Prosecutor: Jackson mayor ‘drunk with power’

In his closing arguments in the federal trial of Jackson Mayor Frank Melton, prosecutor Mark Blumberg said the mayor was “drunk with power,” “strutting and preening” in the belief the law did not apply to him when he led a warrantless raid on Ridgeway Street duplex.

He walked jurors one last time through what he described as a “tawdry” affair where the mayor and a police officer ignored warnings and the law. Instead, they listened to their own egos in willfully violating the law.

“It’s about a man with an outsized ego who got himself liquored up and wanted to make a big show,” Blumberg said.

After the raid, Melton lied to the media and to his own employees to cover his tracks.

“That’s what children do,” he said. “Children cannot control their egos, their impulses and then they lie about it.”

The case is not about fighting drugs, Blumberg said. There was no plan, no coordination with police and no warrant, he said. In fact, there were no drugs seized or arrests made for drug possession or sales.

“There were no baggies or scales or rolls of money,” he said. “This was no serious law enforcement. This was a performance. A spectacle. A show.”

Melton’s former police bodyguard Michael Recio, who is also on trial, was “a loyal soldier” who knew the law and chose to ignore it, he said.

“He’s the man who drove the bus there. He’s the man who watched it happen,” he said. “He knew it was wrong. He was trained in it.”

Blumberg said their conduct was “absolutely indefensible under the law.”

“For us in this place today the law is something that is sacred. It’s something we wrap ourselves in to keep the chaos and disorder out there at bay,” he said. “There is value to the consistency and the knowledge that wherever we go in this country the law matters.”

Prior to the closing arguments, U.S. District Judge Dan Jordan read a 50-minute statement to the jury that instructed jurors on what they can consider during their deliberations.

“You must not substitute your own notion or opinion as to what the law is or ought to be,” he said.

The statement, while technical, will guide the jury when they decide the guilt or Melton and Recio. Attorneys on both sides have spent several days negotiating the final wording.

Jurors were told that the government has to prove its case “beyond a reasonable doubt. ”

Clarion Ledger
2/19/9