Melton and Bodyguards Arraigned; No Guns or Alcohol | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Melton and Bodyguards Arraigned; No Guns or Alcohol

A handful of Melton supporters showed their support outside the courtroom July 16.

A handful of Melton supporters showed their support outside the courtroom July 16. Photo by Sophie McNeil

Mayor Frank Melton and his two bodyguards, Michael Recio and Marcus Wright, were arraigned in a packed federal courtroom in downtown Jackson before U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Anderson today at 1:30 p.m for their alleged role in destroying a private home on Aug. 26, 2006. The three pleaded not guilty to federal civil rights conspiracy charges, and each must pay $10,000 unsecured bond. The trial is set for Aug. 18, 2008. All had attorneys present, but only Marcus Wright's attorney, John Colette, will definitely represent him going forward, and may seek a separate trial for Wright. Today, Colette's associate, Matthew Baldridge, represented Wright. Kevin White of Coxwell & Associates was there on behalf of Melton, and John Moore represented Recio. The attorneys present for Melton and Recio will not represent the men going forward, they said. The judge gave Melton and Recio waivers to get court-appointed attorneys; Wright said he did not need one.

Representing the United States were Justice Department Civil Rights Deputy Chief Mark Blumberg and trial attorney Patricia Sumner.

As part of the conditions of bond, Judge Anderson said the men cannot use alcohol, narcotics and prescription drugs without a specific prescription. The men can be tested by pre-trial services for use of those substances. The men cannot have weapons without filing a motion to get permission to carry a firearm. They must appear at all trials, surrender their passports and cannot leave the state of Mississippi unless they get approval from pre-trial services. If they violate any of those conditions for bond, they will automatically face 10 years in jail and $250,000 fine.

Each man faces three counts. Count 1 is for conspiring to violate the civil rights of Evans Welch, duplex resident, and owner Jennifer Sutton, and brings a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted. Count 2 is for depriving Welch and Sutton of the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and brings a maximum 10-year sentence and a $250,000 fine. Count 3 is for carrying firearms during the use of a violent crime and carries not less than five years in prison and $250,000 fine.

The judge asked the defendants if it was acceptable for them to all be on the same indictment, and none protested. However, Colette told The Clarion-Ledger earlier than he may seek a separate trial for Wright.

At the beginning of the hearing, the three men took an oath to tell the truth. Recio and Wright both replied "yes," but Melton said "So help me God," instead of saying just "yes." When the judge asked if the men understood charges, both bodyguards said yes, while Melton said he did not understand the charges. Then Blumberg read the entire indictment to the court. After the judge then told Melton he did not have to admit to the charges, he responded that he understood the charges.

Outside the courtroom, a handful of protesters chanted about Melton being not guilty, and some held up handmade posters thanking him for what he had done. One of the men holding a large purple pro-Melton sign was Clarence Bolls, an owner of Gloria's Kitchen in the Virden Addition, near the site of the Ridgeway Street duplex, who is a long-time Melton supporter. Leading up to Melton's state trial, protesters also lobbied for the jury to "vote" Melton not guilty, leading to concerns about efforts by some of his supporters to nullify the jury.

Melton and the bodyguards were acquitted on state charges of destroying the duplex last year after the judge allowed their attorneys to convince the jury that the prosecution must show "evil intent" on his part. The men have maintained that the house was a "drug house" and a "crack house," but no drugs were found during their two alleged visits to the house on Aug. 26. They arrested Welch, a schizophrenic man with drug-addition problems, on an outstanding marijuana warrant, but he was soon released.

The prosecution argued in state court that the men had gone to the duplex on the JPD Mobile Command Center, along with a number of young mentees of Melton, including minors. The federal indictment maintains that Melton first attacked the house with a large stick and then ordered the young men off the Mobile Command Center to destroy the duplex.

Later that evening, the entourage went to the Upper Level nightclub and arrested club manager Tonari Moore, who was videotaping their visit. Witnesses say that the young men got off the Mobile Command Center and beat Moore while he was in handcuffs. In an affidavit filed with the court in the state trial, Moore alleged that Melton, who jumped in the ambulance with him, was intoxicated. Judge Joe Webster did not allow that accusation before the jury.

Television footage of Melton at the Upper Level showed him with a large bandage on one of his hands, prompting the Jackson Free Press to then investigate how he cut his hand. That investigation uncovered the Ridgeway Street duplex demolition, a story broken on the JFP Web site the afternoon of Sept. 1, 2006. The state then indicted Melton on Sept. 15, 2006.

[Update: year of state indictment corrected above.]

Previous Comments

ID
132129
Comment

(Clarence Bolls is the owner of Gloria's Kitchen, which is right down the street from the Sutton house in Virden Addition. He has long been a vocal proponent of the mayor and his actions in destroying the Sutton home).

