Justice for Maple
From THE BETTER CLARKSDALE FOUNDATION
by Marvin Reddick
Disclaimer: Neither the Better Clarksdale Foundation nor the writer of this article claim legal authority and do not intend for this article to be construed as legal advice.
The Better Clarksdale Foundation in keeping with our mission of Activism is conducting an independent investigation into the arrest and indictment of Maple Melton, former Clarksdale Public Utilities employee.
This investigation will be confined to information contained in the report of the Office of the State Auditor of Mississippi that can be obtained via open government and from sources identified there-in.
This report is primarily a review and critique of the actions taken by State Investigator Jeff Joel and does not draw official conclusions nor does it change any drawn by the Office of the State Auditor of Mississippi. This Independent review is being conducted by Marvin Reddick, a veteran law officer, investigator, and criminal procedure consultant.
There are only two witnesses listed in the discovery information turned over to the Defense. As per the Rules for Criminal Procedure, all evidence, witnesses, and statements that the prosecution plans to present during trial have to be made known to the Defense during what is known as Discovery prior to trial. Ray Luhring, former general manager of Clarksdale Public Utilities and Steve Reed, former accounting and finance officer were the two witnesses listed.
There are several individuals that have made statements regarding material fact concerning actions allegedly taken by Maple Melton. The two that stand out to this investigator and should give testimony are Brandon Soldavila, IT Supervisor for Clarksdale Public Utilities and the Computer Software Company identified in the report as GTE. This individual and entity respectively have testified to not being able to say with absolute certainty that Maple Melton committed acts identified as illegal earlier in the report. Now, Ms. Melton was not charged with these incidents, however the incidents she was charged with were from print-outs generated by this same computer system and supervised by the same Brandon Soldavila. It is the due-diligence requirement of an investigator to qualify by material evidence and/or expert testimony showing how these reports are not subject to the same flaws as the earlier ones that were disqualified. This should have been done prior to presenting this investigative report for prosecution.
There were no statements contained in this report from the individuals identified as recipients of alleged illegal utilities services from Maple Melton. There is no mention of any attempts to question these individuals. They are not listed as witnesses. Two of these alleged individuals were Clarksdale city commissioners and very accessible.
Maple Melton was not questioned by the Investigator. She was indicted on multiple counts of embezzlement and is facing prison time if convicted, but was never even questioned by Investigator Jeff Joel. According to his report he tried to call her and tried to call her attorney.
According to Jeff Joel’s investigative report Maple Melton was identified by her computer log in as the individual making illegal transfers of service monies. No attempt to determine whether the program administrator or other individuals could access Maple Melton’s user identification is shown in Jeff Joel’s report. Maple Melton stated to me in an interview conducted on 8 March 2019 that this was a common practice for her subordinates to login with her identification. Anthony Daniels, former meter supervisor confirmed these statements on that same day. There is nothing contained in the employee handbook presented as evidence that prohibits the sharing of login information.
I don’t know what’s worse. The fact that a state level investigator conducted this investigator or the fact that his supervisors approved it and allowed him to go forward with an arrest and indictment. There is no prima facia evidence contained in Jeff Joel’s investigative report. Therefore, all individuals with information should have been questioned and listed as witnesses. There is absolutely no excuse for not questioning Maple Melton in this case. This report is laden with statements about third parties presented as fact. I just don’t see how much of any of it is going to pass the Hearsay rule.
The fact-finding and witness questioning in this case was improperly done. No arrest warrant should have been issued based on this portion alone.