The FBI's Turn on Frank Melton? | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

The FBI's Turn on Frank Melton?

Photos by Jaro Vacek and Brian Johnson

The FBI has subpoenaed documents from the city of Jackson, including but not limited to the activities of Mayor Frank Melton, according to Special Assistant to the City Attorney Pieter Teeuwissen.

"The FBI issued several subpoenas regarding several matters to the city attorney, and the city attorney's office produced documents to comply with these requests," Teeuwissen said. "The FBI asked for the information last Friday, and the deadline to answer back was Wednesday of this week. That's all I can say. The government themselves ask us not to disclose the content. They've asked me not to comment on anything specific."

There long have been indications that the FBI is investigating the mayor.

Last October, Melton bodyguard Det. Marcus Wright filed an affidavit in a court pleading that included information about a meeting Wright had with FBI agents in September. Wright called District Attorney Faye Peterson seeking a plea deal on Sept. 15, 2006, the day he was indicted with Melton on multiple felony counts for the demolition of a duplex at 1305 Ridgeway Street the previous Aug. 26.

A Hinds County Circuit Court jury found Melton, Wright and Det. Michael Recio not guilty on April 26, 2007.

In his affidavit, Wright said that when he came to Peterson for a plea deal, she directed him to the FBI.

"I asked (Peterson) what I needed to do to get out of the charges, and she said I needed to call Agent Phillip McDonald with the FBI and gave me Agent McDonald's telephone number to call," Wright said in the affidavit filed Oct. 26, 2006. Wright then met with the FBI. "During my interview with the FBI agents I was told that they didn't want me, or Recio; they wanted Frank and what I could tell them about public corruption. I told them I was not aware of any public corruption with regards to Mayor Melton," Wright said. He ultimately backed out of plea deal negotiations.

Melton declined to comment.

FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden said the FBI could not comment on an investigation. "The FBI cannot comment as to whether or not we have a pending investigation concerning any individual or entity, according to our established policy," Madden said.

The FBI investigation could focus on a number of different violations. Following his election, the mayor launched a blitz of police actions—all dutifully recorded by the local media. Melton led raids dressed like a police officer, sporting unlicensed firearms and a badge, conducting raids and searches in cars and houses without warrants. Although the mayor is not a law enforcement officer, he led raids and set up checkpoints, largely in West Jackson.

Jackson NAACP President Gus McCoy took issue with Melton's imitation of a police officer, complaining that Melton had conducted unconstitutional searches of both vehicles and people at roadblocks, gas stations and businesses.

"He's admitted himself that he's led raids. There's no question that he led a raid. … He can call for any kind of interdiction that he wants, but for him to actually put a bullet-proof vest on and a badge on and go out on the site and say, 'I'm a police officer,' he can't do that," McCoy told the JFP Friday. "When you put yourself in that line of fire, and you're putting your hands on folks, and you're not an officer, what does that say? That you are your own law."

It is illegal for government officials to deprive people of their constitutional rights under "the color of law," as described in Title 18, Section 242 of the U.S. Code. That code specifically includes mayors among officials who can be charged with breaking the law, and it makes clear that the violations can be within the official's described duties or beyond them, as would be the case with Melton's law enforcement activities. The felony is punishable by fines and/or imprisonment for up to one year.

Melton may also have attracted the attention of federal authorities with the Ridgeway incident. A state jury found Melton not guilty, but that does not prevent the federal government from filing federal charges for civil rights violations.

When Judge Joe Webster heard the case, he excluded testimony about the mayor's possible drunkenness and erratic behavior on the night of the Ridgeway Street demolition. That same night, Melton and his entourage raided the Upper Level nightclub. Witnesses claim that police led club manager Tonari Moore out in handcuffs. A group of young men with Melton—some of whom participated in the Ridgeway incident, witnesses said—then allegedly beat Moore while he was in handcuffs, in police custody.

When an American Medical Response ambulance arrived, Melton allegedly jumped into the vehicle with Moore and accompanied him to the University Medical Center.

Witness accounts excluded from the Ridgeway trial described the smell of alcohol and Melton's apparent intoxication. They said that Melton harangued Moore even as he lay on a stretcher in the ambulance and later in his hospital room.

