‘The Mayor Happened' | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

‘The Mayor Happened'

Photo by Kate Medley

The Jackson Free Press got an anonymous call about the mayor of Jackson tearing down a house with sledgehammers in late August 2006. The call came about a day after local news reported on the mayor injuring his hand during a late Saturday-night visit to the Upper Level Nightclub—another in a series of visits —and getting minor medical treatment at a local hospital. When that report came out, the JFP reporter's always-suspicious editor asked him to "find out how Melton cut his hand."

After a second call came in alleging the mayor and his cohorts had obliterated a house on Ridgeway Street, the reporter grabbed his motorcycle helmet and drove to 1305 Ridgeway St.

The house in question turned out to be undeniably destroyed. Central support beams on the front of the building had been shattered. The porch cover they supported had toppled into the front yard and apparently rolled a few feet before coming to a stop on the packed earth and scraggly tufts of grass.

The reporter asked a neighbor what happened.

"The mayor happened," said the neighbor, speaking anonymously. "The mayor come here with some police and tore this place down."

A second inquiry with a second neighbor revealed the same opinion: "The mayor did it. Sure did," said a second.

"It was the mayor," a third affirmed. "They did it with hammers."

"Must have been a big hammer," the reporter mumbled, eying the mess.

Another incredulous JFP staff member arrived at the address and got the same round of answers, as police patrol cars passed up and down Ridgeway Street, watching the exchange. One policeman even stopped and lent a hand after the second JFP staffer brainlessly trapped his car on a high curb.

Wiping dust from his pants after giving the car a push, the cop had no comment on how the house got in that condition.

Still, the neighborhood was in consensus: Mayor Frank Melton and some people with him, some suspected to be teenagers, used hammers or heavy blunt objects to tear holes in the building.

There was no sign of the occupant, the mentally ill Evans Welch, whose mother paid his rent on the unit owned by Jennifer Sutton. Police had arrested Welch neighbors said. The JFP would later learn that police had arrested Welch on a drug crime, though no drugs apparently had been recovered from the mess at the time of the destruction, and he would be quickly released.

After the JFP broke the story of the Ridgeway Street nightmare the afternoon of Aug. 26, 2006, the details of that fateful night on Ridgeway Street would emerge in the following weeks—first for a state trial in 2007 and, more recently, in motions filed in federal court for the mayor's trial.

This time around, though, Melton's former bodyguard Marcus Wright—who admits ordering Welch out of the duplex without a warrant—is telling the rest of the story. Wright's testimony is bolstering the federal case against Melton and other bodyguard Michael Recio, for violating Welch's and Sutton's civil rights by allegedly ordering police officers and teenagers to destroy the duplex with sledgehammers during two attacks in one night, and helping them with a big "Walking Tall" stick he carried on the Mobile Command Center for just such occasions.

Frank Melton, Superhero
Melton rode into the city of Jackson from Tyler, Texas, in 1984 as head of WLBT-TV3. One of his first duties was to help an opposition movement inside WLBT weed out the company's union presence.

WLBT had lost its FCC license for racist behavior in 1969. The FCC then handed the operation over to interim operator Communications Improvement Inc., a black majority-owned group headed by Jackson resident Aaron Henry. WLBT became one of the few stations in the nation owned by minorities. It brought on Boston University graduate William Dilday, who became the first African American general manager of a television station in the country. Melton came in, fired Dilday, and in 2003, sold the organization back to a white-owned conglomerate.

Melton soon made a name for himself in the fledgling Jackson underground by plastering the faces of accused drug dealers on billboards around the city. He would comment about the city's crime in a once-a-week news show the "Bottom Line," where he would regularly unleash criticism and venom upon city officials—and private citizens—whom he claimed weren't doing their part to curb crime. His Rush Limbaugh-style rants usually culminated with his signature phrase: "And that's the bottom line."

The TV executive also drew many of the city's young men close to him, especially the ones with little to no parental supervision or guidance. Melton had a habit, according to one former patrolman, of working his way into the lives of troubled youth through the police, even riding around in patrol cars in the early years—with the blessing of then-Mayor Dale Danks Jr.—to reach out to troubled young men of the city.

