Thursday, July 10, 2008
Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi and His Two Bodyguards Indicted on Civil Rights Charges
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. An indictment is merely an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty. The conspiracy charge and counts related to the deprivation of constitutional rights each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The charge alleging the use of a firearm in a crime of violence carries a mandatory minimum prison term of five years. (See, USDOJ)