LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WMBB) — The State Attorney’s Office dropped a high-profile criminal case last week.
In December, Lynn Haven police arrested Ashley Finch, the wife of Phoenix Construction Owner James Finch.
The case against Ashley Finch began with the search of a suspected drug house, according to Lynn Haven police.
Investigators said they found more than $90,000 in cash and vials that contained marijuana and cocaine residue inside a safe in the home.
As the department worked to seize the money under Florida’s Forfeiture Law, Ashley Finch said the money was hers and that she did not know anything about drugs in the house, police said.
However, when investigators sent the vials to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab, they said one of the vials contained cocaine residue and also had Ashley Finch’s fingerprint on it. She was arrested and charged with one count of possession of cocaine.
In a “no information” motion, prosecutor Frank Sullivan said the evidence in the case against Ashley Finch was not enough to go to trial.
“The evidence, in this case, consists of a residual amount of cocaine found in the bottom of a canvas bag in a locked safe in the defendant’s ex-husband’s bedroom,” Sullivan wrote. “The defendant’s fingerprint was on the cap of a vial in that bag. The safe contained numerous other items, some of which belonged to the ex-husband, and some of which belonged to the defendant.”
However, “There is no admissible evidence to prove who placed the bags and the defendant’s property in the safe, and when it was placed there,” Sullivan wrote. “There is no admissible evidence to prove the defendant ever had access to the locked safe or knew the combination
to the safe.”
Sullivan added that a similar local case was thrown out before it reached a jury.
James Finch said at the time that the arrest was in retaliation for the accusations made by his defense team against Lynn Haven Police Chief Ricky Ramie. The arrest came the same week that Ramie, a witness in the case, was accused of sending crude text messages to a city employee.
James Finch was accused by federal prosecutors of bribery over $45,000 in payments he made to then Lynn Haven City Commissioner Antonius Barnes. Finch and Barnes say the money was a business loan.
The case has been in the federal court system for more than two years and a trial in March ended with a hung jury. A second trial is now scheduled for July 17.
Ramie declined to comment after the initial arrest and declined to comment again on Monday. However, he previously said he recused himself from the investigation into Ashley Finch because of his status as a witness in the federal case.
“Ricky Ramie should resign,” Finch said Monday. “He’s unethical, he’s corrupt and he shouldn’t be the police chief.”
Finch said the police took his wife from her home, would not let her grab her shoes, and then processed her into the jail by forcing her to strip and then go through a delousing treatment.
Then they took her mugshot.
“They make you look as bad as you can and humiliate you as bad as they can,” Finch said.
He added that he planned to file a federal lawsuit against Ramie and the city.
“I’m going to see how they like it for a while,” Finch said. “They can pay some lawyer fees.”