Misled by bold fibbery in a police report, the Hamilton County grand jury has indicted Hanson Melvin, a father of three it says effectively caused a riot by asserting his right not to be detained by city cops without a cause.
The grand jury, at the behest of district attorney Neal Pinkston, is charging Mr. Melvin with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.
By David Tulis
Citing the language of the statute TCA 39-17-305, the grand jury upholds sweeping accusation against a quiet-spoken yet gregarious Christian man whose life story typifies those of many common working people who have had troubling encounters with the state and its court system.
Because of a plea-bargained theft case at 19, Mr. Melvin’s life has been marked by blocked job applications and rejected apartment rentals. State government, in a separate claim against him as regards his use in a car of the public right of way, has imposed upon him a civil death penalty that he cannot afford to lift.
The grand jury says Mr. Melvin “did unlawfully and knowingly, while in a public place engage in violent or threatening behavior,” did “create a hazardous or physically offensive condition by an act that served no legitimate purpose, or [emphasis added] did make unreasonable noise which prevented others from carrying on lawful activities, with intent to cause public annoyance or alarm,” and this all “against the peace and dignity of the state.”
Mr. Pinkston’s handiwork in the indictment is sloppy. How can there be an OR in a charge? Which is it — charge A, or charge B? Hazardous or offensive condition OR unreasonable noise with the intent to cause harm? How can a criminal accusation leave open the exact crime?
Mr. Pinkston’s case bumbles forward on feet of clay. Meanwhile, the police department is reviewing claims going in just the opposite direction. These claims made by Mr. Melvin accuse Mr. Campbell of perjury and oppression.
Fibs on the form
Officer Campbell is Mr. Pinkston’s primary witness in the prosecution; the whole edifice rests upon him. But Mr. Melvin and at least one witness indicate Mr. Campbell’s statement is perjurous.
Officer Campbell arrested Mr. Melvin without cause and then lied about his demeanor and actions in front of a crowd of witnesses at Northgate Crossing apartment complex, Mr. Melvin says in an affidavit.
Mr. Melvin had appeared on the scene of an altercation which police had broken up and whose observers were slowly dispersing as he passed by.
Mr. Melvin had been on his way with a friend to a store to buy milk. Officer Campbell confronted him and demanded to know if his driver license was in order. Since Mr. Melvin was on foot, he said the question inappropriate and refused to answer. The cop persisted, demanding Mr. Melvin’s social security number. Mr. Melvin refused, and was shown his place by being placed under arrest in the assertion of his rights.
Mr. Campbell writes a cartoonish narrative in his sworn report, typed IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, describing Mr. Melvin’s arrest. He says that Mr. Melvin was screaming and yelling and drawing more people back outside of the apartments by creating a ballyhoo. Mr. Melvin is not charged with resisting arrest.
Cop-on-cop probe taking weeks
During an interview as part of his internal affairs complaint against officer Campbell, Mr. Melvin demanded of Officer Jeff Gaines if the police audio file of the encounter indicated him to be screaming yelling or raising his voice. Mr. Gaines said, “No.” I will subpoena this file for Mr. Hanson’s trial.
Mayor Andy Berke’s police department (it’s a part of his executive branch of city government) acts glacially to investigate crimes by its officers. Mr. Gaines says he interviews first the complainant, his witnesses and then the officer and his defenders.
To date no witnesses have been questioned by the police department according to Mr. Melvin, who says that if they had been, he would have heard about it from his neighbors at the apartment complex. A message left Wednesday with Lt. Pedro Bacon of internal affairs was not returned Wednesday.
Mr. Melvin and I have a meeting with Mr. Pinkston Thursday at 11 a.m., one day prior to a court hearing in this walking while nigger case.
Mr. Melvin appears in criminal court before Judge Don Poole court on Friday at 9 a.m.
The state and the government have the Melvin case backward.
Mr. Pinkston should be prosecuting officer Campbell for violating the Tennessee oppression statute (TCA 39-16-403). Official oppression is when a cop under color of law “intentionally subjects another to mistreatment or to arrest, detention, stop, frisk, halt, search, seizure *** when the public servant knows the conduct is unlawful.”
Mr. Pinkston should also accuse Mr. Campbell of perjury, which making a false statement about a matter of material fact.
So routine is police abuse of commoners and poor people that no mind is paid about how loosely police officers play with the facts when they are certain those whom they accuse have no means of fighting back except to ask for a public defender and cop a plea.
When David Campbell arrested Mr. Melvin he pressed him against the side of a car and pressed his head against the roof of the car. “Unball your motherfucking hands, he said.
It’s the knotted fist of the state which, in the Melvin prosecution, should be unballed, and an innocent man left in peace.
Meet Hanson Melvin of Chattanooga
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