I'm Tough On Drugs! I'm Tough On Crime! I'm Going To Clean Up This Town! I'm Going To Prison Soon!
you with a 2-by-4 and
my boys will smash up your
place with sledgehammers.
Please bow your heads and repeat the Agence-Vleeptron Presse Journalist's Prayer:
Wonderful Story. Amen.
Please take the Agence-Vleeptron Presse News Poll:
( ) ( ) Does your Police Chief carry a gun?
( ) ( ) Does your Police Chief wear a bulletproof vest?
( ) ( ) Does your Mayor carry a gun?
( ) ( ) Does your Mayor carry a gun in church or on a college campus?
( ) ( ) Does your Mayor wear a bulletproof vest?
( ) ( ) Does your Police Chief ride around in the police department's Mobile Command Unit?
( ) ( ) Does your Mayor ride around in the police department's Mobile Command Unit?
( ) ( ) Is your Mayor a 2-fisted TV station owner who talks tough about drugs and crime in his TV editorials?
( ) ( ) Does your Mayor live with a bunch of teenage boys who aren't his sons?
( ) ( ) Is one of the boys who lives in his house charged with armed robbery?
( ) ( ) Will your Mayor be going to felony prison if he doesn't quick-like-a-bunny resign and plead guilty to reduced charges?
( ) ( ) Which direction are drug use and crime going in your city?
[image: guy in passenger seat of parked car talking on cell phone]
Jackson Mayor Frank Melton leaves the Hinds County Courthouse on Friday after he and his two bodyguards were indicted by a grand jury on multiple counts in relation to the wrecking of a duplex in Jackson’s Virden Addition. Each of the three men was released on bond. Attorney General Jim Hood says he hopes a trial can be held by Christmas. (J.D. Schwalm/The Clarion-Ledger)
(Jackson, Mississippi USA / Gannett newspapers)
Saturday 16 September 2006
Mayor won't resign
Charges 'silly,' political, says attorney
by Chris Joyner
Jackson Mayor Frank Melton's attorney said the fiery, first-term mayor would not resign and called three grand jury indictments handed down Friday "silly" and "politically motivated."
Melton, 56, turned himself in to authorities at the Hinds County Courthouse shortly past noon, after a specially convened grand jury indicted him on five felony charges related to the Aug. 26 partial destruction of a west Jackson duplex, along with three gun violations, one of which is a felony. If found guilty, Melton faces up to 50 years in prison.
Marcus Wright, 30, and Michael Recio, 37, Jackson police detectives and Melton's bodyguards, also were indicted on five felony charges related to destruction of the duplex.
Melton attorney Dale Danks said the mayor will "vigorously fight" the charges, suggesting that the speedy way the case went to the grand jury amounted to a political attack by Hinds County District Attorney Faye Peterson.
"I personally find it very curious that with the high crime rate Jackson has -- and is experiencing -- and with thousands of felony cases pending in the Hinds County criminal justice system that are unable to be processed, that, in this instance, the charges against Mayor Melton were brought in a matter of days," he said. "The mayor will not allow politically motivated indictments to prevent him from carrying out his work as mayor on behalf of the citizens of Jackson."
Convening a grand jury in such a rapid fashion is unprecedented in Hinds County. Sheriff Malcolm McMillin's investigators wrapped their case on Thursday.
When asked if she could recall the last time an indictment was handled this way, Peterson quipped, "I'm not that old." She also responded to Danks' remarks by saying she will ask a judge to impose a gag order forbidding people associated with the case from publicly discussing it to avoid tainting potential jurors.
"This office is not going in any way to try this in the media," she said. "These are very serious charges that my office has had to bring."
Danks shrugged off the idea.
"I think the DA made some pretrial comments that were improper. I also made some pretrial comments," he said. "That's customary until a judge tells the lawyers to shut up."
The city was last rocked by scandal in the late 1990s when two council members, Louis Armstrong and Robert Williams, were indicted on federal charges.