Author
David McCarty
Date
2008-07-16T13:55:19-06:00
ID
132130
Comment

Thanks, David. I had just Googled and added his name. I knew I knew it. Yes, he's a big Melton man.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-07-16T14:01:54-06:00
ID
132131
Comment

Maybe Frank will use the insanity plea since he is acting insane. He better realize the Feds don't play, this is not city court. The part of the requirements that say Frank cannot consume alcohol is going to be a treat to watch being that a bottle is his best friend.

Author
classy
Date
2008-07-16T14:10:26-06:00
ID
132132
Comment

The last sentence states "The state then indicted Melton on Sept. 15, 2008" - not to be picky, I just wanted to verify :/

Author
Puck
Date
2008-07-16T14:11:19-06:00
ID
132133
Comment

I understand they all plead not guilty which is the same thing as pleading innocent. Had they been guilty they would have said so. You see, I knew they wuz innocent all along. August 18 doesn't give them a lot of time to seek out the next Johnny Cochran. Frank asking for a court appointed attorney is shattering to me. As I understand the process, he's going to have to claim under oath he's indigent or broke, otherwise he will have to hire his own lawyer.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-07-16T14:12:19-06:00
ID
132134
Comment

Jackson isn't just the city with soul. It's also the city that broke Frank and got him locked away. If I were a juror I could be convinced he's insane by the tapes of him carrying those big a__ guns, making unjustified threats, shaking people down as if he was Sheriff John Brown, and cruising Jackson in the street submarine (mobile command) when he should have been doing mayor work with dignity and professionalism. Governor Ronnie Musgrove gave him a big time police job and it soon brought the latent and raging nut right out of him for all to see.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-07-16T14:21:45-06:00
ID
132135
Comment

Puck: 2006. Good catch.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2008-07-16T14:31:31-06:00
ID
132136
Comment

Thanks, Puck. I'm typing faster than my brain is moving here. ;-) I'm intrigued, too, about Melton's ability to afford an attorney. There have been plenty of rumors about his financial situation, but claiming indigence would be something else. I will also agree that Ronnie Musgrove's appointment of Melton to head MBN was not the smartest thing he ever did.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-07-16T14:45:42-06:00
ID
132137
Comment

To you attorneys out there...is it a matter of course that "the judge gave Melton and Recio waivers to get court-appointed attorneys" or can you infer anything from that?

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2008-07-16T14:47:52-06:00
ID
132138
Comment

It's interesting that the C-L article about the arraignment made no mention of the fact that, as a condition of the bond, the three defendants cannot consume alcohol.

Author
Kacy
Date
2008-07-16T15:13:36-06:00
ID
132139
Comment

It does seem relevant. Cheers to Sophie McNeil, our news intern who did an excellent job on this. I got there too late to get in the courtroom, but she was up in there on the first row, apparently!

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-07-16T15:22:32-06:00
ID
132141
Comment

It's so unfair to try to take away a person's liberty then force them to soberly await the outcome and worry about losing it. If I drunk alcohol at all, I would secretly get pissy drunk every night while awaiting my fate and knowing I might not be able to drink alcohol for a while. I see a Paul Minor-like situation unfolding very soon. I don't remember hearing any federal judge use those exact terms, but I take it to mean no particular lawyers were locked in a lawyers for those 2 defendants and they're free to get others including public defenders if they qualify.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-07-16T15:43:08-06:00
ID
132144
Comment

If the mayor and his bodyguards can't have guns, who is going to protect us and them from drug dealers and other criminals who want to continue their work. And what about all the drug dealers and criminals who desire to get back at them for making so much leeway toward stopping crime in Jackson? What is Jackson coming to when criminals are free to run the streets freely and without worry as they commit other crimes while our three known crime fighters are facing being persecuted and locked up. This is some bullcrap. I may leave for Ridgeland or some other less safe and impressive place.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-07-16T16:07:53-06:00
ID
132145
Comment

"When the judge asked if the men understood charges, both bodyguards said yes, while Melton said he did not understand the charges." This is totally hilarious already! We may as well pack some lunches and get ready for the show of our lifetimes. This guy is too much!

Author
Queen601
Date
2008-07-16T16:11:19-06:00
ID
132147
Comment

There isn't any way our next mayor will have Frank's comedic edge, timing and creativity. It'll be all down hill after Frank.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-07-16T16:18:39-06:00
ID
132149
Comment

I think Queen what Frank meant was he didn't understand why the guvment keeps messing with him over the same stuff.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-07-16T16:23:45-06:00
ID
132151
Comment

Can anyone please tell me WHAT CRIME MELTON STOPPED!!!! He maybe fighting crime, put according to the murder and crime rate in Jackson, it was a knock down drag out fight, with Melton losing. Maybe I am wrong about this but I thought it was the Chief of police's job to fight crime, not the mayor.

