Obstruction of Justice

Gary Hunt, Outpost of Freedom

July 12, 2002


After nearly four years, it is time to revisit an old story. Time has taken its toll. Two of the Defendants have died, while in custody; one was acquitted and two have served their time and been released from prison.

What has not changed, however, is the government’s propensity to assure that the “King (government) can do no wrong!”

The background on this story can be found at Florida Common Law Court. What was described by the government as “Obstruction of Justice” continues to prove that the government, itself, is far more capable – and able – to Obstruct Justice than the people of this country are.

Much of the investigation has taken time. After all, the government, with all of its resources, can make it very difficult to obtain that which should be of record so as to be able to put together the pieces and understand what really happened.

Matthew Finch (aka Juror 505), for example, had pled guilty to a felony and been sentenced to serve 60 days in jail along with probation and fines. He sat on the jury of this case and was no less than one vote for the conviction of those defendants. This, all in violation of the US Code (28 USC § 1865) which provides:

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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.

Now, Finch had not been convicted – he confessed in his plea agreement. I guess that means that you are not a convicted bank robber if you confess in a plea agreement to robbing a bank.

As you will see, the Court will argue the adjudication was withheld – meaning he hadn’t been convicted. Wouldn’t it seem that if adjudication had been withheld, it would be fair to say that he had a charge pending against him?

Let’s revisit his plea agreement  which states:

"1. I, Matthew L. Finch, Defendant herein, do hereby withdraw my plea of not guilty and enter a plea of nolo contendere to the charges…"

"2. … I understand that, if the court accepts my change of plea, I give up (waive) my right to a jury trial, and that I will be sentenced as a felony offender, based upon my plea."

"3. I understand …. The maximum penalty for the crime(s) to which I am pleading guilty or no contest. Which is 5 [years in prison and] $5,000."

"9. … there has been an understanding that my sentence will consist of 18 mo[nths] probation; 60 days jail weekends; $250.00 court costs; $34.00 investig[ative] costs; [withheld] adjudication."

Now, is it really possible to honestly consider that this person is acceptable, under 28 USC § 1865, as a juror?

Let’s not be hasty. After all, perhaps Finch (and judge Merryday, and AUSA Peluso) deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Now, when Finch went back to court, after paying his fines and nearly completing his probation, but having not spent a day in jail – of the fifty-nine remaining after his plea agreement, Finch returns to Pinellas County Circuit Court to ask for preferential treatment – an extension of probation and more time to make up the jail time he had not spent any of in 18 months. More surprisingly, by the Court Transcript of a hearing on March 12, 1998, Ronald Smith, attorney for Susan Mokdad, one of the defendants convicted by the Finch jury, represents Finch.

In that hearing , Smith states that Finch was “a very good client to work with,” and offers a number of hardship reasons for granting Finch more time to do what he had not yet done, or, in the alternative, to let him buy out his jail time.

On March 12, 1998, an Order was entered in the Finch matter ( denying his request for relief. It appears that judge Douglas W. Baird is not very tolerant of those who refuse, or have failed to fulfill their commitment to the judicial system.

But, wait! Every cheap thug deserves what service the government can provide – so, Ernest Peluso, AUSA and prosecutor in the Common Law Court trial, comes to his aid.

On April 7, 1998, judge Baird issues another Order . This order refers to a hearing on March 24 (but, we can find no record of that hearing in open court). Not only does Baird change his mind, but he goes well beyond what was requested in the motion of March 12. He waives ALL remaining jail time. Boy, what a deal – Finch got more than he asked for.

It has been difficult trying to piece together the events that lead to this very drastic change in the judge’s behavior. Surely, it must be something extremely important. Judges are not prone to changing their decisions without good cause.

The pieces come together, however, when we find two more documents relative to the matter. These, however, were not filed in the Pinellas County Circuit Court. They are filed in the original Common Law Court trial (United States of America v. Emilio Ippolito, et al., Case No. 96-64-CR-T-23(E)). The first is a “Motion For Leave Of Court To Supplement Record And For Judicial Notice .” This motion was filed by AUSA Ernest F. Peluso and explains that he has come to the court with this motion because: “Based upon at least two defense requests for the Court to Include an order from a state judge In to record of this matter, ostensibly for the purpose of assisting the Court In resolving the issue of Juror Number 505, the government has obtained an affidavit from the state judge explaining the order In question. The government requests that this Court supplement the record with the affidavit in question.”

He also claims that “Juror Number 505 did not intentionally mislead the Court with regard to his criminal record.”

Attached thereto is a redacted copy of an affidavit by judge Baird. In this affidavit, Baird explains that he waived the 60 day jail sentence because “it is not unusual to waive various probationary obligations,” and goes on to site the same hardship that was presented at the March 12 hearing. What he doesn’t tell us is what happened at the March 24 hearing, of which no record was made.

What is clear from the redacted affidavit is that Peluso found time to go to court for a common criminal and seek exception from the Order that had previously been entered.

Now, Peluso claims, over and over, that Finch received no special consideration, nor was he influenced, in any way, which would jeopardize the integrity of the jury. He fails to mention that the law (that he is paid to uphold) is the law, and is very clear on the matter. Likewise, he does not explain why he went out of his way to assure that Finch got even more than he had asked for in the March 12 hearing.

What is clear is that something stinks! Finch receives all sorts of expensive taxpayer help simply for serving on jury duty. The other jurors only got mileage and lunch. Another obvious conclusion is that Finch has received a lot of reward for something that AUSA Peluso, judge Merryday and Judge Baird claim didn’t happen.

Why is it that government people cannot be charged with Obstruction of Justice, and a trial held by a jury to weigh the evidence and determine if they are guilty of a crime?

Is it because the jury box (under the judicial process that is now in place) has failed us in protecting our Liberties?

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