The Mayor and His Star Witness | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

The Mayor and His Star Witness

Video still courtesy of WAPT

Note: This story will appear in the print edition on May 10.

Christopher "Smiley" Walker was re-arrested Monday by U.S. Marshals for failing a routine urinalysis drug test required by his probation officer. Six days earlier, he had sat beside Mayor Frank Melton in City Hall at the press conference held to lambaste District Attorney Faye Peterson.

Melton held the press conference during the City Council meeting to respond to the district attorney's criticisms of his unorthodox and potentially illegal crimefighting tactics. Peterson had told the Jackson Free Press the week before that she was asking Attorney General Jim Hood to investigate Melton's actions to ensure that he was not violating the rights of citizens or endangering their lives.

But video footage of that press conference indicates that Melton did little to address these concerns directly—instead, he answered the district attorney with a barrage of personal attacks. "Mrs. Peterson is trying to point the finger at me because of her incompetence," he said. He also said she might be guilty of "possible corruption. … We're investigating that right now."

This was not the first time Melton leveled unsubstantiated charges at Peterson. Melton's primary complaint against Peterson in the Albert Donelson murder trial was that she refused to put Walker on the stand to testify that he had answered the call from Donelson, who was in jail, to Terrell Donelson to order a hit on Aaron Crockett. Walker's story was outlined in a videotape made by the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics.

On the tape, then-MBN Director Melton (wearing his cap backward) drew out Walker's story of being a teenage "crash test dummy" for the Wood Street Players—saying he did everything from picking up their dry cleaning to kidnapping and helping with violent murders. However, Melton, then-MBN Deputy Shirlene Anderson and other agents turned off the tape several times, leading defense attorneys to speculate that Melton was coaching Walker, which he denies.

Last Tuesday, Walker repeated some of the charges, launching into an angry, expletive-filled tirade against Peterson, even saying, "She's crooked. She was f---ing Jam," he said. Walker was referring to murdered bail bondsman Jimmy "Jam" Johnson, who Melton says was in thick with the Wood Street Players, and has hinted at links between him and Peterson, which have not been substantiated.

The next day, Melton called to tell me that, "Well, we put it all out there, didn't we?" He did not apologize for Walker's actions or question the veracity of his statements.

But Walker's appearance alongside Melton was only the latest in a series of bizarre interactions with the mayor. The first time I saw Walker in person was in Melton's home in North Jackson the night before the Donelson trial was set to begin.

'He's a Good Kid'
When I met Walker at Melton's the evening of April 2, he looked nervous about meeting a reporter. But Melton was opening his home to me, and Walker has been part of his home since Melton, as director of MBN, arrested him as an alleged Wood Street Player. Melton developed Walker into his primary witness, who provided much of the narrative that Melton follows in his accusations of the Wood Street men, which follow Walker's videotaped statements almost exactly.

That Sunday, Melton urged me to interview his witness—"Now, Donna, I want you to talk to Chris. He's a good kid"—but he was introducing me to many young men, and Walker seemed like just another one of "Frank's boys." However, Walker disappeared upstairs before I could sit down with him.

I saw Walker again two days later in Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter's courtroom. Melton had called me that morning and told me that Peterson was trying to drop the charges against the Donelson brothers and James Benton in the Crockett case, and said that he was taking Walker there to proffer him as a witness. He made it clear that he hoped to pressure Peterson into putting Walker on the stand.

During the hearing, Peterson announced that she was proceeding with the case based on testimony by accomplices Nathaniel Brent and Victor Washington. She was not putting Christopher Walker on the stand, however.

In the hall afterward, Melton was angry at Peterson: "Ask her why she won't put Chris on the stand," he barked. The next day, he told me by phone that Walker had given Jimmy Jam $10,000 to get off an assault charge. "The money gets passed around," he said.

That day, Peterson refused to comment on an ongoing trial, and challenged Melton to provide proof of any wrongdoing by her.

Members of the Donelson family, however, told me that the defense had filed evidence that Melton had "tampered" with Walker's testimony, that he had paid him off. Indeed, the court file contained a number of affidavits filed by a cousin of Walker, an MBN agent and others alleging that Melton had given Walker special treatment in return for his testimony. The financial benefits had included a "Frank E. Melton" credit card, an apartment in Ridgeland, a car, cash and other help. In addition, agents said that Melton had promised Walker a job as an MBN agent and allowed him to handle weapons although he was on probation at the time.