Attorney Sharon Gipson, who is representing Moore, called the mayor's tactics "terrorist acts" at a 2006 press conference and said they violated her client's civil rights. Gipson said Melton and police had been visiting the club prior to the Aug. 26 Upper Level beating, conducting searches without a warrant and harassing patrons.

The FBI could also be investigating possible felony violations of the Hobbs Act, which is used to combat racketeering and public corruption. Council members accused Melton of trying to illegally influence a recent Jackson Public Schools contract decision. If an investigation results in indictments and Melton is found guilty, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

Four council members claim Melton's Chief of Staff Marcus Ward tried to influence the selection of a company for the school district's enormous school bond contract. Ward allegedly threatened to pull JPS board Vice President Jonathan Larkin's re-nomination if Larkin did not favor Integrated Management Services over competitor Preferred Management. Larkin, the swing vote on the board, voted in favor of Preferred Management despite the alleged threat, and Melton pulled Larkin's nomination days later.

Ward has denied the allegations, and Melton has held firm on not submitting Larkin's name for another term. The mayor continues to press the council on a replacement for Larkin, but Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon—who joined three other council members in alleging Ward's extortion—refuses to attend a confirmation vote that could change the make-up of the board. Without her vote, the council cannot gather enough members to hold a confirmation vote because Councilmen Ben Allen, Marshand Crisler and Leslie McLemore have all recused themselves due to conflicts of interest.

A June 13 Clarion-Ledger story reported that both Larkin and JPS board attorney David Watkins had confirmed that the FBI had contacted them, though both later claimed to the JFP that they had never made that confirmation.

"I've never confirmed that the FBI has spoken to me," Larkin said.

"I cannot confirm nor deny (talking to the FBI), because even if they had contacted me, I could not disclose that because I represent the school board and would need authority from the board to disclose it," Watkins told the JFP.

Other reasons for FBI inquiries could stem from potential violations of due process, which is protected by the Fifth Amendment.

Melton announced in May that he wanted to tear down A-1 Pallet company, a pallet recycling plant on 1000 Mill Street. Code Enforcement showed up at A-1 Pallet just days after Melton's announcement, searching for code violations, even though business owner Charlotte Reeves said the property had no code violations last year.

The city is apparently in a big hurry to remove the business. Weeks after noting violations—including a blocked fire lane and the presence of pigeons—the city submitted a request to demolish A-1 Pallets to the Jackson Historic Preservation Commission, days ahead of A-1 Pallet owner Charlotte Reeves' scheduled appearance before the City Council on June 19 to argue her position.

When contacted, Reeves refused to confirm or deny that the FBI had contacted her, but she made clear she thought the FBI could have a case.

"I've said from the beginning that the city has committed constitutional violations against my company. They can't just arbitrarily decide to come in and tear down my business. My God, we pay our taxes. We pay our fees," Reeves said. "What's to stop the city from going after anybody if they have a mind to?

Previous Comments

ID
81254
Comment

The only way to get a conviction on Melton is to have him tried Federally with a jury outside of Hinds county (and apparently Meridian too).... We shall see what happens with this. I will not hold my breath.

Author
LawClerk
Date
2007-06-20T20:55:45-06:00
ID
81255
Comment

London Bridge is falling down, falling dow: London Bridge is falling down, My Fair Lady.

Author
justjess
Date
2007-06-21T10:50:02-06:00
ID
81256
Comment

I think the next vese goes: Take a key and lock her up, lock her up: Lock Her Up. Take a key and lock her up, My Fair Lady.

Author
justjess
Date
2007-06-21T11:14:33-06:00
ID
81257
Comment

See what happens when you get in the face of a well connected Congressman , sherrif and DA who all happen to have friends and keep long lists of those that have screwed them? AGamma627

Author
AGamm627
Date
2007-06-21T13:56:26-06:00
ID
81258
Comment

I've been gone for awhile. Which Congressman Gamma?

Author
Larry
Date
2007-06-21T17:07:24-06:00
ID
81259
Comment

Oh, what a tangled web we weave...

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-21T17:47:32-06:00
ID
81260
Comment

Calm down, folks. Melton seems to have a way of getting around the laws us common folk are expected to follow. After the last trial, and my subsequent disappointment, I don't get too excited about his paying for his wrongs.

Author
honey2me
Date
2007-06-21T21:44:51-06:00
ID
81261
Comment

Calm down, folks. Melton seems to have a way of getting around the laws us common folk are expected to follow. After the last trial, and my subsequent disappointment, I don't get too excited about his paying for his wrongs.

