LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Hot Spring County, Arkansas sheriff was officially charged with obstruction of justice in federal court Friday afternoon.
Sheriff Scott Finkbeiner appeared via video in the Western District of Arkansas Court before Judge Mark E. Ford, where the 46-year-old Finkbeiner was charged with a single count of obstruction of justice tied to acts in August related to FBI surveillance of an alleged drug house in the county.
According to Ford’s reading of the affidavit, the Group 6 narcotics drug task force working with the Malvern Police Department found out in May Finkbeiner would be coming to an alleged drug house.
Shortly afterward, per the affidavit, an FBI agent made a controlled drug purchase at that house. After the purchase, the FBI put up a surveillance camera on public property outside the house.
Agents claimed one of the early images captured on the camera was the alleged dealer looking into the direction of the camera, then Finkbeiner pulling up and pointing out the camera.
Following that, Finkbeiner was recorded repeatedly reaching out to the FBI to get information about the camera. The affidavit claimed that when he found out it was part of a drug investigation, Finkbeiner told agents there was no notable drug dealing on that street.
Instead, agents claimed Finkbeiner told them he had a confidential informant on that street and that their investigation was interfering with his own investigation. The sheriff reportedly told agents that the informant was not listed anywhere since he was not used for controlled drug buys.
The agents said Finkbeiner then told them that he would tell his informant not to speak with FBI investigators.
The affidavit also claimed Finkbeiner spoke with a Malvern Police Department lieutenant about his frustration with the FBI and did the same thing with a prosecuting attorney in the area.
Finkbeiner listened to the affidavit from the Saline County Detention Center, shaking his head at times as details of the government’s allegations against him were being read. Federal prosecutor Bryan Achorn asked that Finkbeiner not be released on bond, saying Finkbeiner was a “serious risk” due to his position as a sheriff.
Achorn said that as the elected sheriff, Finkbeiner would have access to law enforcement communications such as radios and National Crime Information Center records. The prosecutor then read through a list of concerns the government had about Achorn being out on bond.
Among the concerns shared by prosecutors were acts they claimed Finkbeiner did prior to his arrest Wednesday, which they said included using controlled substances and pressuring a woman into using drugs and performing sex acts on him while he was in uniform. Achorn also contended that Finkbeiner had used his position to intimidate an unnamed elected official and had asked a drug dealer to “obtain dirt” on the official.
Finkbeiner quietly and slowly shook his head in disagreement as Achorn leveled these allegations.
Finkbeiner’s federal public defender, Alex Wynn, countered that the charge facing the sheriff was obstruction of justice and that the list of acts prosecutors claimed Finkbeiner committed was irrelevant.
“Fears are not factors to be determined,” Wynn said.
Ford agreed and ruled Finkbeiner could be released on a $5,000 bond if certain standard conditions for federal parolees were met. The conditions included no possession of guns or other weapons and the requirement to report any contact with a law enforcement officer, which Ford said would need to be tailored to the sheriff’s circumstances.
Finkbeiner will also have to be evaluated for substance abuse and must participate in a substance abuse program as part of his release.
The sheriff thanked the judge for granting his release.
The affidavit and official charges against Finkbeiner were initially sealed, but following the judge’s ruling on bail, Achorn asked the court to unseal the documents following their redaction.
At 3:15 p.m. Friday, Finkbeiner had bonded out of jail.