February 24, 2009 / 7:02 PM / 9 years ago

Court declares mistrial for Mississippi mayor

JACKSON, Mississippi (Reuters) - A U.S. court declared a mistrial on Tuesday in the case of a Mississippi mayor charged with leading a vigilante-style drug raid on a house after a jury failed to reach a verdict.

Jackson Mayor Frank Melton could have faced up to 25 years in jail and lost his job if convicted of federal civil rights violations for his role in the raid conducted without a warrant in August 2006 on a house he believed was used for crack dealing.

Prosecutors said he was drunk at the time of the raid in which he ordered a group of young boys wielding sledgehammers to attack the house.

Instead, a jury failed to reach a verdict after five days of deliberations and a new trial appears likely.

“We live to fight another day,” Melton’s attorney John Reeves said after the verdict.

Melton, a Democrat, was elected mayor of the state’s biggest city with more than 80 percent of the vote in 2005 on a pledge to crack down on crime.

But in a highly unusual move he styled himself as the city’s crime fighter number one and conducted high-profile sweeps in a mobile police unit through low income neighborhoods.

He was acquitted in 2007 of state charges stemming from the same raid.

Reporting by Kathleen Baydala; writing by Matthew Bigg; editing by Jim Loney and Vicki Allen

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