Hinds judge says Melton should wait in jail for probation hearing

Published 11:14 pm Saturday, March 3, 2007

Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green says Jackson Mayor Frank Melton should sit in jail while he awaits a hearing on alleged probation violations.

Melton remained in a Jackson hospital on Saturday, being treated for chest pains. He entered the hospital on Thursday.

Green, who issued a warrant for Melton’s arrest on Thursday, said she would hold a hearing within two weeks following the mayor’s arrest to give Attorney General Jim Hood time to prepare.

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Hood, whose office prosecuted Melton last November on three gun possession charges, can recommend whether Melton’s alleged violations should require him to serve his six-month suspended sentence in jail, Green said.

Hood said Friday that he will file a motion in Green’s court on Monday to see what his office needs to do, if anything. Hood said if Green says yes, then he will ask for a probation revocation hearing.

“It will be up to the judge to determine Melton’s fate,” Hood said.

Melton is on probation after entering a no-contest plea in November to carrying a concealed weapon onto a school campus and pleading guilty to two other misdemeanor gun charges. A no-contest plea has the same effect as a guilty plea in criminal court for sentencing purposes.

For now, Melton is recuperating at St. Dominic/Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Dale Danks Jr., Melton’s lead attorney, said the mayor was admitted by his personal cardiologist who was concerned about the stress on Melton’s heart. Melton had bypass surgery in Texas in January.

Danks said Melton is being closely monitored by doctors and may be released Monday. Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin said his deputies will be waiting for him when he comes out.

“We’re going to wait until he’s released from the hospital,” McMillin said. “We don’t want to arrest him and have to pay for his medical bills.”

Melton is accused of staying out past his curfew, participating in unauthorized police raids, spending the night with minors and failing to notify his probation officer of his heart surgery, according to the warrant for his arrest.

The charges stem from an overnight visit Melton had in January with a single mother and her young children in Jackson, a police raid he led that shut down the Upper Level Bar and Grill in February and his heart surgery in Texas in late January.

Danks wants to make sure the mayor stays out of jail.

“I have filed a motion for an expedited hearing and filed another motion requesting a copy of the transcript regarding the plea bargain and probation conditions that were (discussed in Green’s) chambers,” he said.

Although the mayor’s midnight curfew was cited in a letter from his probation officer, Danks said he has seen no legal document that imposes a curfew on the mayor as part of his suspended sentence.

“As I understand it … that is just a policy, an unwritten policy, that they set a curfew,” he said.