Melton and Recio to be Tried Together


Former mayoral bodyguards Michael Recio, pictured, and Marcus Wright are challenging court-ordered restitution.

A federal judge has denied the latest attempt to separate the civil rights trial of Mayor Frank Melton and his former bodyguard Michael Recio. In an order (PDF) filed today, Judge Dan Jordan ruled that Recio's attorney Cynthia Stewart has not presented a compelling case for severance.

"The Court recognizes that left unrebutted, the testimony of the Government witnesses damages Recio's case and that Melton's proffered testimony could be helpful," Jordan wrote. "However, Recio has not proved a bona fide need (to sever) because he has not attempted to rebut the testimony through other potential witnesses."

Melton and Recio are charged with civil rights violations for their roles in the 2006 demolition of a duplex on Ridgeway Street. Jordan denied a previous motion to sever Recio's case before the first federal trial, which ended in a hung jury on Feb. 24. Stewart renewed her request for severance on April 3, arguing that Melton could testify and exonerate Recio only at a separate trial. In support, she submitted an affidavit (PDF) by Melton detailing the testimony he would give if granted a separate trial prior to Recio's. In his affidavit, Melton claimed that Recio had no part in the actual damage to the house.

"At no time did Officer Recio participate in any way in any activity aimed at the destruction of the house," Melton stated. "He was an observer of the events, just as were the neighbors at that location."

Melton's potential testimony would contradict testimony by government witnesses that Recio helped pull down an awning over the duplex's front door. Melton was not the only person who saw the house's destruction, though, Jordan pointed out.

"If there is another witnesses capable of offering the same testimony, then there is no bona fide need (for severance)," he wrote.

A re-trial for the two defendants is scheduled to begin May 11 with jury selection.


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