"His was a personality that seemed too eager," said one former patrol officer, who chose to remain anonymous. "It was not professional behavior to allow anybody to get that close, but not everybody was immune to his charisma."

Over the years, Melton's north Jackson home, this wife, Ellen, and two biological children stayed behind in Texas—became filled with teens with problems, most if not all male and the vast majority African American. Now-Councilman Frank Bluntson, who then ran the Hinds County Juvenile Detention Center until he left during a corruption scandal there, would send troubled young men and boys to live with Melton and be mentored by him. Melton, however, was not a certified foster parent, and many of the young men he mentored over the years returned to a life of crime and violence. One even committed suicide in Melton's home.

Despite criticism of his methods—and his mentoring failure rate—Melton says the young men of Jackson need him because they don't have a good male role model. "These kids today, these don't know where their fathers are. That's significant," he said a series of JFP interviews in early 2006.

"[A]t some point in a boy's life, it takes a man to teach a boy how to be a man," he also said.

The WLBT CEO had no police academy experience, but the reputation he created for himself as a crime-fighter could have been the achievement that convinced Mississippi's Gov. Ronnie Musgrove to appoint him head of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics in December 2002. It was there he developed a habit of ducking procedure by setting up illegal check-points, handling personal business on agency letterhead and releasing unverified allegations about MBN agents to the press.

He also showed minimal interest in going after drug cases, instead focusing his energies on a handful of cold murder cases involving victims he knew from the streets of Jackson. Much of his MBN time, thus, was focused on apprehending the "Wood Street Players," as well as "bringing in" young men he knew who were wanted for crimes, even to the point of taking police-officer friends off the beat to help him collect them. All the while, he aimed a verbal flame-thrower at city and police officials, such as former Chief Robert Moore, if they tried to say that his tactics would hurt the cases. (They did; none of the men Melton brought in ended up being convicted of the crimes, often due to shoddy handling of their arrests or witnesses.)

Republican Gov. Haley Barbour replaced Musgrove in January 2004 and immediately ousted Melton as MBN head. MBN's arrest record for drug crimes had dropped during Melton's tenure, but then crept back up after his departure.

Melton needed a new career in 2004, choosing to run for the office that had drawn so much of his ire over the years. Surely being a mayor would be a breeze and, he made clear, give him time to do what he was meant to do: patrol the streets of Jackson, saving young men from themselves and each other.

He told the JFP in 2006 that he does not like being in City Hall and that he tends to work at home at 2 Carter's Grove in his "bat cave" (as now-deceased Youth Court Judge Karen Gilfoy, who sent young men to live with Melton, used to call his home office).

Melton announced he was challenging the city's first black mayor, Harvey Johnson Jr., a cogitating paper-pusher whose critics said could take two hours planning a ham sandwich. Johnson was remarkable at bringing grant money and resources to the city, rivaling all others in terms of securing funding for city projects, but his opponents complained that he took too long kicking a plan into action. Johnson also irritated white business leaders to no end by demanding city contractors include increased minority participation in their bid proposals, even as Johnson's patronage helped highly affluent black business leaders like Socrates Garrett rise to prominence in the community.

In contrast, Melton was a loud talker who knew how to grab a camera. He said all the right things. Indeed he was capable of saying almost anything, regardless of reality—telling a completely different story to elderly white Republican women at a fundraising breakfast at BRAVO! (promising to run Jackson more like Madison) than to a club full of hip-hop lovers at The Birdland on Farish Street (promising to build "his kidsԗas he called them—a recording studio on Farish because they deserved it).

Meantime, he told everyone in sight that federal grants would pay for his promises, and that he had talked to Thad Cochran and Trent Lott about his ideas. (When contacted, they said he hadn't.)

"These damned streets are a mess," Melton would say. "I'll put more money into them."