In the documents, Peterson stated that Walker had perjured himself before the grand jury and had proved to be an unreliable witness—thus she could not legally use him.

Asked later about the potential "tampering," Melton defended his actions passionately, saying that he did what he had to do to "protect" Walker because Mississippi doesn't provide a witness protection program. "Under no circumstances could I leave him out there to be killed," Melton told me, adding: "Dern right. I did rent him an apartment, give him a credit card, (and) gave him money as recently as yesterday."

Melton then suggested that I talk to Walker and gave me his cell number.

'I Love Frank to Death'
Walker, who first met Melton when he taught him to swim at the Farish Street YMCA, seemed nervous when I called on April 4, but willing to talk. He said he had gone to Rowan Middle School (where he allegedly was first approached by the Wood Street Players to help with criminal activity), then dropped out of Lanier High School. "I caught a charge, two murder charges," he said, adding that he was acquitted on both charges. Now, he said, he is working and going to school to get his GED.

Walker said that when he was serving 21 months in the federal penitentiary, "not one time did I call and ask Faye or Frank for a favor. … They didn't come see me, or worry about how I was doing." Things changed when he got out. "Now that I'm out, I love Frank to death. Now, there are a lot of things Frank do that I don't approve of. … (But) I feel like Faye, MBN … they got what they wanted for Wood Street and throwed me back out there."

After prison, he said, Melton took him in: "The only person helping me was Frank." Still, he said, he is worried that Melton "must be using me. … Like I tell everyone, I'm the one who's gotta live this for the rest of my life."

Walker said he has lived at Melton's off and on since October 2003. He said that he was recently threatened by Wood Street Players and had gone back to live at Melton's house about a week before (in late March). He was adamant that Melton has not bought his testimony: "You put this in your paper. Frank ain't never paid me to do nothing. Frank done help me when I needed help."

Five days after that interview, Melton was leading a manhunt for Walker. When I met up with the Mobile Command Center on Bailey Avenue, Melton was gruff and said, "We have to go make an arrest." We pulled up outside a rundown apartment building, and Melton pulled out his shotgun, stalked to the door—followed by bodyguards—and banged on the door with the butt of the rifle. After he disappeared inside, I asked other media: "Who is he arresting?" When they answered "Christopher Walker," I was flabbergasted and held a mini press conference of my own to bring reporters—other than WAPT, who understood it already—up to speed on the fact that Walker was his prime witness, the one that he was accused of helping too much.

Later, after media had left, I asked him why we were looking for the young man who had been living with him. "He told me today that he had helped with the (Harrison) Hilliard murder," he said. (In fact, Melton had said that in the past.) "I have to arrest him."

Walker turned himself in a couple days later, calling WAPT to tell them that Melton did not have an arrest warrant for him, that they were hunting him down without cause. The JFP could not reach Walker then, but the same night Melton told us that they were trying to send a message to Wood Street that he and Walker were not as tight as they thought. WAPT reports that Walker seemed genuinely angry and scared of Melton.

Walker was held overnight in the Jefferson Davis County Jail. Melton told the JFP that he was being sent to another facility for "protection," but by the afternoon of Good Friday, Walker was back in Melton's home when I arrived for an interview.

The next we heard from Walker, he was sitting in City Hall with Melton, cursing the D.A. Then, this week, he was re-arrested for failing a drug test—meaning that he likely has been using while staying in Melton's home around his other kids.

"This arrest is a culmination of all of the concerns that come out of the consideration of what (Melton) says he's doing with juveniles," D.A. Peterson said Tuesday about Walker's arrest. "These folks can't help juveniles if they're not clean themselves."

Previous Comments

ID
66267
Comment

More from our friends at WAPT on this story tonight: Christopher Walker was taken into custody in Jackson on Monday and according to the warrant for his arrest, he failed nine drug tests. The arrest comes just a week after Walker told 16 WAPT that he was living with Melton, changing his life and staying out of trouble. Court records show Walker had already tested positive for cocaine and marijuana. Nine tests in 11 weeks all showed positive for the use of controlled substances. The test results were enough to land Walker in jail. ... Even though Melton isn’t talking about the arrest, he addressed Walker's criminal past last week. “My love for Christopher is unconditional. He’s made mistakes and if he makes more mistakes he’ll be punished. But I love this young man,” said Melton. Walker was arrested during a visit to his probation officer.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-05-09T20:19:17-06:00
ID
66268
Comment

So do the test results come out within days after they happen; or do they test for a few weeks then, in typical gov't fashion, give you the results a month later?

