Bristol- About three hours after a Liberty County jury found Sheriff, Nick Finch not guilty of official misconduct and falsifying records, the sheriff was back to work. But, Finch said his return last Thursday was not exactly the warm welcome back he had hoped for.
"When I walked over at 3:30pm and met with Buddy Money [interim Sheriff] there was three people that had resigned."
Finch admitted it was not an ideal situation, but also not one he was not too concerned about laughing, "there were seven [people] that walked out the door the day I got elected. So, three going is OK! Seven was a little difficult" he said.
Finch's trial centered around a Liberty County man, named Floyd Parrish. Finch released Parrish from jail after being arrested for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. The state claimed Finch destroyed Parrish's arrest records.
Throughout the trial and the days leading up to it, Finch adamantly maintained he released Parrish on behalf of his belief in second amendment rights. The trial caught the attention of second amendment activists from across the country. Parrish's release from jail by the sheriff, and Finch's subsequent not guilty verdict left many locals to question how and what laws would be enforced.
"We certainly would prefer that [people] comply with state statue," Finch said, "and it did become a second amendment issue because that's why I released Mr. Parrish. But again, it goes back to the situation. I'm not telling my deputy's, 'don't make arrests on concealed carry permits'. I'm just saying, 'use your head.' I have said from the beginning, 'if Mr. Parrish had been at the Piggly Wiggly, patting his pocket saying, ''you know i got a gun right here in my pocket''' -that's not what falls under my interpretation of lawful activity. So, if you're a lawful gun owner, engaged in lawful activity, we welcome you in Liberty County."
Throughout his ongoing legal battle, Finch was also the center of another controversy. Former Liberty County Jail nurse, Jennifer Bailey filed a sexual harassment complaint against Finch to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC).
"I think the EEOC has a year to investigate their claim," he said, "and then after that I don't know where it goes. As with the last trial, there's no truth to the allegations she made and I'm really no more concerned for those allegations than I was the allegations I just fought for. I know I didn't do anything wrong."
Finch said now that he was back in office, he had just one request:
"It's time to move forward," Finch said. "I won the election, I was found not guilty by a jury of my peers, leave me alone and let me get to work. You've got an opportunity to get rid of me in four years if you don't like me. Give me an opportunity- that's all I'm asking for."