RALEIGH (AP) — A federal jury in North Carolina on Tuesday convicted a prisoner of directing a botched kidnapping attempt from his prison cell in an incident where the kidnappers mistakenly grabbed the father of a prosecutor.
Kelvin Melton, 51, was found guilty of multiple charges, including kidnapping and aiding and abetting and conspiracy to commit kidnapping, a release from the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Prosecutors said Melton’s underlings were sent to grab Wake County Assistant District Attorney Colleen Janssen, who put him in prison in a 2011 shooting case, but mistakenly kidnapped her father instead.
Prosecutors said officials wiretapped a cellphone smuggled into Melton’s prison cell and caught him giving instructions on how Frank Janssen should be killed and how to dispose of the body and clean up the crime scene.
Melton, who was already serving a life sentence in the shooting case, faces up to life in prison and a fine of $250,000 when he is sentenced on the latest conviction.
In opening statements, defense attorney Gerald Beaver urged jurors not to believe Melton’s gang when they testified against him, including the four who kidnapped, pistol-whipped and tortured Frank Janssen with a stun gun during his four-day ordeal in April 2014.
All nine of Melton’s co-defendants struck plea deals to avoid the death penalty or life prison sentences for earlier shootings and aborted kidnapping plots, Beaver said.
The statement from the Department of Justice said Frank Janssen was kidnapped from his home on April 5, 2014. Melton used the cell phone while he was serving his sentence in a prison in Butner. The co-conspirators in the plot also sent threats to Janssen’s wife, prosecutors said.
Janssen’s captors were finalizing details to kill Janssen and dispose of his body when the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team stormed a southeast Atlanta apartment and rescued him on April 9, authorities said.