Council to Pay $50K in Ridgeway Fees? | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Council to Pay $50K in Ridgeway Fees?

Attorneys for Jackson police detectives Michael Recio and Marcus Wright are asking for $50,000 in compensation from the city, according to Councilman Leslie McLemore.

The agenda for the council's June 19 meeting will include an item authorizing the payment to the detectives' lawyers, McLemore said.

Wright and Recio faced trial in April on multiple felony counts relating to the demolition of a duplex at 1305 Ridgeway Street on Aug. 26, 2006. Mayor Frank Melton also faced felony charges. A Hinds County jury found all three men not guilty at the end of a week-long trial.

Now that Melton's legal team—including Melton attorney and former Mayor Dale Danks—has successfully fought off the felony charges, the city is legally obligated to provide reasonable compensation to the three for their attorney fees, said Special Assistant to the City Attorney Pieter Teeuwissen, who confirmed that the bill would be on the council's June 19 agenda.

Teeuwissen said the bill would not include payments to any of the numerous attorneys Melton himself employed. Melton told The Clarion-Ledger that his legal bill in the court case was about $500,000.

Attorney Robert Smith, who is running for Hinds County district attorney, is requesting $30,000 for his representation of Wright, while attorney Winston Thompson III is asking for $20,000 for his representation of Recio, McLemore said.

Councilman Leslie McLemore called the $50,000 "an impossible amount."

"They're living in fantasy land if they think I'm personally going to agree to pay that much," McLemore said. "That's an incredible amount of money. This trial was only a week long, and they basically rode the back of Danks. If I agreed to pay for services rendered, I'd say their fee is more worth between $5,000 or $10,000 a piece, tops."

Council President Ben Allen could not predict how the council vote would go on the issue when it comes up later this month.

"Mayor Melton has told me that he's going to pay his own attorney fees, but there's no telling this early how the council's going to take the bodyguard fees. I know rates at some of the top firms can average $200 an hour," Allen said.

If Wright's and Recio's attorneys worked 120 hours each on the case at $200 an hour, they could bill for $24,000 each. Neither Smith nor Thompson returned calls to the Jackson Free Press.

If the council fails to approve the pay-out, Smith and Thompson could file a bill of exceptions in court, where a judge could force the council to approve the payment. The court could also reduce the fee if the judge deemed it excessive.

Allen said the council also has the option of reducing the payment on its own.

The $50,000 payment comes with city government contemplating cutbacks in services thanks to a projected $3.9 million budget shortfall. The Melton administration proposed last week to cut more than $1.2 million in costs by freezing or closing 120 positions, most of them in the Department of Public Works. The Melton plan also proposed cuts to city support for the zoo, the Red Cross and the Greater Jackson Arts Council, among other organizations.

This story has been updated since it was first posted.

Previous Comments

ID
92844
Comment

I think that the council shouldn't have to pay anything. Did Melton and the Gang ask the council for their consent before getting themselves into that mess? Melton gets around all the legal stuff, maybe the council should try to do the same so that they don't have to pay those outrages bills.

Author
Melishia
Date
2007-06-07T15:26:18-06:00
ID
92845
Comment

I agree with Melishia, the taxpayers shouldn't have to pay this. Recio and Wright have shown there loyalty to FM even going along with something they knew was wrong and against the law. IMHO they broke moral and ethics codes while standing by their man. Wonder if ole FM will foot the bill for them?

Author
honey2me
Date
2007-06-07T15:39:47-06:00
ID
92846
Comment

The fair thing to do is go back and see how much was paid on average for other officers who ended up in court. We do have an obligation to pay for counsel for police officers from what I've seen in the past. I agree with McLemore. As far as Melton goes, he is not an officer, and he crossed into uncharted territory as far as the Ridgeway incident goes. There may be several legal ways to go on him. Pros and cons. If he does go before the Council for payment, then they could open the "investigation" they never did earlier. The findings may be non-binding; but, may hold weight as far as withholding payment for his legal fees.

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-06-07T17:20:16-06:00
ID
92847
Comment

This is a bunch of horse poo. If I were on the council, they would have to file a bill of exceptions to get any cash out of the city because I don't think the city should have to pay for their antics. You do the crime, you pay for your own lawyer's time. Attorney Robert Smith, who is running for Hinds County district attorney, is requesting $30,000 for his representation of Wright, while attorney Winston Thompson III is asking for $20,000 for his representation of Recio, McLemore said. Thompson is running against John Horhn for state senator in District 26.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-07T19:14:51-06:00
ID
92848
Comment

I agree with Councilman McLemore that Wright and Recio's attorneys rode the back of Danks. I always thought that the City paid the fees if officers were sued in the line of duty, civilly, but not criminally. If they were accused of say murder, and acquitted, would the City still pay their attorney's fees?

Author
Constituent
Date
2007-06-08T08:34:57-06:00
ID
92849
Comment

According to what Melton told the Ledge, he will pay for Wright's and Recio's attorneys after all. Jackson Mayor Frank Melton said he will not seek taxpayer reimbursement for the cost of defending himself and his two police bodyguards at their criminal trial in April. "No, I would not make the request," Melton said Thursday. "I don't anticipate that. I've already paid for it." Stokes, however, is not happy that Melton is footing the bill: "We should have allowed (Melton) to attack crime in a very aggressive manner. And while he's addressing crime, if there are expenses and costs, it needs to be the city's responsibility because we need to do something to make sure that all the citizens ... are safe," Stokes said. "I can't speak for everybody, but the poor people feel it's not fair to us that we have to live with crack houses and dope boys controlling our streets. So whatever it takes to put the government back in control needs to be done." We need to make sure all of the citizens are safe ... including Evans Welch? Jennifer Sutton? The "poor" people my not feel it's "fair" that they live with crack houses, but that does not mean it helps anything to throw the law out the window. It sure doesn't guarantee that things will be fair--quite the opposite. The law, however flawed, is as close as we come to guaranteeing fairness. The reason why we don't let the cops do whatever they want is because that wouldn't be "fair." All that aside, Stokes' argument suffers from the same central, overwhelming flaw that the lawyers' argument suffered from at the trial--there is absolutely no evidence that Melton's actions did anything to reduce the number of crack houses in Jackson. Now, let's see if that item actually gets pulled from the agenda.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-06-08T08:38:24-06:00
ID
92850
Comment

This all smells of one big mess. Maybe the stupid folks on the jury who voted unanimously for melton's and his body guard's "not guilty" verdict will have to think about what they did to this Citiy. If melton didn't take a salary from MBN, why would he set the City up to send it spiraling into recievership? What did the lawyers do to deserve 500,000. or the 50,000 for the "bodyguards." This sounds like a real rip-off. The Council really needs someone to represent their interest because their liability is great. From the looks of things SORE, frank, his sister-in-law and Walker care absolutely nothing about this City. This is all one big MONEY GAME!

Author
justjess
Date
2007-06-08T11:20:21-06:00
ID
92851
Comment

Stokes ought to be happy that his boy is not seeking reimbursement for his legal fees, considering that this city has a budget deficit. Where will this $500K come from? This city cannot afford to pay for Frank's antics. And now that it was reported in last Saturday's C-L that Frank is carrying a badge and possibly a gun (he did say he doesn't comment on his protection), I have a feeling this will not be ending anytime soon.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2007-06-08T21:32:40-06:00
ID
92852
Comment

And now that it was reported in last Saturday's C-L that Frank is carrying a badge and possibly a gun (he did say he doesn't comment on his protection), I have a feeling this will not be ending anytime soon. His probation isn't up until November, right?

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-08T21:38:56-06:00

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