Source AP ©

Mississippi mayor and bodyguards destroy crack house

Mississippi mayor and two police bodyguards used sticks and sledgehammers to destroy a duplex the mayor considered a "crack house".

Frank Melton, a tough-talking former television executive elected on a platform of rooting out the city's crime problems, faces five felony charges in the attack on the duplex last August.

"This is a day of reckoning," said prosecutor Stanley Alexander.

Melton claims the ramshackle structure was a "crack house" and a blight on the community. The property owners deny it was a drug haven, but testimony revealed the home has been raided before, including less than two weeks before it was damaged.

Lawrence Cooper testified that he and another man were drinking beer and watching "Walking Tall" - a movie about a renegade sheriff whose weapon of choice is a large stick - when the mayor and his bodyguards burst in with large sticks.

"They went in the house and started tearing up furniture and busting holes in the walls," Cooper said, adding that the men later "started tearing whole entire walls out."

Cooper testified that Melton repeatedly swore and several witnesses also testified that Melton directed at least two juveniles to participate in the attack on the duplex.

"Frank had a big stick and the kids had sledgehammers," said Yolanda Allen, who lives next door to the duplex. "They tore the house down."

Former Mayor Dale Danks, one of Melton's attorneys, said during opening arguments that the state could not prove that there was malice involved, an element necessary for conviction.

"It was a true desire to address one of the biggest problems facing Jackson, the metro area and the nation as a whole," Danks said of illicit drug activity.

After he was elected, Melton, 57, became known for carrying guns, cruising the city with police and criticizing the district attorney's office for not putting away enough criminals.

Melton and the two police detectives are charged with malicious mischief, two counts of conspiracy and directing a minor to commit a felony. Melton and one officer also are charged with burglary. All three pleaded not guilty.

If convicted, Melton would be forced to resign. Convictions on all counts could carry a 50-year prison sentence.