Melton was released on $50,000 bond and his bodyguards on $25,000 bond each Friday.
[A-VP: That's almost no bond at all, 10% of that is very easy to come up with.]
Under the conditions of Melton's bond, the mayor no longer can carry firearms or use police equipment such as JPD's Mobile Command Unit, which has become a symbol of his high-profile crime sweeps. In addition, Melton must remain in the country, abstain from illegal drugs or alcohol, and cannot have minor children not related to him by blood or marriage living in his home.
The mayor has had a number of minor boys living with him, but Danks said "at this time" no minors are living in Melton's northeast Jackson home. Plus, Don Taylor, executive director of the Department of Human Services, said his agency cannot intervene unless Melton, law enforcement or the judiciary ask.
"There have been no allegations that these children have been neglected or abused," Taylor said. "We're not enforcement officers, and we're not in a position to enforce the conditions of the bond."
The placement of children is a "judicial decision," Taylor said.
The most serious of the charges facing the mayor and his bodyguards involve the damage of the duplex on Ridgeway Street in Virden Addition last month. Neighbors allege Melton and unnamed minor boys in his company used sledgehammers to break open the front of the home rented by Evans Welch.
While Danks referred to the house as a crack house, Welch was arrested on several misdemeanor charges, none of which are related to cocaine trafficking. He is out of jail and has a court date next month.
Melton and Wright are charged with burglary for allegedly entering the house armed with deadly weapons with the intent to commit a crime. It is not clear whether Recio will be prosecuted for burglary. Although the charge appears on his indictment, his name is missing from the description of that charge. At a news conference Friday afternoon, Peterson was asked about the discrepancy and responded that Recio was charged with conspiracy to commit burglary.
Danks said the indictments "leave a lot to be desired from a legal standpoint."
"It looks like the whole process was rushed so much that there were mistakes," he said. "We will be attacking them, I'll tell you that."
Danks would not say what other mistakes he had found.
All three also are charged with felony malicious mischief, another count of conspiracy, and directing a minor to commit a felony.
According to the indictment, the minor is 17-year-old Michael Taylor, a Jackson youth who has been living with the mayor for several months and has been seen riding with Melton in the Mobile Command Unit. Taylor was arrested in June by the Hinds County Sheriff's Department for failure to appear in court to face armed robbery charges.
In addition, Melton is charged with unlawfully carrying a gun onto the campus of Mississippi College School of Law, a felony. He also is charged with carrying a firearm inside St. Andrew's Episcopal Church and to Jaycee city park, both misdemeanors. The gun charges are the result of an investigation conducted by [Mississippi] Attorney General Jim Hood.
Hood said Friday he would not rule out the possibility that he may personally prosecute the case. He said he hoped the trial could be held by Christmas.
While Melton did not make a public statement Friday, Danks admitted his client may have made mistakes in his aggressive pursuit of the city's criminals. But the charges being brought are not appropriate, he said.
"This man's out doing a job and may have made a mistake in doing it," he said. "But to be faced with this type of activity and these type of indictments, particularly in the speed and numbers in which it was done, is ludicrous and questionable."
Hood said he hoped Melton would accept a plea agreement and step down to save the city the turmoil of a trial. He said he spoke to the mayor on Tuesday but would not elaborate.
"It's a sad day for the city of Jackson, (and) of course, for the mayor as well," he said. "It's always unfortunate when we have to prosecute one of our elected officials. It's particularly bad in this instance for a city of this size to go through this. Hopefully, we can quickly resolve this matter."
Hood would not discuss details of what kind of deal the mayor would be offered, but he said it would include resigning from office. If Melton chooses to face the charges in court and is convicted, prison is guaranteed, he said. Burglary carries a mandatory three-year sentence with a maximum sentence of 25 years.
In May, Hood's office investigated whether Melton was breaking the law in conducting his police-style raids and crime sweeps. At that time, Hood announced he could not find evidence of Melton breaking the law, but in a detailed letter urged Melton to follow state law, particularly in regard to where he could carry his weapons.
