The Clarion-Ledger, 2/26/9

From firebrand TV commentator to iconoclast mayor, some might say Frank Melton has a larger-than-life persona.

Yet while spending much of the past week waiting for a federal jury to decide his fate, the 59-year-old Melton appeared almost smaller than life.

Then, suddenly – as it often does – a spark reappeared. Kicking his legs up on a courtroom pew, Melton smiled and casually said of a missing homicide suspect, “If I was still in my old ways, he would be in jail.”

That’s the swagger – though some call it arrogance – many people have been accustomed to seeing from the mayor. The courtroom moment brought back flashes of a video taken on Farish Street on July 4, 2005, the night of his mayoral inauguration and still available on YouTube.

In the video, Melton, barrel-chested and clad in black pants and a black golf shirt, took the microphone to greet his public, only to be interrupted by the squeals and pops of firecrackers in the distance.

“I’m going to go around there and get them in a minute,” he said to delighted cheers from the audience.

Then, grinning broadly, Melton reached into his shirt and pulled out a gold police badge on a chain around his neck and announced, “Batman returns.”