Author
classy
Date
2008-07-16T17:20:10-06:00
ID
132153
Comment

I got irritated while watching the news because a protester claimed Melton was already acquitted of the charges. Could someone pleeeeeeease announce to the world that these are different charges?

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-07-16T17:41:14-06:00
ID
132154
Comment

Well, the fool editor of the Greenwood Commonwealth made the same argument. Folks, this is why Mississippians get such a bad reputation -- we have idiots going around telling people that it's the same charge. And then people think the whole state is filled with dumbasses like those people. It's not the same charge. It's not even the same crime. Yes, it's the same night and the same duplex. Our editorial this week counters Mr. Greenwood Editor's fool editorial. I get why Melton's people are trying to push this mythology, but it's embarrassing to see a newspaper editor appear so ignorant. I apologize on behalf of my profession.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-07-16T17:53:09-06:00
ID
132157
Comment

It is so maddening to see people standing outside the courthouse with posters and banners proclaiming their support for Melton. With that kind of wide exposure on the broadcast news coupled with the Clarion Ledger's statewide (hah!) coverage of Frank-in-the-pool, complete with color photo, it makes me wonder whether the jury for this trial will be able to render a rightful verdict no matter how the feds present their case. Juries in this state have a history of ignoring facts and civil rights.

Author
chaffeur
Date
2008-07-16T21:54:14-06:00
ID
132159
Comment

Ladd, The idea of being "indigent" is a moving target in our justice system. In some counties, judges have tried to set up tests, in others, you have to simply say "I can not afford a lawyer" (for example in one county there is not a public defender and of the number that accept appointments about 5 of the 11 are very good and do it to keep up the skills. The others are average to poor attorneys so defendants in the area take the indigent route, see who they get, then hire an attorney if they get the short stick) In federal cases... Look at the Minor case. The circuit judge was able to get a federal public defender because while he made over 100,000.00 a year, the cost would "be more than he could pay" so he got a public defender. Money has little to do with getting appointed a defender usually. I have heard Melton is hurting for cash, then again, if he cannot pay for the defense of his "body guards" One will flip and Melton is toast

Author
AGamm627
Date
2008-07-16T22:42:42-06:00
ID
132160
Comment

Also, Before anyone else comments on this system as being ignorant.... IT IS I have defended people that had the money, but opted for a court appointment to save the cash, because they were "saving it" or needed it for something else. Nothing like defending an "indigent" client whose mother promised to send three hundred bucks to the jail for his "canteen money" and would replace it each month or every three weeks if he got low. Of course Hinds County was supposed to pay me less than that to defend him, but they stiffed me on the fee.

Author
AGamm627
Date
2008-07-16T22:54:16-06:00
ID
132161
Comment

Melton keeps repeating that they were at the Ridgeway house to serve a warrant. Was that true and if so, how did the warrant surface?

Author
lanier77
Date
2008-07-17T07:56:51-06:00
ID
132162
Comment

I would like to remind everyone about the evidence of Melton's intoxication the night of the Ridgeway incident. It wasn't just Moore who accused Melton of smelling of alcohol. It was also a paramedic and a nurse, as described in discovery for the state trial. That testimony was not allowed in the state trial. Read our original story, A Drunken Rampage?. Their descriptions of Melton's behavior would be funny under other circumstances. According to the DA's motion, Malone would testify that when Melton accompanied Moore in the ambulance taking him to Central Mississippi Medical Center, Malone "smelled the aroma of alcohol." Because of the cramped quarters, Malone could not be certain where the smell originated, but he "observed that on the night in question Defendant Melton's speech was slurred." The motion goes on to describe how Melton refused to stop talking to Moore even as he was being treated for injuries. ... The motion goes on to describe how Melton "retrieved an extra stethoscope from the ambulance, attached it to his head, and then placed the other end to the chest of the patient and stated, ‘Nope, he doesn't have a heart.'" ... Foster is prepared to testify that Melton refused to stop talking to Moore once they arrived at the hospital, the motion states. ... When Foster called his supervisor, Melton relented and went across the hall to the nurse's station, according to the motion. "While Defendant Melton was across the hall," the motion states, "Mr. Foster heard Defendant Melton state that, ‘I am the Mayor of Jackson and by tomorrow I will own this hospital.'" Melton has previously denied that he was intoxicated.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2008-07-17T08:30:14-06:00
ID
132163
Comment

From my knowledge Melton had no warrant that night. As far as Melton being drunk, I have knowledge of people who have seen him drunk on a day to day basis handling daily affairs. So drinking is really a problem with this guy. I have a question, where were the wives of Melton, Recio and Wright yesterday?

