Brash mayor of Jackson, Miss., indicted in sledgehammer attack on home

Published 11:40 pm Saturday, September 16, 2006

Mayor Frank Melton, who has been accused of being too heavy-handed in fighting crime, was indicted Friday on charges he directed young people to use sledgehammers to smash up a home where he suspected drugs were being used.

The charges included malicious mischief, home burglary and carrying a gun on school property. Prosecutors said convictions on all charges would carry up to 50 years in prison.

Two police officers who served as Melton’s bodyguards were also indicted. All three were released after posting bail.

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Their surrender came a day after Hinds County prosecutors announced that a grand jury would review allegations stemming from the destruction of a duplex on Aug. 26 and a fight in a nightclub the same night.

Melton’s attorney, former Jackson Mayor Dale Danks, said Melton was trying to rid Jackson of crime, and damage was done to a “drug house.”

“Maybe better judgment could’ve been used but the charges that have been made against Mayor Melton are an extreme and excessive reaction,” Danks said.

Sheriff Malcolm McMillin has said his department investigated allegations that Melton directed a group of young people to knock out walls of a duplex with sledgehammers, and that the mayor and his entourage then attacked a club manager. The grand jury did not apparently address the nightclub incident.

Evans Welch, 45, who lived in the wrecked duplex, was arrested on charges of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who helped present evidence to the grand jury, said his office will offer Melton a plea deal. Hood wouldn’t release details of the deal but told reporters: “If we’re able to resolve it by resignation and a plea, that would be the best thing.”

Some City Council members said Melton should resign if convicted.

Melton, a former state drug enforcement agency chief, was elected on a tough-on-crime platform. He has drawn national attention for his unconventional leadership style — including participating in police raids and roadblocks — in the city of 184,000.

The American Civil Liberties Union last month accused Melton, who is black, of civil rights violations, including racial profiling. The city is nearly 71 percent black.