Author
pikersam
Date
2006-05-09T21:59:35-06:00
ID
66269
Comment

It alll makes sense now. Melton is trying to kiss up to Peterson because his "boys" are dropping like flies. Mayby he is afraid that they will give some info to the feds that could put him back in the spotlight. He only hugs people that he cannot strangle. I hope that DA Peterson dosen't fall for his tricks.

Author
lance
Date
2006-05-09T22:33:05-06:00
ID
66270
Comment

Melton's comments about Walker in the Clarion-Ledger today are interesting: Although he didn't correct Walker during the news conference at City Hall, Melton said Tuesday that Walker hasn't lived in his house in more than two years. "He stayed with me from October 2003 until January 2004 when I was with MBN (Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics)," Melton said late Tuesday. "On this recent custody stuff, I took him to the Jefferson Davis County Jail for one night when "Batman" got out of jail," he said, referring to Albert "Batman" Donelson. Melton said he suspected something was wrong with Walker after his outburst at the news conference and he was disappointed Walker violated terms of his release from federal prison earlier this year. "I have not seen him in a week or so," Melton said. He must be playing a game of semantics here; Walker was definitely "staying" in his house leading up to the Batman trial and likely afterward when I saw him there. They both told me he was there for protection.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-05-10T08:49:23-06:00
ID
66271
Comment

Also, they have a PDF of the warrant, which gives Walker's last address as 2 Carter's Grove. And note the dates that he tested positive for pot and cocaine -- throughout the period that we have observed him in and out of Melton's house. (Good for the Ledge on figuring out recently how to do PDFs.)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-05-10T09:00:10-06:00
ID
66272
Comment

A tangled web is weaved. The mo' I hear the mo' I'm shocked and confused. Can the blind lead the blind? I don'k know which is the most f-up Frank or Chris. Faye was going with Jimmy Jam. I hope this wasn't true. Jam had corruption and deceit written all over him. Even Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles could see that.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2006-05-10T10:25:32-06:00
ID
66273
Comment

ladd--He must be playing a game of semantics here; Walker was definitely "staying" in his house leading up to the Batman trial and likely afterward when I saw him there. They both told me he was there for protection. That's the first thing that hit me when I read the various versions of this story. From the C-L: Walker provided Melton's address as Walker's last address, according to the warrant. Although he didn't correct Walker during the news conference at City Hall, Melton said Tuesday that Walker hasn't lived in his house in more than two years. "He stayed with me from October 2003 until January 2004 when I was with MBN (Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics)," Melton said late Tuesday. "On this recent custody stuff, I took him to the Jefferson Davis County Jail for one night when "Batman" got out of jail," he said, referring to Albert "Batman" Donelson. From JFP: When I met Walker at Melton’s the evening of April 2, he looked nervous about meeting a reporter. But Melton was opening his home to me, and Walker has been part of his home since Melton, as director of MBN, arrested him as an alleged Wood Street Player. Walker said he has lived at Melton’s off and on since October 2003. He said that he was recently threatened by Wood Street Players and had gone back to live at Melton’s house about a week before (in late March). From WAPT: The arrest comes just a week after Walker told 16 WAPT that he was living with Melton, changing his life and staying out of trouble. So was Walker living at melton's place as late as April 2006 or not? Frank says not for a year before that, after January 2004. All the evidence says he was at least some of the time. Why can't Melton get a simple thing like residency right?

Author
Rex
Date
2006-05-10T11:04:14-06:00
ID
66274
Comment

Well, at this point I doubt he wants to admit that Mr. Walker was living with him and his kids and doing drugs. Also, he was apparently doing drugs during the Batman trial, when he was supposed to be the star witness.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-05-10T11:07:26-06:00
ID
66275
Comment

Give a dope addict some dope and he will do anything. Promise a dope addict some dope or money that he knows he can get dope with and he'll do anything. If I were a cynic I would thing Frank is a heavy drinker or doper too.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2006-05-10T11:22:45-06:00
ID
66276
Comment

Ray he does drink Nyquil u know. lol

Author
jada
Date
2006-05-10T11:40:43-06:00
ID
66277
Comment

If it looks like a duck, wobbles like a duck and quacks like a duck, It must be Frank Melton. Could this man have this City so off-base that we are like little dummies waiting to be told the next lie? ...Waiting to be told that we didn't see what we saw or hear what we heard. This is getting a bit too crazy for me and all I can think of is the liability for this City when this apparent untrained, unauthorized, poorly put together piece of protoplasm E!X!P!L!O!D!E!S!

