UPDATE: Melton hospitalized, loses primary

JACKSON – The indicted mayor of Mississippi’s largest city was taken from his home in an ambulance late Tuesday, just before losing his bid for re-election in a contentious Democratic primary that came a week before his second federal trial.

Mayor Frank Melton’s attorney, John Reeves, said he would not discuss his client’s condition because it is private, but confirmed he was in a Jackson hospital.

“He’s resting under good care of good doctors and his wife is on the way to be with him,” Reeves told The Associated Press. “We should all hope and pray for his good health.”

The 60-year-old Melton, who has a history of serious heart problems, faced nine Democratic challengers in the city’s primary. Unofficial results show Melton came in fourth. He had to finish first or second to be in a runoff.

Next week, a second trial was set to start for Melton and a former bodyguard, who each face two federal civil rights charges related to a sledgehammer attack on a duplex on Aug. 26, 2006, that Melton considered a crackhouse.

A judge declared a mistrial in the first case in February after a jury failed to reach a verdict.

Harvey Johnson, the former mayor Melton unseated in 2005, and city Councilman Marshand Crisler advanced to a May 19 runoff. The mood was tense at Melton’s campaign headquarters, an old car dealership where a throng of campaign workers packed a crowded hall waiting to be paid for their work.

“It’s just kind of awkward to even talk about an election now in light of what’s happened,” Melton campaign manager Erik Fleming said later. “I would hope that everybody would pray for him and his family.”

An Associated Press photographer saw the ambulance leave Melton’s home in an upscale gated community not long after polls closed at 7 p.m. Neighbor A.D. Lewis, pastor of Mount Olive Baptist Church, said Melton was coherent when he was put into the ambulance.

Melton has a serious heart condition that has sent him to the hospital several times in recent years, including for bypass surgery.

Melton’s first federal trial was postponed while he was treated for his heart condition and he looked gaunt and tired through much of that trial. His doctor testified at the time that he was in “end stage cardiomyopathy.” She said she recommended a heart transplant, but Melton refused to get on a donor list.

He and the bodyguard, Jackson police officer Michael Recio, were both acquitted in April 2007 on state charges related to the raid.

Melton is a flamboyant former TV executive and one-time head of the state narcotics agency. He made a name for himself with a tough-talking opinion segment called “The Bottom Line” on the station he ran and was elected by a landslide in 2005 after campaigning on a tough-on-crime platform. Since then, however, he has been hounded by legal problems related to his unorthodox tactics.

Prosecutors say he was drunk on scotch and power when he ordered a group of young men — some with criminal records — to destroy the duplex in a poor neighborhood. Melton has said he was only trying rid the city of a drug den.

Melton and Recio are each charged with conspiracy to violate the civil rights of the home’s owner and tenant and violating those rights under color of law.

 

The Associated Press