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Judge limits scope of conspiracy charge against Anderson, Finch

Male judge in a courtroom striking the gavel.
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U.S. District Judge Mark Walker has dismissed one of the charges brought against former Lynn Haven Mayor Margo Anderson and business owner James Finch in an ongoing public corruption case.

A federal judge has limited the scope of one of the charges against former Lynn Haven Mayor Margo Anderson and a local construction business owner in an ongoing public corruption case.

In the third indictment brought against Anderson and Phoenix Construction Services owner James Finch, the two were charged with conspiracy to commit bribery. But U.S. District Judge Mark Walker granted a motion to dismiss that count against both defendants with the caveat, "insofar as this Court will offer a curative instruction to the jury that specifies the offense charged in Count One of the third superseding indictment. Walker's order came after he found the government failed to connect all parties named in the indictment to a single conspiracy, according to court records filed over the last week.

Finch is facing two counts of bribery, a single count of conspiracy to commit bribery and making a false statement to the FBI.

In 2020, Anderson was charged with more than 60 counts stemming from an investigation into the alleged misuse of Hurricane Michael recovery funds. Anderson’s now facing two counts — one of bribery and the other conspiracy to commit bribery — after almost all the other counts were dropped or dismissed.

Anderson is accused of accepting a motorhome from Finch in exchange for votes while she was mayor. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty to all charges against them.

A trial is set to take place sometime in the spring.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the conspiracy charge against Anderson and Finch was dismissed. It was actually limited in scope.

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.