He could also wax incessantly about how police and city employees needed raises—drawing the support of the unions he had scorned at WLBT—and he could go on for hours about bringing new business to an afflicted area like the Highway 80 corridor by increasing infrastructure and controlling crime by drowning it in new cops. But he could never spell out how he would fund either. No doubt a huge reservoir of untapped cash lay beneath Johnson's desk, waiting for someone to cow-tip him and grab it. Or so people must have thought.

Melton qualified to run as a Democrat with the Hinds County Democratic Committee after lying to committee heads about where he filed for his homestead exemption. (He did not file in Jackson, as he told the committee he had, but in Texas.) When allies of Johnson later raised the matter before the committee, Melton's attorney Sarah O'Reilly-Evans—later promoted to city attorney—performed an astounding act of flipping off the committee by informing them that it was too late to address the issue.

It was not the first untruth Melton got away with. He would later prove to be a habitual liar.

Power of Bull
The Clarion-Ledger, a daily newspaper based in Jackson, for example, knew damned well that Melton had lied under oath in Lauderdale County Circuit Court, when he denied to the court that he was the source of a fraudulent (and largely false) letter faxed to the paper when he was head of MBN.

Editors, who knew or should have known under the company unnamed-sources policy that Melton was the source of the memo, nevertheless endorsed him, while making no mention of his dishonesty under oath—or even reporting during his campaign that maligned MBN agents were suing both Melton and the paper.

"Melton has worked on the crime problem, especially drug-related crime, for more than a decade, cajoling, criticizing officials, advocating aggressive change and working with kids on the streets," the Ledger editorial board wrote just before the 2005 Democratic primary. "While he has been criticized for not making more arrests as director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, at least the people of Mississippi knew the agency was aggressively taking action. The same can't be said of Jackson's law enforcement leadership."

The paper added: "Melton exudes action and this city needs action. Jackson needs to dash ahead and not continue to plod. There may be questions or disagreements about what Melton may do, but at least we know he will do something."

With the help of The Clarion-Ledger and other adoring media, Jackson residents were soon to elect a man who tossed off lies like a dog shaking off dust, convinced that he was the panacea to the city's crime.

Melton rode in on a "Help is on the way!" platform of "cleaning up crime" within 90 days, and the police chief at the time, Moore, laughed at the prospect. Crime, according to FBI statistics, had dropped regularly under the Johnson administration, especially with the aid of President Bill Clinton's COPS program—which financed many of the new recruits filling precincts.

"He hasn't had an hour's worth of academy experience," Moore said at the time. "I'm not worried about him."

Moore underestimated Jackson residents' gullibility. Melton won the Democratic primary in 2004 with 63 percent of the vote, drawing an odd mixture of African American and conservative white support.

The Democratic primary was the only race that mattered in the heavily African American Jackson. Melton coasted to easy victory against his Republican opponent Rick Whitlow in June, taking office on July 4 and handing out white cowboy hats to City Council members.

The Clarion-Ledger and other strident supporters crowed happily when the newly elected "loose cannon," as he was routinely called even by supporters, strapped on guns for which he was not licensed, grabbed a shiny badge for which he was not approved, and then conducted nighttime raids, searches and seizures that were, clearly unconstitutional.

A double standard was firmly in place—Melton had the mandate to do whatever he wanted to do in poor, black communities, as long as he called it crime-fighting.

Melton and his crew, a bevy of police officers who either did not know any better or felt they had no choice but to follow orders, gathered themselves and drove about the city, mostly targeting black areas with check points, and vehicle and home searches, and often under the acquiescent eye of new Police Chief Shirlene Anderson (who had worked closely with Melton at MBN) and had been deposed for her role in the MBN-memo controversy.

Days into his new job, local media recorded reports of Melton forcing hotel owners to allow him to search occupants' rooms as the TV cameras watched outside. In pre-trial motions for his current federal trial, which is set to start this week in Jackson barring further delays, federal prosecutors used Melton's early focus on motels as evidence that he is aware that his "crime-fighting" techniques are illegal.

In July 2005, soon after being inaugurated, a federal motion stated, Melton "sought to have law enforcement officers forcibly enter an occupied hotel room by kicking in the door when no legal justification existed for the warrantless entry." A police officer present that night will testify that Melton ordered the action even though several officers told him that a warrant or other legal justification was needed. Furthermore, bodyguard and co-defendant Michael Recio "was present for this incident and was aware that Melton's intended course of conduct was in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution."

Melton was never specific about what he was looking for—the hunt often seemed more appealing to him than actually finding something—but he would not prove averse to hiding things from police, including wanted criminals. In June 2006, Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin demanded Melton hand over two of his young mentees, Michael Taylor and Fredrica Brunson, two suspects wanted in the 2005 armed robbery of Headliners Barbershop. The two were living in Melton's north Jackson home and were present at a Father's Day barbecue filmed by television cameras. A viewer identified them to then-Hinds County District Attorney Faye Peterson, who alerted McMillin.

When deputies arrived to pick up the men, Melton instructed his bodyguards to drive away with one of them—Michael Taylor—in his black SUV. McMillin called Melton and told him to turn them in. Melton refused to hand Taylor over, telling deputies he would "take care of it."

"(Melton) said he already knew about (the warrants) and drove off, leaving my deputies in the street," McMillin said in 2007. He called Melton and told him the law required him to give up the young men, and he finally did. Soon, though, the young men would be out on bond for the armed robbery, and Taylor would be back living in Melton's house. He then joined the Wood Street Lawn Service, which Melton financially seeded and then pushed through City Council.

(More recently, Taylor filed an affidavit on behalf of Melton in the federal case, saying that he had bought drugs in the Ridgeway Street duplex, but without mentioning that he is accused of helping tear it down that fateful night. Prosecutors also say they plan to call Taylor to testify. He is currently serving time for an armed carjacking, which took place within weeks of the Ridgeway incident. The address he gave when he was arrested was Melton's home.)

Law enforcement heads, like Moore, have long complained that criminal suspects evading the law would only turn themselves in with Melton holding their hand, which in turn, can make it more difficult to make charges stick later.

"He complicated the situation when he involved himself," Moore once told the JFP. "He has no police training and becomes a liability to the city and the people he wants to help."

But Melton believed he was doing what the people elected him to do, and it didn't involve hanging out in his under-used City Hall office every day.

Where There's Smoke
When he took office, the enigmatic new mayor of Jackson fashioned himself as a crime fighter willing to take on all the ugly little illicit acts underway in Jackson—things that the authorities before him had no desire to battle. He declared immediate war upon the city's strip clubs and in 2005 and 2006, closed down Centerfolds and Girls of Paradise. He also raided and closed two adult bookstores, the Terry Road Bookstore and McDowell Road Adult Bookstore.

In his March 2006 JFP interviews, Melton sent a mixed message, saying that he wanted to close strip clubs, but that he would follow the law, which allowed them to exist. "I don't like what they stand for," he said. "Most of the people that are frequenting them are from Madison and Rankin counties. I think it's condescending and disrespectful to women, degrading to women. Although I accept the fact that these are allegedly grown people that can make their own decisions, as a human being I think it's disrespectful and degrading to a female."

Melton was not afraid of fleshing out his accusations, telling reporters soon after the Terry Road closing that he had found two men having sex in the back of the club. Police later backed off verifying that report.

The mayor also claimed he'd witnessed illicit acts inside the McDowell Road store, though store owner Charles Hobby—a Melton campaign donor—claimed camera footage of Melton's raid indicated no illicit activity other than Melton walking off with a variety of store's sexual-enhancement devices.

The Jackson City Council voted 6-0 in 2006 not to renew the business license of strip-bar owner Gilbert Paige, who owns Centerfolds and Girls of Paradise. Paige later fought and won the issue as a First Amendment right. Melton later backed off Hobby, though the Terry Road store never recovered from the raid. Empty and derelict, it soon caught fire at the suspected hands of vagrants.

Fire has an unseemly connection with Melton. In 2007, Melton came under suspicion of torching dilapidated homes without permit clearance from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. Melton allegedly directed city workers to set fire to the buildings without first removing carpets, linoleum or any of the plastics that release dangerous chemicals upon burning. Some members of the city fire department even suspected that the mayor had not disconnected utilities to the buildings before throwing the match.

Firefighters were particularly chatty with reporters due, at least in part, to Melton's handling of their department. Melton's interim Fire Chief Todd Chandler never made it past interim status because he was a controversial figure in the department. Chandler, a union member, did little to protect firefighters who complained to the press about administrative changes resulting from Melton's wrath.

Melton attempted topush five talkative firemen from the department in 2006, though the weight of the national union brought its multi-million-dollar fist down upon the mayor's head with the curse of a hundred lawyers. Melton backed off less than two weeks later. Chandler (who never made it to chief, settling for "assistant" chief instead) was a point of contention for other reasons. Black firefighters called Chandler racist, but offered few reasons. In 2007, 13-year-old film footage emerged that showed Chandler acting like a buffoon amid white co-workers while doing arguably his most convincing Sambo accent.

Fire Chief Vernon Hughes announced he was demoting Chandler to captain over the division of air supply soon after. Chandler denied being the fireman in the video, though Hughes said he was convinced of the man's identity.

The year 2007 was a very busy year for the mayor as he worked to deflect some of the criminal charges he'd collected during his single term as mayor.

The Jackson Free Press and other papers began circulating photographs in 2006 of the gun-toting mayor packing his weapons in places they legally didn't belong. Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood investigated and eventually sent Melton a chiding letter warning him that he could face prosecution if he kept carrying weapons into churches, school grounds, in bars, and impersonating a police officer—with his big badge and SWAT uniform.

After the Aug. 26, 2006, destruction on Ridgeway Street, Hood hit Melton with charges of felony gun violations, though Melton's friend and bodyguard Michael Recio—who later got a temporary promotion to assistant chief from Melton—tweaked his story regarding Melton's weapon possession, which allowed Melton to plead to a misdemeanor gun violation and no contest on the felony in Hinds County Circuit Court.

Hood's case was only the opening act of a larger courtroom drama surrounding Melton's activities on Ridgeway Street. A Hinds County grand jury also indicted Melton and his bodyguards, Recio and Marcus Wright on Sept. 15, 2006, of multiple felony charges in the Ridgeway Street demolition, including burglary, conspiracy and the inducement of a minor to commit a felony because Michael Taylor, then 16, and other teens allegedly helped destroy the duplex.

Melton's continued moonlighting around town, and his taunting of the Upper Level Nightclub, violated the condition of his probation during the course of the Ridgeway Street trial, and he found himself facing arrest and jail time. Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green, acting on information provided by bonding agents, issued an arrest warrant for him.

Former Mayor Dale Danks Jr., and Melton's long-time friend and attorney, moved ferociously to remove Green, accusing her of withholding information and false filings, to get her off the case.

Melton, meanwhile, checked himself into St. Dominic Hospital with heart trouble. He couldn't hang out forever, though. Doctors released him after almost a week and on March 7, his monitoring device broadcast to sheriff's deputies that Melton was back home. His attorney delivered him to the county processing center soon after, where he would spend one night in jail.

On March 8, The Mississippi Supreme Court vacated the mayor's arrest warrant and asked that Green be recused. It offered no explanation for either decision.

Owning the Court
Melton found an ally the following month with the court's appointment of Special Judge Joe Webster to take Green's place. Webster, from the Delta, had no apparent ties to Melton, but he allowed Danks and other defense attorneys to take utter possession of the case, framing it not as a drunken mayor on a rampage (as suggested in testimony by ambulance drivers that Webster refused to allow in), but a referendum on why it's necessary—and not "evilԗto tear suspected drug distribution points down to the ground without a warrant.

The occupant of the home was mentally ill and had a history of "self-medicating," but Evans Welch's mental-health records, obtained by the JFP in 2006, showed that Welch did not have the mental ability to take care of himself, much less run a drug business. No drugs were recovered at the time of his arrest, although police found a crack pipe.

"I ain't had no run-ins with that man," Welch said in an exclusive JFP interview after he was released soon after the Aug. 26 incident.

"That man (Melton) has been just harassing me and bugging me since he thought he had a job down there to do these things. He's been messing around my house, messing around and up and down my street, messing with people. I guess he thought he'd just take advantage of somebody who's easily taken advantage of and thought he'd get away with it. He threw me outdoors naked, with nothing but a half pair of pants."

With the judge's acquiescence, defense lawyers employed a two-part strategy to win acquittal while admitting that the defendants had, in fact, demolished the duplex. First, they used an archaic common-law definition of "malice" to argue that the jury had to find that the defendants had evil in their hearts in order to convict. The defense asked the jury to consider Melton's motives, rather than his intent, according to Mississippi College School of Law professor Matt Steffey.

Second, they convinced the jury that the Ridgeway duplex was a crack house.

"I thought the trial judge gave Melton great latitude in turning (the case) into whether he acted with some sort of 'malice' or malicious intent and not whether he just did the act intentionally," Steffey said in November.

With the trial re-drawn under the new conditions, the wind was already against the prosecution.

In opening statements, defense lawyers argued that jurors would have to find that the defendants had "evil intent" in order to convict because of the word "malicious" in the charge of felony malicious mischief.

In closing statements, bodyguard Wright's attorney Robert S. Smith—now the Hinds County district attorney—said the defendants were "brave men with good hearts," and Melton attorney Merrida Coxwell said that "one thread" ran through all the charges, which was whether the defendants had acted with "evil intent."

Melton went on trial April 23, 2007. By April 26, a Hinds County jury had bought the line that Melton was a vandal for the city's sake and found him not guilty on all accounts.

His supporters rejoiced, and he was once again a free man.

A Man Against Crime?
When the courtroom drama was complete, Danks told reporters that Melton would be good and follow legal procedure before taking hammers to houses, and other usually-illegal shenanigans.

Danks' promise of better, more responsible days to come was not the end of the Ridgeway case, though. Within weeks of the state trial, reports began circling the city that federal agents were investigating Melton and his crime-fighting strategies.

They took their time, as a city held its breath, waiting for another, more hefty ax to fall on Melton. On July 9, 2008, the JFP broke the news that federal prosecutors had indicted Melton and the same bodyguards for civil rights violations in response to the Ridgeway Street incident.

"[T]he Defendants, along with other persons known and unknown to the grand jury, while acting under color of law, did willfully combine, conspire and agree with one another and with others to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate E.W. and J.S. in the free exercise and enjoyment of a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by those acting under color of law," prosecutors wrote.

The federal case, according to experts, will likely not be framed as man against a crime, or a house in which crime had taken place, or one in which Melton's actions need to be deemed as "evil." In the federal case, prosecutors must prove that Melton intentionally destroyed the duplex at 1350 Ridgeway Street, with the full knowledge that his actions were illegal.

Prosecutors have lined up a series of previous incidents Melton led in where he was advised that his actions were not legal. And bodyguard Wright has already pled guilty and is helping prosecutors, alleging that Melton was drinking scotch that night, as he often did before going out on raids, he said, from a 16-ounce plastic water bottle. He also told prosecutors that Melton was warned that his actions at Ridgeway would break the law.

Prosecutors are also asking Judge Dan Jordan to exclude evidence that drug use/sales had taken place in the duplex, saying it is irrelevant because there is no legal justification regardless of drug activity.

Melton's attorney John Reeves told the court that drug history is his only real defense: "Without it, it would be impossible to defend this case. Every grand jury witness has called this a drug house. ... We believe we have the right to show why we were there; otherwise we are robbed of our defense. ... It would take the essence away."

After Wright turned on him Oct. 7, making the defense's job much more difficult, Melton said that he had no hard feelings for Wright. But later, attorneys for Melton and Recio filed a motion to dismiss claiming that prosecutors had withheld knowledge of an internal police investigation over Wright supposedly getting sex from two homosexual prostitutes while on duty. Melton's defense team argues that prosecutors may have threatened to release news of the investigation to coerce Wright to plead and work with them.

