Judge concerned about Miss. mayor’s health

Published 12:23 am Friday, December 26, 2008

A federal judge wants to make sure Jackson Mayor Frank Melton is healthy enough to stand trial in the sledgehammer destruction of a suspected crack house.

Melton and his former bodyguard face three felony charges of civil rights violations — and a maximum 25-year sentence if convicted — for damaging the duplex apartment.

Melton has maintained that he did nothing wrong. A gag order prohibits those involved from commenting.

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Melton, 59, was hospitalized in November for an undisclosed surgery. A city councilman has said the mayor was having problems with his defibrillator. Melton had bypass surgery in 2007 for congestive heart failure.

U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III scheduled a status conference for Monday to discuss Melton’s health. Melton and his primary physician were ordered to appear for questioning.

“Although Defendant Melton has not moved for a continuance of the trial date, the Court finds it necessary to assess Defendant Melton’s health in order to avoid potential problems once the jury is called,” Jordan wrote in Tuesday’s order.

The trial is set to begin Jan. 5.

The judge also ordered every health care provider who has treated Melton since November to submit medical records to the court by Monday. The records will be “kept strictly confidential,” Jordan wrote.

Melton is accused of leading a group of young men in August 2006 to destroy the duplex with sticks and sledgehammers. Melton has said the home was a blight on the community, a haven for prostitution and drug use. He has defended his unorthodox tactics — like participating in police checkpoints — by saying he’s only trying to help a city with a major crime problem.

He was cleared of state felony charges related to the same duplex destruction last year.

In 2006 he pleaded no contest to an unrelated misdemeanor charge of carrying a pistol on a college campus and guilty to two misdemeanor weapons violations. He was given a six-month suspended sentence on each count, one year probation and fined a total of $1,500.