On Friday, Hood said he was not surprised Melton did not take the advice.
"We had hoped that we could get things slowed down and cooled off a little bit, but it didn't surprise me that he was not able to (change his behavior)," he said.
Evidence of Melton allegedly carrying his gun onto the law school campus came toward the end of his initial investigation, Hood said.
Jim Rosenblatt, dean of the Mississippi College School of Law, said Melton was on campus in February to speak to a student organization. He would not identify the organization or the subject of the speech.
McMillin, who has been in office since the early 1990s, said he believes this is the first time he has arrested an elected official as sheriff.
"Mayor Melton and I have known each other for over 20 years," he said. "We have had a working relationship and friendship that goes back 20 years. The law is not a respecter of persons. The law applies to everybody and makes no exception to person."
Charles Evers, a most recent vocal supporter of the mayor, also criticized the indictment. Stopping short of calling them politically motivated, Evers echoed Danks' characterization of the charges being brought too hastily.
"If the district attorney and the sheriff would do all cases as fast as they did this one, we wouldn't have any criminals in the streets," Evers said.
He said he will continue to support the mayor and is urging Jackson residents to give the mayor a second chance.
"It was too hasty. Treat him like everybody else," he said. "What did he steal? You can get indicted for saying, 'Good morning.'"
Staff writers Kathleen Baydala, Joshua Cogswell, Laura Hipp, Andrew Nelson and Billy Watkins contributed to this report.
Sunday 17 September 2006
A defiant Melton
the end is near
by Ronnie Agnew (Executive Editor, The Clarion-Ledger)
Even the great Frank Melton can't come back from this mess.
The Jackson mayor is done. Apologies are no longer necessary. There is no more room left in the forgiveness department for the thousands of people who put their trust in him.
He has let them down. There was no great effort to oust the mayor from his yearlong stay in the mayor's seat. Melton, the orator whose quick tongue strings wonderful sentences together, did it to himself.
To find someone to blame, the only place he needs to look is squarely in the mirror.
He was able to talk his way through most situations, but Melton committed the most basic of political sins: He gave his critics a legally actionable reason to call for his head.
NO TIME FOR CELEBRATION
This is not a time for celebration. Those who choose to celebrate never wanted to see Melton succeed from the outset, placing their selfish desires to see him fail in front of a real need to make this city safer and more economically advanced.
By now, I hope Melton has come to realize that his 14 months in the mayor's office are over. Several criminal investigations are currently under way to discover whether the mayor is responsible for having a private residence unlawfully destroyed. The Hinds County district attorney's office is investigating the alleged beating of a nightclub owner, also at the hands of young men riding in the city's mobile command center.
Melton had his chance and blew it through pride and arrogance. He really believed that his in-your-face tactics would rally this city. Instead, Jackson under Melton became more racially polarized, an unintended result of ineffective crime sweeps that seemed to target only one part of town.
If he continues to fight, he will only prolong the inevitable. That is not to say Melton is guilty of any crime. It does mean that Jackson citizens have finally grown weary of lies, unfulfilled promises and lack of accountability. He's a mayor gone wild.
They've finally grown tired of a lack of a strategic plan to address problems and a mayor who prefers to drive a bulldozer to bring down one dilapidated house at a time instead of crafting a plan that will lead to the demolition of thousands.
APPROACH TO GOVERNING
It would be a selfish act if Melton tries to continue. He was honest when he said his time in office would be unconventional. Criticize him if you must, but in some strange way, there is realism and truth when Melton speaks about his love for the city.
When confronted with issues, however, there was one person Melton could not overcome: That person was Frank Melton. The indefatigable former TV station owner worked around the clock, going with police on his infamous drug interdictions. The fact that he wasn't a real cop mattered little to him.
The real downfall of Melton's short tenure was his disdain for the minutiae of government and his unwillingness to guide his troops through tough budgets and crumbling infrastructure problems, all caused by a shrinking tax base.
