A Florida sheriff who believes in the Second Amendment was charged Tuesday for removing the arrest file of a suspect held on an unconstitutional gun charge but later released.
Liberty County Sheriff Nicholas Finch, 50, was booked in his own jail Tuesday with one count of official misconduct by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The FDLE accuses Finch covering up the arrest of Floyd Eugene Parrish after releasing him from the Liberty County Jail. Parrish had been arrested for carrying a concealed firearm without a license, a third-degree felony in Florida.
On March 8, Sgt. James Joseph Hoagland of the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office arrested Parrish during a traffic stop after finding a .25 automatic pistol in Parrish’s pocket and a holstered revolver in the front seat, according to court records. Parrish was then taken to the county jail.
Finch arrived at the jail with Parrish’s brother and spoke to Parrish, after which Finch took the arrest file and told correctional officers Parrish would be released with no charges, according to investigators. Finch also ordered both the pistol and revolver be returned to Parrish.
Hoagland told FDLE investigators that several days later, he spoke to Finch about Parrish’s release and Finch told him he “believed in Second Amendment rights.”
The FDLE crime lab analyzed the jail log sheet and discovered white-out had been applied over Parrish’s name.
Investigators also noted that Hoagland’s copy of the arrest affidavit and a computer record are the only known existing documentation of Parrish’s arrest. Neither the affidavit nor the computer record are recognized in court because they are not considered usable originals.
Finch’s attorney does not refute the story as told by investigators. “The records at the jail show exactly what happened in this case and the records speak the truth,” said Finch’s attorney Jimmy Judkins. “The sheriff looked at the facts and said ‘I believe in the Second Amendment and we’re not going to charge him.’ That is not misconduct at all. That is within the Sheriff’s prerogative whether to charge someone or not.”
Samuel Coover, a Liberty County resident, said that because Finch was not from Liberty County, people considered him an outsider and finally railroaded him out. “In my personal opinion he was doing his job and people didn’t like it,” said Coover.
Another long-time county resident also supported Finch. “I hope it’s all a misunderstanding,” said 88-year-old Alma Sanders. “We need a good sheriff.”
An official misconduct charge is a third-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to five years in prison if convicted. The charge is covered under Florida Statutes 838.022, which says it is unlawful for a public servant to “conceal, cover up, destroy, mutilate, or alter any official record or official document.”
Finch was released shortly after his arrest on his own recognizance. He was elected sheriff of the Florida panhandle county of approximately 8,000 residents in November 2012, running under “No Party Affiliation.”