What It Takes to Get a Sheriff Arrested in Florida: Accusations of Record Tampering For Not Wanting to Arrest Someone for Alleged Gun License Violation

Very interesting story of what causes higher-ups to arrest a sheriff out of Florida (though even here he has not been officially fired, merely suspended without pay).

It's been ongoing for a while, but brought to my attention today by this interview with arrested Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch, from Ben Swann's site. Finch says he was arrested, essentially, for respecting Second Amendment rights.

That interview doesn't really get in to the specifics of why he was arrested from the perspective of those doing the arresting--rest assured that "respecting the Second Amendment" isn't the official charge--but this account from The County Record.net does:

Suspended Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch is gaining media attention across the state, maintaining he was right to release a man brought to the jail this spring. 

As previously reported, the man was arrested following a routine traffic stop. During the stop, the deputy spotted a firearm on the seat next to the man and asked him to step out of the vehicle. He then noticed a bulge in the man’s pocket and discovered he had a gun jammed inside. However, the man didn’t have a concealed weapons permit.

Controversy arose after Sheriff Finch let the man go. His arrest file was being prepared by Sgt. Lisa Smith at the Liberty County Jail where the man was being detained in a holding cell. Finch says he told her via phone not to book him. 

Sgt. Smith says Finch took the arrest file with him upon releasing the man and she hasn’t seen it since, resulting in a charge for destroying public documents.

Finch says he never took any file out of the jail.

Finch's explanation of what he believes happened that night, from the Swann site interview:

The deputy arrested [Floyd] Parrish for “failure to maintain the lane”. Upon stopping Parrish he was not drunk, or under the influence of any drugs. I myself have traveled that same road many times. It is a single lane and is crumbling. I have gone off the road there multiple times.  Regardless, Parrish told the deputy that he did have a weapon. The deputy the arrested him for not having a licence. Sadly, we do not have cameras on the patrol cars, so it is really the deputy’s word against Parrish’s as to whether or not his driving warranted a stop.  

As local TV station WTXL reported, Finch was "removed from office in early June 2013 after being arrested by Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Agents with FDLE say Finch destroyed jail documents related to a person who was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit."

So: if you are accused of record tampering in a case where you chose not to punish a citizen for a tiny harmless possible gun law violation, the full force of justice is going to slam down on you. How often do sheriffs, or any cop, get peremptorialy arrested for permitting or facilitating actual harm to or violation of the rights of a citizen?

Finch's trial will begin in late September. County Record also reports he was offered a deal if he'd just resign, which he refuses to do.

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  • ||

    There has to be more to this. It just reeks of personal vendetta.

  • John||

    I don't think so. The powers that be in the LEO community have decided that they are going to criminalize gun ownership and at the very least anyone having the nerve to carry a gun in public. The whole idea is to arrest anyone with a gun. Who cares if the charges stick or not. Let people know that carrying a gun, even openly or legally will get you arrested. This guy broke with that. So he has to be punished.

  • Libertymike||

    I think both of you, Epi and John, are right.

  • ||

    That's absurd. Yeah, he didn't have a carry permit, but had he had one, they would not have arrested him. Your assertion is that they would have arrested him even if he had a carry permit. This is just too weird of a thing for a sheriff to get dinged for, especially in a state as gun-friendly as Florida. There's got to be something else at play.

  • John||

    I think they would have. He had a gun. The cop arrested him for driving in two lanes? No one gets arrested for that. Why did the cop arrest him? He arrested him for having a gun. What did this cop do? He turned the guy lose. Why is that a "ding" at all? Why is that something you would even want to frame someone for? Why? Because the message is 'arrest anyone with a gun'.

  • sarcasmic||

    Around here open carry is clearly legal. Though if you try it you will go to jail on soon-to-be-dropped charges, and never see your weapon again unless you can afford to spend more in attorney fees than the piece is worth.

  • BakedPenguin||

    John, Liberty County, FL. is not gun control country. Deep South and very rural.

  • John||

    I am sure Liberty County is just okay with what this guy did. The Florida state police are the ones who charged him. And no state police anywhere is pro private gun ownership.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Ah, I just skimmed the article. Yeah, that changes things.

