RALEIGH (WTVD) --A federal court jury has come back with guilty on all four counts in the case against convicted gang leader Kelvin Melton in the kidnapping of a Wake County prosecutor's father.
Melton, 51, orchestrated the abduction of Frank Janssen from his Wake Forest home in April 2014. Janssen's daughter Colleen sent Melton to prison for life as a dangerous felon for a 2012 attempted gangland murder.
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The FBI says Melton used smuggled cell phones from behind the walls of the Butner Correctional Center to direct gang members during the kidnapping.
Five days later, after agents intercepted a call in which the four kidnappers were told to kill Janssen, an FBI hostage recovery team raided an Atlanta apartment, rescuing him.
Members of Melton's gang testified against him at the trial. But in closing arguments, the defense argued that based on their backgrounds they have no credibility.
"Witnesses in this system with the way the system works are encouraged not only to sing but to compose." said Laura Beaver, Melton's attorney. "And I believe that happens a lot in this system and I believe that it happened in this trial."
Melton himself testified that he had no role in the plot, calling it "stupid". He said he would never have assigned such low-level gang members to the task and if he had wanted revenge it would have been "handled" at the Janssens' door.
But prosecutors said Melton did want revenge and may have been looking to get leverage with Janssen's daughter in a possible appeal
They also said the defense did not manage to present any information to discredit their cell phone tracking information.
"This crime was monstrously cruel to the victim and his family, including a dedicated public servant who was being targeted for her public service. It was also an attack on our criminal justice system. We must do more to stop convicted prisoners from reaching out from their prison cells to harm witnesses and law enforcement officials, and to continue their criminal enterprises. The convictions in this case are a start," offered Acting United States Attorney John Stuart Bruce after the jury announced its verdict.
Melton was convicted Tuesday of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, attempted kidnapping and aiding and abetting, kidnapping and aiding and abetting, and using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to, and possessing a firearm in furtherance of, a kidnapping and aiding and abetting.
Sentencing will be held Sept. 26. Melton faces a maximum penalty of three life sentences plus 20 years, and a $250,000 fine.
"We will do everything we can to make sure that the custody situation for Kelvin Melton for the rest of his life is such that he will not be able to commit any more crimes," Bruce said.
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Janssen, his daughter, and other family members watched the trial from the gallery.
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