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    Posted August 24, 2013 by
    Panama City, Florida

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    Support for arrested Sheriff Finch growing


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Reporter UTHreporting covered a fundraiser for suspended Liberty County Florida Sheriff, Nick Finch. The event was hosted by the Oath Keepers, a national nonprofit organization, in Panama City, Florida, on August 24. He says the money raised through the fundraiser will directly support Finch, who's been charged with misconduct as well as other charges, and is currently suspended without pay. Finch was not able to be reached for a comment at this time. Blogger Michael Lofti has written up some background on the story and controversy behind the suspension of Finch, see it here.
    - Jareen, CNN iReport producer

    Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen received a standing ovation as he took the stage to stand shoulder to shoulder with other Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police from around the country today in support of embattled Sheriff Nick Finch of Liberty County. Sheriff Finch was arrested by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for allegedly interfering with the arrest of Floyd Parrish for a weapons charge by ordering him set free and destroying the records of his arrest.

    Law enforcement officials and citizens are standing by Finch because they say FDLE’s narrative of events does not match the evidence. Under Florida law, a Sheriff is authorized and in some instances required to intervene in an arrest if he believes it is without merit. FDLE also faces a physical evidence issue if the surveillance videos from inside the jail and the recorded conversation between Sheriff Finch and a dispatcher were recorded over, as reported when Finch’s attorney requested them.

    As the government’s position unravels, activist groups from all over the political spectrum have been rushing to aid Sheriff Finch. Civil liberties advocates are stating that Floyd’s stop and arrest were unconstitutional as he was not under the influence, the cited reason for the stop. The Oath Keepers, primary facilitators of today’s event, have stated they are fully behind Sheriff Finch’s defense of Second Amendment. The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association have been assisting in raising funds for Finch, who has been suspended without pay. Radio host Burnie Thompson also took the stage today and announced that he possessed a recording from the FDLE operation that he would be playing for Governor Rick Scott at their meeting next week and said that the group was “on the verge” of victory in their battle to have Finch reinstated.

    This support led today’s fundraiser for the Sheriff to exceed capacity and spill into the lobbies around the conference hall. “Normally, higher ups try to cover up when one of their officers exceeds their authority. Normally, they’d just let an innocent man to go to jail. We finally get a sheriff that steps in and lets the innocent man go free and the state arrests him” said one attendee, a sentiment echoed by many. The crowd openly vilified FDLE for, as they see it, arresting a Sheriff that broke ranks with the code of silence and helped a citizen who was going to be arrested by an over-zealous deputy. It should be noted that under Florida law, a person is not required to have a concealed weapons permit to have a firearm in their vehicle.

    Sheriff Finch refused a deal in which, in exchange for his resignation, all charges would be deferred. Jury selection is set to begin on September 30th.
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