  • anon||

    Being an elected position, I'd think that if Liberty County disagreed they'd elect someone else.

  • sarcasmic||

    And no state police anywhere is pro private gun ownership.

    You mean authoritarians who strut around like peacocks giving beat-downs to anyone who looks at them sideways oppose their victims arming themselves?

    Who'd a thunk it?

  • sgs||

    The FDLE isn't really the state police though, it's more like, the state machinery behind the police. They don't generally arrest regular people, for instance, although it does happen.

    Epi is correct here, there is more going on.

  • John||

    Note. It was the state who went after him.

  • sgs||

    The state police paper pushers.

    They're not analogous to real police. I don't think you're familiar enough with the FDLE to accurately gauge their motivations.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    What?!? The Glades isn't a documentary?

  • UnCivilServant||

    Liberty County? Ironic, or did I forget the meaning?

  • Almanian!||

    AND NOTHING ELSE HAPPENED. New Professionalism. Have a family to come home to at night. Officer safety. Training. Peace Officers. Protect and Serve. Um....and....fuck you, that's why?

  • Swiss Servator - past LTC(ret)||

    STOP MAKING ME SUPPORT A SHERIFF!

  • Atanarjuat||

    Just so you know, Sheriff Finch was a military policeman during the first Gulf war (IINM). Not sure if that will change your opinion.

  • anon||

    Disregard cases where police have killed the wrong people in a SWAT Style raid; arrest the cops that don't lock people up for crimes they may not have committed.

    Sounds legit.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Florida law apparently says, "Carry of a Handgun on one's person inside a vehicle without a license is not permitted."

    It looks like the guy violated open carry laws by having a gun on the seat and concealed carry by having a gun on him.

  • Brett L||

    Its fairly complicated. I try to err on the side of caution because there is a "step" rule. I think its 3 steps to discharge. So, for example, a gun that is unloaded and secured in a bag or storage compartment that had a latch is 3 steps to discharge: work the latch, button or zipper, load, discharge. A loaded gun in pocket is one step. For some reason having to pull it from your pocket doesn't count the same.

  • Almanian!||

    "Is that a gun in your pocket, or are y...OHHHH! That IS a gun! SHIT!"

  • Floridian||

    Rule of law vs ignoring bad laws. I'm not sure which side to come down on. We should repeal license for carry but that is the state law and the sheriff is responsible for enforcing the law.

  • Almanian!||

    I'm good with nulllification, or not applying a law if it goes in favor of the citizen as opposed to the state.

    I know - ANARKEEEEE!111! Yeah - I'm good with it. SUE ME.

  • anon||

    Rule of law vs ignoring bad laws. I'm not sure which side to come down on.

    Really? I ignore the bad ones on a daily basis. I sleep well at night too.

  • sarcasmic||

    I'm all for police refusing to enforce unjust and immoral laws.

    Though whenever I say that I am accused of being a racist who wants the cops to ignore all assaults and murders committed by whites against blacks.

    I don't know how people get that from "unjust and immoral," but straw man assassins must assassinate straw men.

  • anon||

    but straw man assassins

    VIOLENCE IS NEVER OK, Sarcasmic!

  • Floridian||

    My concern is not with juries nullifying or private citizens not reporting crimes but with police having wide discretion. "Normals" walk but throw the book at "punks". Equal protection and all that.

  • anon||

    Yeah, but you're conflating equal protection to equal enforcement; they're two very different actions.

  • Floridian||

    Maybe. Don't misunderstand me I think it is great that there is a sheriff who thinks that the second amendment trumps stupid carry licenses, but replace that sheriff with one who hates the second and you have a nightmare. I want the police with the smallest amount of wiggle room so it would be harder to abuse their position. I know that is not reality.

  • sarcasmic||

    There is a difference between refusal to enforce unjust laws, and wide police discretion. The former involves honorable law enforcement officers acting on principle, while the latter - arbitrary enforcement based upon the whim of the enforcer - is rule of man. Unfortunately, the latter is what we get.

  • Floridian||

    The problem is not all police have the same idea of unjust. I hope the sheriff walks just because I like what he did, I'm just not sure it squares with rule of law. I prefer laws change or juries refuse to convict.

