By: E&P Staff
Mayor Frank Melton of Jackson, Miss., who is in the center of a civil libel suit, blamed a Gannett News Service reporter Tuesday for printing a leaked memo in The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Miss.) that Melton said was meant to be confidential, according to an article in today’s paper.
The memo, written by an investigator looking into misconduct by two narcotics agents, was given to reporter Ana Radelat by Melton and used in an April 18, 2003 story. At the time, the Clarion-Ledger reports, Melton led the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. The two agents mentioned in the memo, Robert Earl Pierce and Jimmy Saxton, were, as a result of the leaked memo, accused in the media of misusing government aircraft equipment. They have since sued Melton for libel and emotional damages.
For more than two years, Melton lied about being Radelat?s source, and in December was found guilty in the libel suit after finally admitting he leaked the memo. This week?s trial is to determine what damages Melton will pay.
The Clarion-Ledger reports that Melton maintained on Tuesday that he told Radelat that the memo was not to be made public. Earlier in the day, however, he told prosecution attorneys that he had leaked the memo because he was concerned the investigations were not being taken seriously by other agencies and was hoping for greater public scrutiny.
Melton is also quoted defended his denial of releasing the memo, saying that he was granted a ?media privilege? under the first amendment. Melton?s attorneys argued that while lying about the memo was usable in determining the mayor?s liability, it was irrelevant in establishing damages. The court agreed, but no damage amount has yet been determined.
Melton also faces unrelated felony charges for damages to a Jackson duplex that he believed was a part of a drug operation, and three unrelated weapons charges.