Jurors hear accused kidnapping mastermind using cellphone in prison
Posted June 13
Raleigh, N.C. — To demonstrate that that a gang leader could have arranged the kidnapping of a Wake County prosecutor's father two years ago while behind bars, federal prosecutors on Monday played recordings for jurors from a wiretap they had on an illegal cellphone later found in his prison cell.
Kelvin Melton, 51, is on trial in federal court in Raleigh for the April 2014 abduction of the father of Assistant District Attorney Colleen Janssen, who prosecuted Melton in a 2012 attempted murder in Raleigh, which earned him a life sentence as a habitual felon.
Authorities have said Melton used a cellphone smuggled to him at Polk Correctional Institution in Butner to order subordinates to abduct Janssen, but the crew went to the wrong address and grabbed her father by mistake.
FBI agents raided an Atlanta apartment and freed Frank Janssen five days after he was kidnapped from his Wake Forest home.
Patricia Ann Kramer, who led the FBI to the apartment complex where Frank Janssen was being held, testified Monday that Melton would often instruct her via phone to drive other gang members on "missions" that he ordered them to carry out.
Kramer, a drug addict who was introduced to Melton by her boyfriend – again, on the phone – quickly became enamored of the gang leader, sending him photos of herself. Authorities said several slips of paper with her phone number on them were found in his cell.
One of her first jobs was to obtain information on Melton's defense attorney from his 2012 trial, which authorities said was later used to arrange the abduction of the attorney's sister in Louisiana. That kidnapping plot was later aborted, however.
Kramer said she used her monthly child support money to rent a car so gang members could travel from Atlanta to North Carolina to carry out the Janssen kidnapping.
After state and federal authorities became aware of Melton's contraband cellphone, they recorded his conversations and eventually tied Kramer and others to the plot, and they were able to persuade Kramer to reveal where Frank Janssen was being held captive.
Other gang members testified last week that Melton also gave them instructions to carry out various jobs on his behalf.