Suspended Liberty County sheriff Nick Finch took the stand on Wednesday and told jurors he had done nothing wrong when he intervened in a gun case earlier this year.
Finch's decision to testify on his behalf came in the closing moments of his trial on charges of official misconduct and falsifying public records. The case, which has divided this small rural county west of Tallahassee, is expected to go to a jury on Thursday.
Finch, who was at times combative with the lead prosecutor handling the case, repeatedly insisted that he had not destroyed or altered records related to the arrest of Floyd Eugene Parrish. Prosecutors contend Finch destroyed records in order to cover up his actions.
Parrish was arrested in March following a traffic stop where he was discovered carrying a pistol in his pocket without a concealed weapons permit. Finch released Parrish from jail a few hours later.
Finch repeated his assertions that the reason he let Parrish go was because he did not believe that the state's concealed weapons law should trump the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He called it the "supreme law of the land."
"I think the Constitution has to mean something at some point," Finch testified.
Finch also called arresting people for not having proper permits impractical in Liberty County.
"If I arrested everyone in Liberty County who had a gun in the car, we are going to have to build a bigger jail," he said.
Assistant State Attorney Jack Campbell disputed Finch's handling of the case and said he released Parrish because members of his family were political supporters. He put on the stand two top officials with the Liberty County Sheriff's Office who said that they were never told by Finch to stop charging people on concealed weapons offenses.
Gov. Rick Scott suspended Finch from office this past summer. The case has attracted attention among gun rights activists and conservative media and prompted some Floridians to email Scott and demand that he reinstate Finch.