Melton Protégé Pleads | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Melton Protégé Pleads

Mayor Frank Melton says he will be waiting for Michael Taylor to get out of prison, probably before he is 21. "He is too good of a kid to give up on," Melton told The Clarion-Ledger last week. "I will be there for him when he gets out." Currently, Melton is refusing to speak to the Jackson Free Press.

In a plea agreement agreed to by all parties, Judge Swan Yerger has sentenced Melton's young mentee, now 18, to 10 years in prison with seven years suspended for armed car jacking and extortion. That means that Taylor has three years to serve and could be out of prison in less than two years for stealing a young woman's car in 2006 at Bailey Avenue and Maple Street, and then trying to sell it back to her for $300, using her cell phone that he found in the car.

Taylor, once a member of the mayor's controversial "lawn crew" of young men paid by the city to clean up vacant lots and help tear down abandoned houses and suspected drug dens, has a complicated history both with Melton and the criminal-justice system. Along with his friend Fredrica Brunson (aka Jermaine Butler), Taylor has spent a great deal of time in Melton's home at 2 Carter's Grove, listing the address on arrest reports as his home address.

In June 2006, then-District Attorney Faye Peterson caught Taylor on camera at a Father's Day barbeque at Melton's home, where he had been staying even as police offi cers and top cop brass frequented the home. At the time, he was wanted for the Dec. 4, 2005, armed robbery of Headliner's Barber Shop along with Brunson. The sheriff sent deputies to arrest Taylor on Pleasant Avenue where he hung out, but Melton and his bodyguards drove away with Taylor in his black Tahoe, leaving the deputies in the street. Sheriff McMillin then called Melton and threatened to arrest him Melton next if he did not deliver Taylor. Melton delivered Taylor.

Two months later, Taylor was part of Melton's entourage of officers and young men who destroyed a Ridgeway Street duplex with sledgehammers and then went to the Upper Level nightclub, where manager Tonarri Moore says young men got off the Mobile Command Center and beat him while he was in handcuffs, as they were yelling about being from Wood Street. Melton was originally charged with directing a minor to commit a felony, among other charges. Terms of his bond forbade him to supervise minors--a restriction that was later lifted by a different judge.

In December 2006, the Jackson Free Press broke the story that Taylor, then 17, had been arrested for the armed carjacking, listing Melton's home as his address. At that time, Melton said Taylor was actually selling drugs to the victim, but didn't carjack her. On May 29, 2007, Yerger moved Taylor's 2005 armed robbery charges to youth court because Taylor was a minor at the time of the robbery, and because Brunson confessed to holding the weapon at the time of the robbery. The transfer meant timed served for Taylor, so youth court released him back to Melton's care.

In June 2007, Taylor's MySpace Web site featured him posing with three weapons: a shotgun, a revolver and an SKS with banana clip and bayonet. The SKS is a semi-automatic civilian version of the AK-47. In one photograph, Taylor aims a loaded revolver at the photographer, with his fi nger inside the trigger guard. In July 2007, prosecutors argued that youth court erred by releasing Taylor on the carjacking charge, and the sheriff picked him up and returned him to jail. District Attorney Robert S. Smith recused himself from the current carjacking case because he had represented Taylor in 2006 in the barbershop robbery case. Special prosecutor Rusty Fortenberry handled the case and the plea deal. —Donna Ladd

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