Author
honey2me
Date
2007-06-21T21:44:52-06:00
ID
81262
Comment

honey, if he can get out of this, he needs to just buy an island and start his own republic because he'll have a lot of followers. If the FBI can be hypnotized into letting this slide, we should prepare a bonfire now for the Constitution.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-21T21:49:33-06:00
ID
81263
Comment

That would be Uncle Benny, Larry. Frank's number one enemy in D.C. That split happened early... hence the Frank Faye hatred that erupted even before Faye prosecuted him. I forgot one other oops... NEVER spit in the face of an AG that gave you a pass... You get indicted within a few months of spitting in his face. Even if you plead out, you still got indicted and that ruins your week. AGamma627

Author
AGamm627
Date
2007-06-22T01:05:35-06:00
ID
81264
Comment

That split happened early... hence the Frank Faye hatred that erupted even before Faye prosecuted him. Actually, it is very clear that the D.A.'s problem with Melton has much more to do with the fact that she is the area's top prosecutor of criminals, and he commits crimes and tries to keep certain criminals from being prosecuted. There is really no reason so skip over the obvious on this one to make it sound like some silly feud. That only serves the person(s) committing the crimes.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-06-22T08:34:14-06:00
ID
81265
Comment

Did anyone watch the news last night? Interstingly enough, Melton said that the investigation was aimed at Council Man Crisler's brother because of a contract that he had with JPS on the bond money or something like that. This man is the KING of deflection!

Author
Puck
Date
2007-06-22T08:35:39-06:00
ID
81266
Comment

I did see the news and FM saying he welcomed the investigation. Remember, he has a very extensive history of looking you in the face while lying through his teeth. I'm praying that the corruption he speaks of at the highest level does not include Crisler nor any of his family members. As a matter of fact, Crisler's response to the accusations from Melton said it all. I'll take Crisler's word over Melton's any day of the week!

Author
honey2me
Date
2007-06-22T08:57:44-06:00
ID
81267
Comment

Puck, notice that WJTV's video isn't working for that interview today. It seems like the only person that would be able to comment on an FBI investigation is the actual person of interest. Everyone else, except Melton, has said they cannot comment or speculate on an on going FBI investigation. You think the video is farked because Melton realized he messed up commenting on it?

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-06-22T09:01:45-06:00
ID
81268
Comment

melton gave an interview with Channel 12. Again, he breaks the rules of the game because all were told not to give any details about the FBI's investigation. melton made it clear that the investigation was about Johnny Crisler getting a contract with the City for management of work associated with JPS and the Bond deal. What was so interesting to me was melton claiming to be so upset because, "That's his BROTHER and that money could be used to help the children." Can you believe that he would make such a statement when his SISTER-IN-LAW gets a fat check every mo. for doing NOTHING. What a dichotomy! melton assured the viewing audience that this investigation was about Crisler and his brother - "Not Me." We will have to sit back and watch this one play out. I agree PuckInJxn, this man is a master at deflection; however, he is simply a common liar. There is nothing to call a person who lies anything but a liar. melton lies even when it would make sense to tell the truth.

Author
justjess
Date
2007-06-22T09:05:43-06:00
ID
81269
Comment

Yep, and you know Frankie loves the kids! :-)

Author
honey2me
Date
2007-06-22T09:10:40-06:00
ID
81270
Comment

I believe that is called "spin," Justjess, and Melton is very good at it. We should institute a drinking game for everytime Melton says "corruption at the highest level" when he is under investigation.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-06-22T09:22:17-06:00
ID
81271
Comment

Ah... the wonders of Joe Jackson....

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-06-22T09:22:36-06:00
ID
81272
Comment

That's stunning, and I am baffled that WJTV doesn't seem to have the video up anywhere on its site. Marshand Crisler is holding a press conference at 11 a.m., and I understand this accusation from Melton will be among the subjects he addresses.

Author
Brian Johnson
Date
2007-06-22T09:32:36-06:00
ID
81273
Comment

Is that interview linked online somewhere? I hope WJTV tried to confirm that Melton's accusations about the Crislers being the source of the investigation are true before running those comments! Eek.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-06-22T09:32:51-06:00
ID
81274
Comment

He gets away because he is not challenged in a way that the public will know that he is "spinning." Thanks Donna! If we had more people like the folks at the JFP, who report the facts as they know them, his crap would soon dry up. I also noticed that Channel 3 is being X'ed out of the loop. 16 made the (s) list a long time ago.

