Jailed Holdrege mayoral candidate falls far short of election night upset

Jailed Holdrege mayoral candidate falls far short of election night upset
Joseph Melton

LINCOLN — Joseph Melton got caught in the wrong end of the landslide in Tuesday’s election for mayor of Holdrege.

The 30-year-old Republican challenger lost 279-1,882 to Republican incumbent Doug Young. But with almost 13 percent of the vote, Melton won a larger share than the 10 percent he had predicted going into Tuesday’s unusual contest.

Since July, Melton has been detained on federal firearms charges related to illegal possession of two gun silencers. Even though he’s been unable to campaign from jail, Melton’s name remained on the ballot.

A judge refused to grant Melton pretrial release after expressing concerns about his criminal record, which included misdemeanor assaults that were pleaded down to lesser charges and an armed robbery charge that was dismissed. In addition, some residents of Holdrege told a prosecutor they feared for their safety if Melton were released.

Melton disputed that he’s a public threat, saying the allegations were trumped up by his political enemies. He also has denied the charges he illegally possessed a silencer lacking a serial number and another that wasn’t properly registered.

Silencers, called suppressors by the firearm industry, are after-market devices attached to a gun muzzle that reduce the decibel of a gunshot.

Melton’s lawyer has filed a motion to suppress evidence collected by federal agents in the case. If Melton prevails, the charges against him could be dismissed.

If convicted, Melton faces up to 10 years in prison on each of the charges. Felons also are ineligible to hold elected office in Nebraska, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

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