Convenience store owner released from custody
November 24, 2007
By Monica Drum
Eagle City Reporter
Yoknapatawpha District Attorney R.J. Metcalf expressed shock and disbelief yesterday in court when local convenience store owner Melvin Roberts was acquitted of what Metcalf and other officials felt was an airtight charge of rape against a 16-year-old girl.
The girl, who also attended the court proceedings to identify her attacker, burst into tears when the Honorable Marty McManus released Roberts based on what he called "a severe degree of reasonable doubt" that Roberts had actually committed the heinous crime.
The girl was attacked on March 15 in Roberts's home as she was sleeping. The girl was babysitting Roberts's grandson while Roberts was scheduled to be working and his wife was out of town visiting relatives.
The girl was forcibly raped and suffered a concussion, multiple contusions, and a broken finger as a result of the attack. She subsequently identified Roberts in a police line-up and also identified his voice from behind a screen as the voice of her attacker.
Roberts's blood type was also found at the scene, and he had three distinct scratches on his hand and a large bruise on his inner right thigh consistent with an act of rough sexual intercourse.
A large group of community leaders has rallied around Roberts from the beginning, contributing funds for his legal defense and working for free in his store to help defray the costs of his overhead.
Roberts's attorney, Don Margolis, has insisted from the start that Roberts could prove his innocence and would at the trial. A man of his word, Margolis produced a time-card from Roberts's store that showed that he was in the store working during the entire time of the attack.
Roberts's alibi was also corroborated by another employee who was in the store at the time and by several customers that Roberts called as witnesses for his defense. These witnesses stated that they saw Roberts in the store at various times ranging from 8 p.m. until 12 a.m. The girl was attacked at approximately 10 p.m.
District Attorney R.J. Metcalf says that he will not rule out Roberts as a suspect despite the strength of his alibi, due to the large amount of physical evidence associated with the case. But Metcalf said that while he'll continue investigating Roberts in the attack, he will now focus mainly on other possible attackers in the case.
Margolis says that he and his client plan to file a multi-million dollar lawsuit for false arrest against District Attorney Metcalf and the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department for what Margolis calls the "malicious prosecution of my client, when they should have known that he would never do such a thing. He has the utmost respect for law enforcement. They eat free in his restaurant every day, and then they band together to railroad him into prison for attacking a child."
"It's crazy. The man is a war hero and this is how he's treated," Margolis continued. "Maybe when those coffers open up a little, they'll know how to treat such people."
Roberts plans to continue working at his store and says he apologizes to his customers for any inconvenience that his absence may have caused.