Henchmen: Gang leader called all shots from prison
Posted June 9, 2016 3:54 p.m. EDT
Updated June 9, 2016 6:47 p.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — Former members of the Bloods street gang testified Thursday that it was normal for a gang leader accused of orchestrating the kidnapping of a Wake County prosecutor's father from prison to run the gang's operations from inside his 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.
A former cell mate in the maximum-security unit of Polk Correctional Institution in Butner testified Wednesday that Melton was obsessed with exacting revenge against her.
Authorities have said Melton used a cellphone smuggled to him in prison 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.
Security was tighter than normal at the courthouse Thursday. In addition to the usual cadre of U.S. marshals who stick close to Melton, extra U.S. Department of Homeland Security staff were posted at the courthouse, and officers patrolled the perimeter and the inside of the building with dogs.
On the witness stand, former gang members Clifton Roberts and Jerome Seymour gave jurors an inside look at the hierarchy of the Bloods organization, from recruiting and initiating new members to paying dues at regular meetings to carrying out crimes, often dictated by Melton, to move up the chain of command.
"You have to go on a mission. ... Do stuff Dizzy tells us to do," Seymour said, referring to Melton by his nickname. "You have to rob somebody, you have to do it. ... Then you move up."
Roberts, who said Melton directed him to kill a man in Georgia, testified that gang members were usually paid $10,000 for a completed mission.
Neither of the gang members had ever met Melton. They spoke with him by phone when they were interviewed for the gang, given a mission or congratulated upon its completion.
Seymour said that, after he shot someone during a drug deal, Melton told him he loved him.
"Shooter does what Shooter do," Seymour said Melton told him, using Seymour's nickname. That, Seymour said, was the highest compliment he could have wanted.
Seymour also testified that gang members used his Atlanta apartment without his knowledge to hold Frank Janssen captive. He thought an acquaintance was using it for prostitution while he was out of town and only learned upon his return that there was "a kidnapped dude upstairs."
"If I told on them, they would have been trying to kill me," he said.
Roberts had two shovels and a pickax in his SUV when authorities arrested him in the kidnapping, which he said were to dispose of Frank Janssen's body per Melton's instructions.
Defense attorney Gerald Beaver attacked the witnesses' credibility, noting that each had negotiated plea deaths to avoid death sentences for various crimes in exchange for their testimony.