Case’s key players familiar faces

The defendants
Frank Melton: The former television executive has spent much of his first term as mayor courting controversy or defending himself in court. Hours after being sworn in on July 4, 2005, Melton led a team of police on a crime sweep of local motels. In the months that followed, his police-style tactics caught the attention of the media and local authorities. On Sept. 15, 2006, a Hinds County grand jury indicted Melton for his alleged part in wrecking a duplex on Ridgeway Street in west Jackson on Aug. 26, 2006, and also on several unrelated gun charges. Melton pleaded to lesser offenses in the gun trial and was found not guilty on the other charges. Melton also ran afoul of the federal government when he used dubious law enforcement credentials to bring his personal guns aboard commercial flights in 2005 and 2006.

Marcus Wright and Michael Recio: Melton’s ever-present bodyguards actually are sworn Jackson police officers but have served as permanent members of his entourage for the past three years. City Council members and local media have questioned the mayor’s need for permanent armed escorts on the taxpayers’ dime – to no effect. Under Melton’s wing, Wright and Recio have traveled with the mayor to New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and the Bahamas. They also have followed him to the defense table as prosecutors also accused the two of playing a role in damaging the Ridgeway Street duplex. They, too, were acquitted.

The lawyers
Dale Danks Jr.: A former Jackson mayor himself, Danks has served as Melton’s chief defense attorney in criminal and civil matters throughout the mayor’s troubled term. Danks also is one of Melton’s closest advisers and, at times, a de facto city spokesman. Recently, Melton tapped Danks to negotiate details of a new deal between the city and the developers of the Farish Street Entertainment District.

Michael Cory: A lawyer in Danks’ Jackson firm, Cory is a detail-oriented attorney skilled at cross-examination of expert witnesses and may renew his place on the mayor’s defense team.

Buddy Coxwell: While Danks’ reputation was built more on civil law, Coxwell is a criminal specialist. He teamed with Danks in 2007 as co-equals on Melton’s defense team.

The landlord and the tenant

Jennifer Sutton: The owner of the duplex on Ridgeway Street, Sutton recently had purchased the tiny dwelling when the damage occurred. Following the mayor’s criminal trial, Sutton filed suit against the city, asking for at least $38,000 in repairs. That suit is unresolved, but the city has spent $27,622.35 in the past year in outside legal fees defending itself against the claim.

Evans Welch: The tenant in the duplex the night it was damaged, Welch, now 48, is described by family members as a diagnosed schizophrenic. He was arrested the night his home was damaged and charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, and other charges. He was arrested in March 2007 on charges of aggravated assault.

Clarion Ledger
7/10/8