It was really sad to see this extremely likable man riding atop that bulldozer. It was a symbol of his simple approach to governing, his choosing to focus on easy problems when larger ones loomed.
Now, there are closed-door meetings all over town with would-be replacements hoping to get into the mayor's office. They are anticipating at any moment that even the defiant Melton will give up this fight.
Not a happy moment at all, but unfortunately one that had a predictable end.
Contact Executive Editor Ronnie Agnew at (601) 961-7175
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Real Media: Clarion-Ledger video documents Melton indictment
Forum: What's your reaction to the indictment of Mayor Melton?
PDF: Read the Melton indictment
# Melton's administration: A timeline
# Can city weather the storm?
# Legal action against Jackson mayor hot topic
# Current charges may not be last of Melton's woes
# Leaders divided on indictment's impact
# Detectives reassigned
©2006 The Clarion-Ledger
The Associated Press
pickup in The Sun Herald
(Mississippi Gulf Coast)
Saturday 16 September 2006
Jackson Mayor Melton indicted
AG Hood will offer plea deal
by EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
JACKSON -- Mayor Frank Melton, who has been accused of being too heavy-handed in fighting crime, was indicted Friday on charges he directed young people to use sledgehammers to smash up a home where he suspected drugs were being used.
The felony charges included malicious mischief, home burglary and carrying a gun on school property. Prosecutors said convictions on all charges would carry up to 50 years in prison, and Melton, 57, would have to resign.
Two police officers who served as Melton's bodyguards, Detectives Marcus Wright and Michael Recio, also were indicted. All three were released after posting bail.
Their surrender came a day after Hinds County prosecutors announced that a grand jury would review allegations stemming from the destruction of a duplex on Aug. 26 and a fight in a nightclub the same night. None of the indictments handed down Friday were related to the nightclub fight.
Both Wright and Recio were reassigned within the Police Department, according to a statement released late Friday on Chief Shirlene Anderson's letterhead.
Melton's attorney, former Jackson Mayor Dale Danks, said Melton was trying to rid Jackson of crime. Danks said damage was done to a "drug house."
"Maybe better judgment could've been used but the charges that have been made against Mayor Melton are an extreme and excessive reaction," Danks said.
Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin has said his department investigated allegations that Melton directed a group of young people to knock out walls of a duplex with sledgehammers, and that the mayor and his entourage then attacked a club manager.
Evans Welch, 45, who lived in the wrecked duplex, was arrested on [misdemeanor] charges of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Some City Council members said Melton should resign.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who helped present evidence to the grand jury, said his office will offer Melton a plea deal. Hood wouldn't release details of the deal but told reporters, "If we're able to resolve it by resignation and a plea, that would be the best thing."
Melton is a blunt-spoken former television executive who used to post billboards with pictures of people he said were drug dealers. He served as director of the state drug enforcement agency from December 2002 to January 2005. He also has said he has mentored several young men who aren't related to him, including allowing some to live in his home in a wealthy neighborhood. His wife is a physician with a practice in Tyler, Texas.
Melton was elected Jackson mayor in July 2005 on a tough-on-crime platform. He has drawn national attention for his unconventional leadership style, including participating in police raids and roadblocks.
The American Civil Liberties Union last month accused Melton, who is black, of civil rights violations, including racial profiling. The city is nearly 71 percent black.
The past several months, Melton has cruised the streets of Jackson in a recreational vehicle that's outfitted as the Police Department's mobile command center, usually taking along an entourage that includes young men who are not law-enforcement officers.
Melton also has been seen carrying firearms in public, although he is not a sworn law officer.
As conditions of his bail, Melton is forbidden to carry weapons or to supervise minors who aren't related to him. He also is banned from using any law enforcement vehicle, including the mobile command center.
Hood said he hopes for a quick resolution to Melton's case so the city can try to resolve its crime problems.
"The good Lord makes things happen for a reason," Hood said. "Maybe this is the point where the city of Jackson has kind of hit bottom."
Associated Press writer Kathy Hanrahan contributed to this report.