Obstruction of Justice

Gary Hunt, Outpost of Freedom
April 9, 1998


The Tampa Common Law Court trial was held in the Federal District Court in Tampa, Florida. The charges were brought under federal law. The proceedings were under the Federal Rules of Court, and Federal Statutes would apply in every situation involving this entire episode.

Consequentially, the qualifications of jurors for the federal trial must abide by the applicable Federal Statutes. Specifically, juror qualifications are found at 28 USC 1865. The pertinent part is subsection (b) (5):

28 USC 1865. Qualifications for jury service

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(b) In making such determination the chief judge of the district court, or such other district court judge as the plan may provide, shall deem any person qualified to serve on grand and petit juries in the district court unless he -

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(5) has a charge pending against him for the commission of, or has been convicted in a State or Federal court of record of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year and his civil rights have not been restored.

So, let's go back and look at whom the court still refers to as "juror 505" (AKA Matthew Lee Finch). Finch assaulted his wife (aggravated battery) when she was pregnant, kicking her as she lay on the ground. He has been charged with Contributing to the delinquency of a minor, Burglary/Grand Theft, among other crimes (rap sheet at: Information about Matthew Finch).

He has always managed to avoid prison time, but this most recent charge, Driving with License Suspended or Revoked, seems to have demonstrated the inability of the traffic court system to administer punishment.

Initially, Finch plead Not Guilty. He subsequently plead Nolo contendere (No Contest) to what the court, and Finch, recognized as a felony. He was facing five years in prison but was given 18 months probation and a suspended license for five years. This, along with some fines and 60 days in jail. His plea was entered on October 14, 1996.

On February 26, 1997, Finch moved to modify order. This motion acknowledged that the charge that he had plead to was "a third degree felony," and asked the court to allow him to spend his jail time on weekends. The motion was granted on March 6, 1997.

Now Ippolito, et al., were arrested in March 1996. Their trial began 14 months later, on May 28, 1997. Finch was selected as an alternate juror, and near the end of the trial, was moved up as a juror. The jury read their verdict on July 14, 1997.

In November 1997, word got out (Juror is a Felon, still on probation...) that a felon on probation may have served on the jury.

On March 4, 1998, Finch filed, again, for a modification on his sentence. This time, it was to convert the jail time, of which he had only served (time served) the days he was arrested for Driving with Suspended or Revoked License, to a fine. The trial judge granted this, and, although Finch's motion also agreed to extend his probation for six more months, it appears that the trial judge chose not to so do. Finch will be off of probation -- never having served his jail time.

During the hearing this past Monday, FBI SA Coffin gave his report. He failed to ascertain, during the six-week investigation, whether Finch was still driving on his revoked license. He made clear that he did not read the case files on Finch, only the NCIC printouts. He also states that in an interview with Finch, Finch told him that when he was called for jury duty, he went to his probation officer (Kelly Basil) and asked her if it was all right to serve on jury duty. Ms. Basil, however, claims that she found out about him being on jury duty when she made a field visit to his home.

In Coffin's last interview with Finch, he managed to find a reason to take AUSA (Assistance United States Attorney) Peluzo and Monk. Both were members of the prosecuting tem during the trial.

Now, one of the Defense attorney's, Mr. Smith, conducted his own investigation on Finch. He was able, through diligent research to determine which juror it was. During the course of the investigation, Smith met with Finch. Smith has been admonished by the court for breaching the "anonymity" of the jury.

I suppose that you are wondering why the AUSA can get involved in the investigation by visiting Finch, and the defense cannot. So am I. It was lead to believe that justice is impartial.

This is beginning to appear to be just the tip of the iceberg. One of the Defense Attorneys has indicated that Merryday (the judge in the Ippolito trial) said that he is receiving pressure from Washington. This information has come through reliable sources, but has yet to be confirmed. If we think about this trial, though, we can see that this is the first true challenge of the Common Law Courts without being clouded by other matters such as vouchers or liens. Here, the actions of the Common Law Court are all that is on trial

Another bit of information, which has been confirmed, is that the court is very upset over the anonymity of the juror being breached. The fact that the information about the juror is posted in the "public domain" (Profile Sheet for Matthew Lee Finch) has been brought up a number of times during these most recent hearings over the juror issue. The court has promised an investigation into whether "Obstruction of Justice" charges might result when the "guilty" parties are found, and direct threats of investigation and arrest have been made to one of those helping to investigate this story.

Although all of the information contained in these articles was acquired "over the counter" through the court and record systems of Hillsborough County, Florida, it appears that the person who provided most of the information, the Clerk of the Court, is not the one that the judge was referring too. It does appear, however, that obtaining "public records" may soon become a crime.

If you would like to express your concern over any aspect of these events, you may contact judge Merryday, he can be reached at:
Steven D. Merryday's telephone #: (813) 228-2861; FAX# (813) 228-2339.

Remember, however, when you contact him, that the trial was over threats to judges and jurors. Don't become one of the Tampa co-conspirators.

For those who do not wish to call or fax, I have an e-mail address which, if you put in the Subject: Judge Merryday, Tampa, Florida, I am sure he will receive it. Just send it to:

Elizabeth Banister: Public Information Officer ebaniste@justice.usdoj.gov

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