Local News

Suspect in kidnapping of Wake DA's father wants to ditch attorneys

Posted November 23, 2015 4:02 p.m. EST
Updated November 23, 2015 6:25 p.m. EST

— An inmate charged in the 2014 kidnapping of the father of a Wake County prosecutor said Monday that he doesn't trust his attorneys and wants new legal representation in his case.

Frank Janssen was abducted from his Wake Forest home on April 5, 2014. FBI agents rescued him five days later in a raid on an Atlanta apartment complex.

Authorities allege that Kelvin Melton orchestrated the kidnapping from inside Polk Correctional Institution in Butner as retribution against Janssen's daughter, Wake County Assistant District Attorney Colleen Janssen. She prosecuted Melton in 2012, and he is now serving a life sentence as a violent habitual felon.

During a federal court hearing, Melton said he felt with attorneys are withholding information about the case, making it impossible for him to work on his defense. Most of the documents he has received are illegible or redundant, he said.

"The material that (my attorneys) have is different than what I have," he said. "I'm not being told the truth."

Defense attorney Samuel Randall IV said a lack of trust between him and Melton would hurt their case at trial.

"The relationship is strained," Randall said. "It's not conducive to any attorney-client privilege."

Melton, who was shackled and surrounded by federal marshals in the courtroom, refused to tell Chief U.S. District Judge James Dever III what he thought his attorneys were withholding.

"How can you allow the government to give you paperwork that you can't read? If you can't read it, how can you represent me? This is paperwork that is significant to the case," Melton said.

Prosecutors said documents turned over by the State Bureau of Investigation were illegible, but documents the FBI supplied that contained the same information were legible. They also noted that not all information provided to defense attorneys could be shown to Melton because some of it could put inmates in danger.

Authorities allege that Melton used a cellphone smuggled into Polk Correctional to communicate with co-defendants on logistics, demands on the Janssen family and how to dispose of Frank Janssen's body. After the kidnapping, the state Division of Adult Correction investigated how contraband was getting into the prison and charged two correctional officers.

Prosecutors said inmates who cooperated with the state investigation could face retaliation in prison if Melton or other inmates knew who they were.

Dever rejected Melton's request for new attorneys, saying he believes the situation can be resolved and noting that Randall and his associates have already spent 19 months on the case.

The judge gave he defense attorneys until Dec. 7 to seek a delay in the Feb. 1 trial date for the case. They said last month that the volume of documents they need to review would make it difficult for them to prepare for a trial by then.