Trial in Kidnapping of Wake Forest Man Expected This Year

Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that they hope to try a group of people charged with kidnapping the father of a Wake County prosecutor sometime this year.

Frank Janssen, 64, was taken at gunpoint from his Wake Forest home a year ago Sunday and was held captive in an Atlanta apartment.

Authorities allege that Kelvin Melton, 50, a high-ranking Bloods gang member, masterminded the plot from inside Polk Correctional Institution, a state prison in Butner, but that the intended target of the abduction was Janssen’s daughter, Wake County Assistant District Attorney Colleen Janssen. She won a 2012 conviction against Melton and life sentence for his role in a shooting involving his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend.

The kidnappers tormented the Janssen family with text messages threatening to cut him into pieces if police were called or their demands weren’t met, authorities said.

The FBI used a cellphone Melton had in prison to zero in on the Atlanta apartment and rescue Frank Janssen a week after his kidnapping.

Ten people were charged in the plot, and attorneys for nine of them – one woman has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced – were in federal court in Raleigh on Tuesday to discuss with prosecutors how best to handle the discovery phase of the case.

A major part of that evidence sharing will involve cellphone records, and one issue involves FBI rules on how those records can be examined by defense experts without leaving the custody of the FBI.

Another major issue involves how to protect federal witnesses and keep them from being targeted for retribution by gang members. Attorneys discussed the use of protective orders, which could preclude defense attorneys from sharing information they see in the prosecutors’ files with their clients.

Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys will meet in court again on May 18 to firm up a timeline for trying the case.

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This article appears with permission from our great friends at WRAL who have been wonderful supporters of our work.

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