Author
justjess
Date
2007-06-22T09:37:32-06:00
ID
81275
Comment

I actually just spotted a link to the interview, but when you click on it, it says that media is not available. Grr.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-06-22T09:37:54-06:00
ID
81276
Comment

Funny, justjess, I just declared WJTV the "new WLBT" when it comes to Melton. The sh!t list is the only place to be for self-respecting journalists on this one. It made a huge difference at WLBT when the station changed hands last year (or was it the year before). Their coverage of Melton started a steady ascent to being better. Not perfect, mind you, but better.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-06-22T09:41:43-06:00
ID
81277
Comment

Hopefully Crisler will get "outside" legal council before giving an interview with anyone and especially since they have been instructed on not going public with any information. This might be frank's way of pulling him into the lion's den.

Author
justjess
Date
2007-06-22T09:43:16-06:00
ID
81278
Comment

Jess, lord knows whatever Crisler is up to, it will be done better than Melton, and much more legally!

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-06-22T09:54:45-06:00
ID
81279
Comment

I just talked to a friend at WJTV in production and he is walking over right now to tell the web guy that its off line.

Author
Puck
Date
2007-06-22T10:01:17-06:00
ID
81280
Comment

Leave it to Melton to twist and spin the truth about an FBI probe into his administration into another conspiracy about Crisler.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2007-06-22T10:13:50-06:00
ID
81281
Comment

Wow, I leave for a minute and a new drama unfolds. I didn't feel like watching WJTV News last night. I hate I missed that interview. Well, they'll be on at noon. Hopefully they'll have something about the press conference. I'll check WLBT, too.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-22T10:33:45-06:00
ID
81282
Comment

The FBI investigation involved the mayor of Jackson, frank melton."This is the still message from Crysler's latest comment on the probe.

Author
justjess
Date
2007-06-22T11:10:48-06:00
ID
81283
Comment

I caught the tail end of the report, so I'll try to catch it at five.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-22T11:20:00-06:00
ID
81284
Comment

WJTV reported it again, and the reporter says that Crisler got info from a reliable source that the four subpoenas were about Ridgeway St., the Upper Level, A-1 Pallets and a JPS board member. I'll look for a link later.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-22T11:28:02-06:00
ID
81285
Comment

L.W., I just saw the same thing. I wonder why Bluntson isn't making a statement since he is the "new sheriff" on the block.

Author
justjess
Date
2007-06-22T11:36:55-06:00
ID
81286
Comment

Melton hasn't given him his blessing yet, more than likely.

Author
Puck
Date
2007-06-22T11:48:19-06:00
ID
81287
Comment

LW, actually WJTV was the only station that had the information last night.

Author
Puck
Date
2007-06-22T11:51:50-06:00
ID
81288
Comment

Go here.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-22T12:02:18-06:00
ID
81289
Comment

BTW: Can we give a round of applause to the cover designer this week! This is a wonderfully creative and to the point cover! Way to go!

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-06-22T12:49:38-06:00
ID
81290
Comment

I think the cover looks great, too. Kudos to Jaro Vacek for that photo!

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-22T12:59:46-06:00
ID
81291
Comment

Thanks Gamma. I had forgot about Bennie.

Author
Larry
Date
2007-06-22T13:43:51-06:00
ID
81292
Comment

A poem for today: Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all convictions, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. --Yeats

Author
Willezurmacht
Date
2007-06-27T08:30:20-06:00
ID
81293
Comment

"The best lack all convictions, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity." Yeats as posted by Willezurmacht Ah, but not on the JFP; the BEST certainly show their CONVICTIONS and attempt to expose the worst and their passionate intensities.

Author
ChrisCavanaugh
Date
2007-06-27T09:00:57-06:00
ID
81294
Comment

Wille, that's deep. :-)

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-27T09:03:41-06:00
ID
81295
Comment

Is there any new info. on the FBI probe? things seem to have really gotten quiet. Is no news good news?

Author
justjess
Date
2007-06-27T09:59:14-06:00
ID
81296
Comment

I'd say that no news means no news for the moment. The FBI probably told everyone to shut up until they finish their investigation.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-27T10:13:08-06:00

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