Local News

Gang leader denies role in kidnapping, calling it 'stupid'

Posted June 17, 2016 1:43 p.m. EDT
Updated June 17, 2016 5:41 p.m. EDT

— A gang leader accused of masterminding from behind bars the abduction of the father of a Wake County prosecutor two years ago said Friday that he never would never have risked his empire on a "stupid" caper.

Kelvin Melton, 51, is on trial in federal court in Raleigh for the April 2014 kidnapping 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.

FBI agents raided an Atlanta apartment and freed Frank Janssen five days after he was kidnapped from his Wake Forest home.

Melton took the witness stand Friday afternoon, outlining for jurors the organization of the Bloods street gang. He called himself the "godfather" of the United Bloods Nation group, saying he controls 10,000 to 12,000 gang members in North Carolina.

He insisted one of his underlings gave the order to kidnap Frank Janssen as a way to remove him from power and move up the ranks of the gang.

"That's not something I would do," he said of the kidnapping. "I've worked too hard over the years to blow it on something that stupid."

Another defense witness, Christopher Ray Barnes, said a high-ranking Bloods member approached him at Central Prison and asked him to kill Colleen and Frank Janssen to have a drug debt forgiven. Barnes said the gang member threatened his girlfriend and young child if he didn't carry out the crime.

Four co-defendants testified on Tuesday and Wednesday that they drove from Atlanta to Wake Forest to grab Frank Janssen and then returned to Atlanta, where they handcuffed and taped him to a chair that they put in a padlocked closet of an apartment.

They said Melton gave instructions to them every step of the way, including what to say in threatening text messages sent to Frank Janssen's family. He even told them how to kill Janssen, dispose of the body and scrub the apartment clean to cover up the crime.

Melton said the plot was too complex if he simply wanted to exact revenge against Colleen Janssen.

"If I had done this for revenge, they would have handled this at the door," he testified.

Earlier Friday, defense attorney Gerald Beaver tried to distance Melton from the recordings of an FBI wiretap of a cellphone that authorities say was found in Melton's prison cell in Butner and that links him to the kidnapping.

Two inmates testified that cellphones were shared and passed around inside the prison after being smuggled in by correctional officers. One inmate said he even maintained three Facebook pages via cellphone.

On cross-examination, prosecutors had Melton read portions of a transcript of the cellphone conversations and then played the recording for the jurors for the third time in four days.

Closing arguments in the case are expected Monday.