Author
classy
Date
2008-07-17T09:01:24-06:00
ID
132164
Comment

Certainly, classy, Melton reeked of hard liquor the first night I went on a ride-along with him -- and the chief, bodyguards, etc., were there. He appeared quite drunk, having difficulty for instance buckling his gun holster on. And when he sang on the dance floor at Pops Around the Corner, well, it has hard to believe that he wasn't intoxicated. As I understand it, the "warrant" was an outstanding for marijuana, not a warrant to search (or destroy) the house. My impression has been that it was what turned up in the system on Welch. And recall, they found no drugs in the "drughouse."

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-07-17T09:38:47-06:00
ID
132165
Comment

You are right Donna, there was at that time possibly a capias warrant in the system for Welch for marijuana, but Frank probably just decided to serve it once they destroyed his property to cover his tracks. However the warrant appeared to be at least a year old,why wait so long to go and arrest someone who is a hard core criminal.I think Mr. Welch may have had more of a problem using drugs than selling.

Author
classy
Date
2008-07-17T09:58:40-06:00
ID
132166
Comment

Classy, why don't you explain how one would normally serve a "capias warrant"? Would it involve home invasion and destruction? I think it's pretty clear that Welch's probably was addiction, along with mental issues. I've seen no evidence that he was actually a drug dealer, although some may have taken advantage of him. A huge question on this is why Melton didn't try to help him against the drug dealers in the neighborhood, instead of using young men—some accused of more violent crimes than drug-dealing—to destroy his home? Allegedly, of course.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-07-17T10:03:51-06:00
ID
132167
Comment

Also, all, if Melton doesn't understand the charges against him, or understand why he's been criminally charged, or understand the U.S. Constitution, that is all the more reason for the feds to prosecute him and imprison him if convicted. Why? Because he clearly doesn't see anything wrong with what he did and could well do it again. And the greatest use for prison is plain old deterrence. He seems to be making clear int he media that he can't control himself, nor understand why he should have to, so prison might be the only way to keep him from reeking more destruction -- based on his own words. Very sad.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-07-17T10:06:41-06:00
ID
132168
Comment

Capias warrants are served in different manners, it really depends on the county you live in. With the number of calls and crime Jackson has it is difficult to look for everyone that has a capias warrant. The city does have a warrant unit that is suppose to handle these issues, however, one would hardly ever tear property up for a capias. Officers normally arrest suspects for capias warrants when they come into contact with them and check their names for warrants. So no, Donna I have never seen property destroyed or the Mayor of a city go out and tear a house up just to serve a capias warrant. Smaller counties may have the time and resources to expedite the process of serving warrants but with the population of Jackson it takes just a little longer.

Author
classy
Date
2008-07-17T10:26:45-06:00
ID
132169
Comment

If I remember correctly, the warrant was what laymen would call a bench warrant for failing to appear in court on a misdemeanor marijuana charge. Jackson has a bazillion such warrants outstanding. If the police routinely demolished houses on that basis, half the city would be rubble. Any suggestion that Melton et. al.'s actions were justified because they were serving a warrant is preposterous. It seems highly likely that they discovered there was a warrant on Welch only after they removed him from the house. They certainly did not have a search warrant.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2008-07-17T10:28:53-06:00
ID
132170
Comment

You're right, Brian, I'm pretty sure it was a bench warrant. I think they're trying to play off people's ignorance over the word "warrant." It's so sad to see them treat people in Jackson like they're stupid; it's the worst kind of "populism."

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-07-17T10:32:29-06:00
ID
132171
Comment

Also, all, MPB interviewed me and Mike Espy this morning on Mississippi Edition about Melton. Click here to listen.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-07-17T10:33:52-06:00
ID
132194
Comment

If Melton was involuntarily drunk, that's a defense, so far as I understand the law. Somebody could have put something in his water that went undetected several times. Similarly, he may have dranked alcohol due to the pressures of trying to stop crime and advance the financial, political and social and cultural aspects of the city at the same time. Melton needs to hire a psychologist to testify he's an alcoholic who wasn't aware of his addiction at the time and that the stress of trying to do so many things at once overwhelmed and caused him temporary insanity or substantial mental illness. You know, they say for a price, you can get an expert or lawyer to say almost anything. I'm with the mayor 100%. If the police can't stop crime why shouldn't the mayor give it a try?

Author
Walt
Date
2008-07-18T08:53:26-06:00
ID
132195
Comment

By the way, Frank might be a drunk, but I resist the notion that he's an alcoholic. Alcoholics can't handle the addiction and have to attend those meetings. Frank doesn't.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-07-18T09:03:13-06:00

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