LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WMBB) — The former mayor of Lynn Haven will now face two trials for her alleged criminal activities while she was in office.
However, in a win for James Finch, the owner of Phoenix Construction, and the man federal prosecutors say bribed both the mayor and another city commissioner, will not be present for that trial.
Former Mayor Margo Anderson is allegedly involved in every aspect of the Lynn Haven corruption case that involves projects in the city both before and after Hurricane Michael. Finch, however, is not accused of crimes connected to two projects after Hurricane Michael.
In his ruling, Judge Mark Walker said that while he believes the case was properly joined together trying Anderson on these issues while also trying Anderson and Finch on other issues would be too confusing for the jury.
“Including the ECS and WorldClaim charges along with the charges focusing on the alleged Finch projects runs the risk of the jury viewing all the projects together as part of a single conspiracy run by Defendants to bilk the City of Lynn Haven of public funds,” Walker wrote. “The Court has already rejected this overlapping conspiracy approach in finding Count 1 of the second superseding indictment duplicitous … To minimize any more potential confusion for a jury, the fix is simple: the charges directed at Anderson alone will be tried separately from the remaining charges.”
In a previous filing, prosecutors wrote that they want to take Anderson to trial first in hopes that a guilty plea will convince her to testify against Finch. In an exclusive interview with News 13, Finch said that won’t happen.
“There won’t be any of Margo going against me or me going against Margo. There’s just one direction and that’s not guilty,” Finch said.