Grace Chung Becker of the Justice Department said the three men were charged in a conspiracy to tear down a private home in Jackson and thereby violate the civil rights of the owner and resident of that home.
In April 2007, all three men were acquitted of state charges that they used sledgehammers and sticks to demolish a duplex Melton considered a drug house.
Washington – A federal grand jury in Jackson, Miss., returned a three-count indictment against Frank E. Melton, the mayor of Jackson, Miss., and his two bodyguards, Jackson police officers Michael Recio and Marcus Wright. The three men were charged in connection with a conspiracy to tear down a private home in Jackson and thereby violate the civil rights of the owner and resident of that home, announced Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
The indictment alleges that on Aug. 26, 2006, the defendants invited several young men onto the city’s mobile command unit. The group allegedly drove to a home on Ridgeway Street, where Officer Wright ordered the occupants outside at gunpoint. Thereafter, Mayor Melton allegedly knocked out several windows of the home with a large stick and ordered the young men accompanying him to destroy the home using sledgehammers while Wright and Recio stood guard.
According to the indictment, the defendants and the young men left the area briefly and then returned for a second visit later that evening. Upon their return, Mayor Melton again allegedly ordered the young men to destroy the home with sledgehammers and again, Wright and Recio stood guard while the destruction occurred. The Defendants and the young men allegedly destroyed the home and its contents. The indictment alleges that the Defendants did not have any lawful authority to destroy the home, and that they conspired to deprive the home’s owner and occupant of their right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by those acting under color of law.
The three men are also charged with using a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence.
Council member Frank Bluntson represents Ward 4. He believes the indictments are political.
“I was expecting it because I was subpoenaed myself to come testify before the grand jury. They came to city hall, talked to me for about an hour… I told them, as they asked me, that I was concerned about the federal government spending all this money running down Mayor Melton about something people had already spoken about,” said Bluntson. “And then I told them we have a lot of things more important to do than that.”
Civil rights attorneys out of Washington are prosecuting this case for the government.
The case is being investigated by FBI special agents assigned to the Jackson division.
• July 9, 2007[sic]: Melton and bodyguards Michael Recio and Marcus Wright indicted on federal civil rights charges stemming from the Aug. 6, 2006, demolition of a house on Ridgeway Street.
• January 2008: Melton had an ICD implanted during surgery to regulate his heart.
• January 2007: Melton underwent double bypass surgery in Texas.
• May 2007: Melton found guilty of libel in a civil trial. The jury decided that he doesn’t have to pay any money.
• April 2007: Melton and his bodyguards were found not guilty for destroying a house on Ridgeway Street.
• March 2007: Melton was arrested for alleged probation violations. A judge later ruled that the violations were minor and no other action was needed.
• November 2006: Melton pleaded guilty to misdemeanor gun charges for carrying a gun onto a college campus.