Author
justjess
Date
2006-05-10T15:53:25-06:00
ID
66278
Comment

I reached the height of my disappointment seeing Ms. Peterson give a beig toooooothy grin and bear hug while patting FM's chest. This comes a few days after he labeled her "incompetent and corrupt." and only minuetes after Walker publicly disparaged her, i.e., "She f@#$&* Jimmy Jam" and "Faye Peterson ain't S@#$." The bottom line here is that Faye Peterson, The Atorney General, The Dept. of Health and Human Services and the citizens of Jackson should be trying to get to the bottom of this situation wherein youngsters are living in harms way. bn

Author
justjess
Date
2006-05-10T16:36:26-06:00
ID
66279
Comment

I sincerely hope that they are not turning a blind eye to what's going on either. I was pleasantly surprised when Peterson came forth with all of the detailed information that she had on Melton when she stated that she was looking into possible wrongdoing. Peterson, the AG and all others involved should continue with their investigations and go forward with a grand jury inquiry/probe or whatever they call it. A simple hug by a backstabber should not make them let this slide. This man has lied so much until he couldn't spell the word truth if his career depended on it.

Author
lance
Date
2006-05-10T19:27:29-06:00
ID
66280
Comment

Well, it is comforting to me to know that not all of Jackson is asleep. The conductor of the Jacksonian "train" is asleep at wheel. I had thought that most Jacksonians were inept and incapable of recognizing the mayor for what he is a "grandstander". Sir, this not Barnum and Bailey and Jackson has no need for a clown. The business of governance is a serious one and should be conducted as such. If you incapable of trusting Chief Anderson to do her job then fire her. If she has your complete confidence then maybe you both should be looking for a new job. Recall elections are legal in Mississippi, are they not?

Author
Jrule
Date
2006-05-11T02:07:41-06:00
ID
66281
Comment

"If it looks like a duck, wobbles like a duck and quacks like a duck, It must be Frank Melton. Could this man have this City so off-base that we are like little dummies waiting to be told the next lie? ...Waiting to be told that we didn't see what we saw or hear what we heard." hahahahaha...oh boy! ......hahahahhaa

Author
JSU
Date
2006-05-11T11:29:51-06:00
ID
66282
Comment

"Protective Custody" has a legal connotation. We are discussing FM's kidnapping, holding against one's will and other violations of a person's civil rights, as if there is a uniform system in places governed by rules and regs. Ben Allen's directive to us as citizens to file a law suite or file with the ACLU is irresponsible for a person holding en elected position as councilman. This is about as useless as tits on a bull (no offense, Frank). Question: Can an elected public officical create and run his/her own prison or foster care facility without local, state or federal certification? Question: Is this activity related to race/ethnicity? Question: Is the current sorry state of Jackson's city government reflective of the critical thinking capability of 60% of the voting public?

Author
justjess
Date
2006-05-11T12:16:39-06:00
ID
66283
Comment

Christopher Walker rode around with a handgun, while buying and selling crack cocaine, and smoking weed in a tan looking late model car. I thought about calling the JPD and giving the information to them but then it dawned on me - this individual lives with Frank Melton - and not only that but he is an accessory to a murder committed by the Wood Street Players. He wasn't prosecuted on his involvement, so there was nothing that led me to believe that he would be sought and arrested for what I witnessed. But life seems to always balance itself out, doesn't it?

Author
Code Red
Date
2006-05-11T12:19:36-06:00
ID
66284
Comment

"Protective Custody" has a legal connotation. We are discussing FM's kidnapping, holding against one's will and other violations of a person's civil rights, as if there is a uniform system in places governed by rules and regs. Ben Allen's directive to us as citizens to file a law suite or file with the ACLU is irresponsible for a person holding en elected position as councilman. This is about as useless as t*** on a bull (no offense, Frank). Justjess, without a legal mechanism for recall of the Mayor, what do you propose we do to get rid of this man?

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2006-05-11T13:17:43-06:00
ID
66285
Comment

Melton is simply lying as usual.