  • robc||

    "I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free, because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything that I do." -- Bernardo de la Paz, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I myself have traveled that same road many times. It is a single lane and is crumbling.

    There is a certain street which has been resurfaced several times, but the city has never bothered to bring the manhole covers up to match the surface level. As the evening progresses, the cops apparently like to sit on the side streets, and pull people over for "weaving" as they attempt to avoid dropping a wheel into a four inch deep depression. Also, they have been known to pull over people who slow down for the vicious dips; for "erratic driving".

    It's all about making people safer. as long as you define "making people safer" as putting money in the city's till.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Wow, the page layout just went completely to shit.

  • Atanarjuat||

    Yes, we are pro-2nd Amendment in north Florida. This case is getting hours of airplay a day on local radio talkshows. For example, the libertarianish Burnie Thompson on Freedom 93.3. Needless to say, the hosts and callers are supportive of Sheriff Finch.

    Keep in mind, Sheriff Finch has been charged with tampering with evidence for destroying the file. Apparently he has the discretion to not book the man and that part is not being contested.

    State attorney Willie Meggs has said he will "go to war" with Nick Finch over this. Meggs' office has the only copy of the surveillance cam video showing Sheriff Finch leaving the jail, which he claims will exonerate him since it will show that Finch was not carrying the file he supposedly destroyed. Incredibly, Meggs has said he "accidentally" recorded over the video evidence.

    The latest speculation is Meggs, being an ambitious political type is trying to impress gun grabbers in the Obama administration. Whatever his motivations, he's definitely the bad guy in all of this.

    And lastly, after all the bad cops we've heard about who were suspended with pay after committing acts of violence, Sheriff Finch has been suspended WITHOUT pay.

  • Atanarjuat||

    *Clarification: Finch claims the surveillance cam will exonerate him, not Meggs. Meggs has refused to let Finch's lawyers have a copy of the tape, and claims it is now destroyed (yes, the State attorney "accidentally" destroyed evidence in a tampering with evidence case--absurd). Hey, a cop who wants video evidence of himself released. Again Finch seems like the good guy here.

  • Finrod||

    And yet no one will ever arrest the State attorney for doing the exact same thing that he's prosecuting the sheriff for.

  • John||

    This is about guns. The powers that be want gun owners arrested at every opportunity.

  • Brett L||

    Meggs is a cocksucker, even by State's Attorney standards. All he cares about is bringing home guilty and nolo contendre verdicts. This surprises me not at all.

  • Another David||

    But we are a nation of LAWS! If a police officer takes it onto himself to decide what the rules are, why, the entire system would go out of control!

    And the Fourth Amendment is an amendment, not a LAW, so it's totally different.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    So it's all right for a sheriff to destroy arrest records if he thinks the crime involved is not a biggie. I mean, the CIA does it, don't they? Not to mention Obama.

  • ||

    Having a little trouble with reading comprehension, Alan?

  • Atanarjuat||

    Well, to be fair, he's also terrible at writing and making coherent arguments. Obama destroys arrest records?

  • Atanarjuat||

    So it's all right for a sheriff to destroy arrest records if he thinks the crime involved is not a biggie.

    Nice attempt at a strawman. Please show where Doherty asserts that destroying records is acceptable.

    It's highly unlikely that Finch destroyed any records. Are you aware of any proof that he did so? Why would Finch be publicly asking for the release of surveillance cam video if it showed him destroying documents?

    I'm beginning to see why Anal Van Man is universally seen as such a piece of shit.

  • robc||

    Are you aware of any proof that he did so?

    I am aware of the proof, but apparently the prosecution destroyed it.

  • R C Dean||

    Is it illegal to have a loaded gun in plain view in your car in Florida? If not, then I think we're getting into probably cause trouble over the subsequent search of the driver.

    Is it illegal to have a loaded gun concealed in your car in Florida? If not, then he violated no law until he got out of the car at the cop's "request".

  • Atanarjuat||

    If not, then he violated no law until he got out of the car at the cop's "request".

    IANAL, but when Nick Finch was on the radio, he said this^ was exactly why he let the man go. Also, apparently the man was pulled over in the National Forest (which is criss-crossed with highways and unpaved logging roads) and could argue he needed a gun for his safety.

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