(Reuters) - An inmate serving a life sentence in a North Carolina prison was convicted on Tuesday of orchestrating the 2014 kidnapping of the father of the prosecutor who put him behind bars, officials said.
Kelvin Melton, 51, was found guilty on four kidnapping charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina said in a statement.
Prosecutors said Melton arranged the kidnapping through a mobile phone from his cell at the Polk Correctional Institution in the town of Butner. Melton was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole on a charge related to being a violent habitual felon, his attorney Laura Beaver said.
U.S. Attorney spokesman Don Connelly said co-conspirators of Melton's, who was a member of the "One Eight Trey Blood" gang, mistakenly went to the home of Frank Janssen looking for his prosecutor daughter, Colleen Janssen.
"This crime was monstrously cruel to the victim and his family, including a dedicated public servant who was being targeted for her public service," Acting U.S. Attorney John Bruce said in a statement.
Beaver said she was disappointed in the verdict and questioned the credibility of the government's witnesses.
She said several were co-defendants facing separate murder charges in Georgia and agreed in plea deals to testify if prosecutors did not seek the death penalty against them.
"There's a quote that the way the system is set up, it encourages inmates and co-defendants to not only sing but to compose," Beaver said.
She said Melton is set to be sentenced in September and will decide then whether to appeal.
Janssen was attacked with a pistol and stun gun and his hands were tied during his kidnapping on April 5, 2014, the indictment said. He was hidden under a blanket on the back floorboard of a rented car on a trip to Atlanta, it said.
Melton told the kidnappers to send messages to Janssen's wife saying her husband and others would be hurt if undisclosed demands were not met. He also gave instructions on how to kill and dispose of the hostage, the indictment said.
On April 9, hours before Janssen was saved by an FBI hostage rescue team from a house in Atlanta, Melton received a text message stating, "We got car, spot, and shovel," prosecutors said.
Eleven people, including Melton, have been charged in the case. Nine have pleaded guilty, while one more is awaiting trial, Connelly said.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Alan Crosby, Bernard Orr)