Author
jan2006
Date
2006-05-11T15:22:02-06:00
ID
66286
Comment

Ya'll ever notice the dumb a$$ look on Meltons face when he lies. Somebody should perform a polygraph test on this man just for the fun of it.

Author
jan2006
Date
2006-05-11T15:29:40-06:00
ID
66287
Comment

I would like to see Melton take a truth test, but I believe that he would pass a polygraph. He really believes that he is right and is telling the truth. He is the most dangerous type of liar. If we could get a recall vote and get him out of office he probably would think of it as Jackson's loss and not him. He is so self consumed with himself that he probably has pictures of himself hanging on every wall of his house and probably has his picture on his money.

Author
lance
Date
2006-05-12T06:33:59-06:00
ID
66288
Comment

Well ejeff, for starters, I would recommend that we continue to do what we can with what we have and from where we are. These blogs are growing in popularity and attracting people who are critical thinkers and most of all, care about Jackson and what happens to this City. Many people have very vested interest here, especially in home ownership. Sullivan nor Walker can not be the City's poster boy/mascot for the City of Jackson. There are too many young men and women of all races in this community who deserve recognition and celebration for living their lives as productive and contributing citizens. The interview that Donna did with Faye Peterson was great. I had begun to worry about her (FP) keeping her eye on the problem after the Highland Village episode. We don't need AG Hood to set up a tea party at his coffee table in his private office to tell two elected officials how to behave. This man has broken the law (many laws) and our expection of the judicial system must prevail! Check me on this one; but, it is my understanding that a sitting Mayor can not hold offfice if he/she is convicted of any criminal activity and this includes a misdemeanor. Remedy is in legal!!!!!

Author
justjess
Date
2006-05-12T11:05:36-06:00
ID
66289
Comment

The interview that Donna did with Faye Peterson was great. I had begun to worry about her (FP) keeping her eye on the problem after the Highland Village episode. We don't need AG Hood to set up a tea party at his coffee table in his private office to tell two elected officials how to behave. This man has broken the law (many laws) and our expection of the judicial system must prevail! Check me on this one; but, it is my understanding that a sitting Mayor can not hold offfice if he/she is convicted of any criminal activity and this includes a misdemeanor. Remedy is in legal!!!!! You've made my point, justjess, that the only way to counter Melton's antics is thru the courts. Councilman Allen's earlier comments are valid in terms of looking to groups like the ACLU to seek legal remedies against the City. They are good at these sorts of cases when individual's or groups of people are having their civil rights violated. Personally, I'm not thrilled with the idea of suing the City. We are cash-strapped enough without a bunch of settlements being levied against the City. Which is why I hope Melton will give a second thought to his personal involvment in police sweeps and raids and let the trained professionals do their jobs.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2006-05-12T11:18:00-06:00
ID
66290
Comment

BTW, all, Adam did the Peterson interview, not I. And he did a great job. I laughed out loud at the "chick" question. ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-05-12T12:55:12-06:00
ID
66291
Comment

I'm listening to the Melton-Evers interview for the first time -- we're podcasting it now -- and I heard Mr. Melton defend his "protection" tactics with Mr. Walker: "I had to keep him on his feet. This is what your brother stood, this is what you have stood for, this is what I'm trying to do, and I just get kicked in the teeth for doing the right thing." Perhaps it was a conincidence, but Mr. Evers cleared his throat right after the mayor said, "This is what your brother stood for." So, Mr. Melton played the Medgar card.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-05-12T15:30:15-06:00
ID
66292
Comment

"This is what your brother stood, this is what you have stood for, this is what I'm trying to do, and I just get kicked in the teeth for doing the right thing." Melton's comments on radio station WMPR w/Charles Evers talking about convicted criminal Smiley Walker. I think I'm going to be sick.....how low can this crazy a$$, no good m$%@#$ f%$#@& sink in trying to explain his insane behavior. Lord help us all.....

Author
tomac
Date
2006-05-12T23:37:15-06:00
ID
66293
Comment

This interview is a winner, that is for sure. Melton did try to use the Medgar card; and another time he tried to play the race card and Evers says, "Well I'm not going there with you." or to that effect. Very classy by Evers to keep it level.

Author
pikersam
Date
2006-05-12T23:43:11-06:00
ID
66294
Comment

Agreed. Mr. Evers did a great job in this interview. I was impressed. Love him.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-05-12T23:45:22-06:00

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