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Gainesville youth football coach takes plea deal in animal cruelty case

Alachua Courthouse, Courthouse
Alachua County Courthouse, Downtown Gainesville, FL

Landis J’Marcus Finch will spend two years in a state prison and five years probation on eight misdemeanor animal cruelty charges, two felony aggravated animal cruelty charges and two felony animal fighting charges.

Finch and his wife accepted a plea deal earlier this month for holding 10 dogs in what police described as deplorable conditions, as well as breeding, owning or training animals for fighting in late 2022. An earlier 2017 order from a judge banned the couple from owning any animals after 11 dogs were found in poor conditions at their residence. 

Finch is known better to his community as “Coach Marcus” through his decade of work as a youth football coach. He is the founder of the Gainesville Wildcats, a non-profit youth football program which formally incorporated last year. 

The organization provided this statement on Thursday: 

The Gainesville Wildcats coaches and families of our youth members remain committed to providing the young men the opportunity to practice and play football in a safe and supportive environment. Like any organization of its kind, we are a close-knit community of families and volunteers and coaches that share the same goals for our kids. We are working together to continue preparing for a second successful season without interruption. We have no further public comment now, and we appreciate the larger community’s support as we focus our attention on our kids and their immediate needs. Ongoing community support is vital to the program and our young men.

Finch received letters of support from community members in hopes that a judge would consider them and offer a lenient sentence. Circuit Judge James Colaw received 10 pages of letters from children and adults who lauded Finch as a coach and community leader prior to his guilty plea. 

“While I cannot speak on behalf of Marcus’ personal life or actions outside of our Gainesville Wildcats, I can with utmost certainty say that this man - with the help of others that he chose to be a part of his program have truly inspired and changed the life of so many. He has been a coach, a friend, a role model and a father figure to every boy out on that field,” one letter from a parent wrote. 

Another letter in support of his wife Kendra Rashard-Finch stated that her two daughters, aged two and five, were relying on her financially after the arrests, and mentioned her volunteer work at the Ronald McDonald House kitchen and church in a request for leniency.

Mrs. Finch’s plea deal reduced her 10 felony animal cruelty charges to first degree misdemeanors with two days in jail, which she has already served, and one year on probation. Notably, a stipulation of her probation is that she is permitted to live with a family member that owns a small dog, but cannot own any animals herself. If she completes 50 hours of community service, the two felony dogfighting charges will be dropped according to a deferred judgment court filing.

Sandra is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing