Rogelio V. Solis/AP
Jackson, Miss. Mayor Frank Melton

Crime-Fighting Mississippi Mayor Goes to Trial for the Third Time

February 02, 2009 04:14 PM
by Rachel Balik
Mayor Frank Melton of Jackson, Miss., has a history of fighting crime on his own; as a result, he now faces federal weapons and civil rights charges.

Drug-Busting Mayor of Jackson Gets Busted Himself

Elected on the promise that he would purge the city of Jackson, Miss., of drug lords and criminals, Mayor Frank Melton has acted on that vow by personally fighting crimes, including patrolling the streets himself with a badge and gun. Unfortunately, some residents say that his tactics have done little to reduce crime in the area, and that he has neglected his other responsibilities as mayor. Melton now faces federal charges for carrying weapons and destroying a house he claimed was a crack house.

Background: Mayor Melton Indicted

Mayor Melton was indicted and acquitted of state charges for destroying the alleged crack house in August 2006. According to the federal indictment, he entered the house with two police bodyguards, forced the tenants to leave and then sent in a gang of teenage boys to destroy the house with sledgehammers. Melton has been charged with conspiracy to violate the house’s owners and tenants’ rights “to be free of unlawful search and seizure, official misconduct and the use of firearms in the commission of a violent crime.”

The Jackson Free Press maintains a Melton blog that keeps track of his trials. Previously, Melton pleaded guilty to state misdemeanor charges for various incidents in which he carried a weapon into a park, a church and a university. He pleaded no contest to an additional charge, reduced from a felony.

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Key Player: Frank Melton

When Melton won the Democratic primary in 2005, the Jackson Free Press profiled the controversial mayoral candidate. Even before his arrests, Melton had a reputation of not playing by the rules. His Jackson residency was called into question while he was running for office; he maintained dual residency in Jackson and Flint, Texas, where his wife and children lived.

Melton has adopted many young males considered at risk for drug use and other criminal behavior. However, Melton, who is African-American himself, has confronted multiple accusations about his treatment of African-Americans in his professional life. For example, when he acquired TV station WLBT in 1984, he fired the black station manager and chief anchor; in response, many African-Americans boycotted the station, and Melton was accused of union breaking. In 2000, he angered people again when he sold WLBT, which was then the largest black-owned television station, to a publicly traded company.

His “cowboy” reputation has been exacerbated by various drastic statements; for example, in 2001, he called the then-mayor of Jackson the worst the city had seen. He also called the city’s former police chief stupid, which is perhaps why he decided to focus on patrolling the streets himself, rather than trust the duty to others.

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