The City Bleeds
Melton has made little progress as mayor, according to many accounts, since the 2007 acquittal—and the city has paid dearly for his time spent in courtrooms and inattention to his real job. The city suffered more than $1 million in budget deficits this past year, and the City Council is still refusing to pay the mayor's attorney fees for the state trial last year, arguing that Melton had been acting outside the scope of his duties as mayor in demolishing the house and bringing down an indictment upon himself in the first place.

The council has yet to face the lawsuits brought by Upper Level club owners and manager Tonarri Moore, whom witnesses claim was kicked and beaten by young men traveling with Melton on the same night as the Ridgeway Street demolition. Attorneys in that case may be waiting for the federal case against Melton to conclude before going forward with their suit. A conviction would add credence to their argument that Melton and his friends were well outside the scope of their duties in beating Moore.

Melton's grant-writing team—gutted since Melton took office—has lost tens of thousands of dollars in federal grant money, adding to the city's budget shortfalls and causing headaches as council members vote again and again to return federal money for which the city did not properly account.

Former Chief Anderson, who finally stepped down Nov. 14, 2007, but is still on city payroll making $81,000 in a vague "homeland security" liaison position, made no apparent effort to contain the alleged illegal behavior that landed Melton before two juries, and seemed to offer equally unsatisfactory supervision over the police department. Many believe Melton put her there so that she would not stop him from doing what he wanted.

Her replacement, Sheriff McMillin—against whom Melton had unsuccessfully supported Tyrone Lewis in the 2006 election—bellowed that the department had blown its overtime budget within half a year on Anderson's watch.

Late in 2007, Melton arbitrarily decided to promote the two bodyguards involved in the Ridgeway Street destruction. Recio got an assistant chief position while Wright (despite Melton's recent accusations about the prostitute) made it to acting sergeant. The promotions infuriated the local police union, who complained that neither of the two had experience, and that Melton had skipped over at least a dozen more qualified officers for the positions. Anderson had no opinion on the matter that she cared to share with reporters.

When McMillin replaced Anderson in November 2007, he reversed the two promotions.

Melton could be facing a demotion of his own, in addition to substantial prison time. If he is convicted of a felony, Attorney General Jim Hood is legally required to enter a motion for Melton's removal in Hinds County Circuit Court, leaving the office without an occupant.

State statute demands that members of the Jackson City Council—who are sharply divided between Melton's partisans and his critics—pick from one of their own to temporarily serve as interim mayor in the event that a conviction removes Melton from office. The city must hold a special election within six months of the mayor's resignation, but the general election is scheduled on the first Tuesday in June, within the six-month period. The city would save considerable money by allowing an interim mayor to hold the spot until the regularly scheduled election.

Two of the most prominent names to likely achieve the spot would be Ward 6 Councilman Marshand Crisler and Council President Leslie McLemore. Either of the two could build a majority of support on the council, and both have a history of competing with each other.

Additional reporting by Brian Johnson and Ward Schaefer. See a full archive of the JFP's award-winning Melton investigations, and daily coverage of his federal trial, as well as PDFs of all court filings in the case, at meltonblog.com.

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Melton On Trial, Again
Melton Timeline

Previous Comments


Good job, you guys (and gals)! Very informative and thorough.

golden eagle

One policeman even stopped and lent a hand after the second JFP staffer brainlessly trapped his car on a high curb. Brainlessly? The second staff member would remind the first that he never would have gotten stuck if the first staff member had not been up to his Mad Max routine, hopping his motorcycle over a curb hidden by weeds. It was, in fact, a maneuver achieved with great, perhaps excessive braininess.

Brian C Johnson

Tee, hee.


This is an excellent article. How well I remember the snide remark made by a smirking Melton on TV about a week after the raid of Welch's home: "Its a shame [or pity] what happened to that house". Wonder if the Federal prosecutor has access to that tape. It was a triumphantly cruel remark. What gets lost in all the hype about the Mayor (and the raid) is that Welch and a friend were at home on a Saturday night watching TV. Nothing untoward was occuring. This disabled man lost, on that night, his home, his freedom, and his hope of living independently. Possibly forever.


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