Tracknum: 23297.
Pubdate: Sat, 16 Sep 2006
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2006 The New York Times Company
Author: Shaila Dewan
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


The mayor of Jackson, Miss., was indicted on six
felony charges Friday after months of criticism and warnings that his
unorthodox crime-fighting tactics might put him on the wrong side of
the law.

Among the counts now faced by the mayor, Frank Melton, are burglary,
malicious mischief, illegally carrying a gun and causing a minor to
commit a felony. The most serious of the charges against him carry
sentences of up to 25 years, said the local district attorney, Faye

The mayor's supporters called the charges politically motivated and
said he would not resign.

Some of the charges stem from a sheriff's investigation of the night
of Aug. 26, when the home of Evans Welch, a man with a history of
mental illness and petty crimes, was attacked by a
sledgehammer-wielding group of young men without warning or permit.

Witnesses said Mr. Melton, who often patrols the city at night with
the police and a group of teenage followers, had directed the
demolition of the house, which he said was known as a place to buy
illegal drugs. His two police bodyguards are also charged in
connection with that event.

Dale Danks, Mr. Melton's lawyer, issued a statement acknowledging that
damage had been done to "the drug house" and that "maybe better
judgment could have been used."

"But," the statement said, "the charges that have been made against
Mayor Melton are an extreme and excessive reaction."

Mr. Melton was also charged with carrying a gun on the campus of the
Mississippi College School of Law, in a public park and in a church.
The first is a felony; the two others are misdemeanors. All three of
these cases had been referred to the local authorities by the state
attorney general, Jim Hood, who had earlier written Mr. Melton a
letter warning that he could not legally carry a gun in such places.

Mr. Melton, a former television executive, took office in July 2005,
promising to lower the crime rate in Jackson, the state capital. He
personally oversaw those efforts, drawing attention for going on
nighttime raids, using the Police Department's only mobile command
unit and wearing a police jacket and badge.

After The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson's daily newspaper, reported that he
made a habit of traveling with guns, the federal Transportation
Security Administration, the paper said, requested that he no longer
carry guns aboard commercial airplanes, as he had under a waiver
granted to law enforcement personnel.

In April, Mr. Melton used a police car to pull over four school buses
on a highway so that, he said, he could talk to the children and hug

After a grand jury returned the indictments Friday, the mayor
surrendered, posted a $50,000 bond and was released on condition that
he refrain from using law enforcement vehicles, carrying firearms or
supervising minors.