and allegedly used correction fluid to remove his name from the jail log — a move that even the State attorney admitted, during the trial, was an acceptable and common practice in cases of wrongful arrest.
Speaking on Finch’s behalf, defense attorney Jimmy Judkins said the sheriff sided with the Bill of Rights when he released Parrish because law enforcement officers shouldn’t be in the business of “creating felons out of people who are minding their own business and not being a threat to society.”
“[Sheriff Finch] made a policy decision that he’s not going to charge people with gun violations because of the distinct possibility that every now and then, one of y’all’s going to make a mistake,” Judkins said. “And he doesn’t want to create a convicted felon out of an innocent citizen.”
According to The News Service of Florida, James Hoagland, the deputy who originally arrested Parrish for carrying a gun in his car without a permit, held on to copies of the arrest record and only brought the incident to the attention of State prosecutors two months later — after taking another job outside the sheriff’s department.