A Columbia woman connected with the kidnapping of a North Carolina prosecutor’s father was sentenced Thursday morning in federal court after she pleaded guilty for making a false statement to federal agents.
Judge Joe Anderson sentenced Chason Renee Chase, 24, also known as “Lady Jamaica” and “Lady J,” to three months in prison and three years probation after she denied knowing or speaking to Kelvin Melton, 49, a high-ranking Bloods street gang member serving a life sentence in North Carolina.
Anderson said “this isn’t your typical false statement case,” because a man’s life hung in the balance. From his prison cell, Melton ordered members of his gang to kidnap the prosecutor who sentenced him to life for ordering a subordinate gang member to shoot his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend in 2012.
Instead, the kidnappers took the prosecutor’s father, Frank Janssen, of Wake Forest, N.C., and drove him to Atlanta, where he was allegedly “beaten and tazed,” according to Stacey Haynes, a U.S. assistant prosecutor.
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Evidence presented at Chase’s Aug. 28 guilty plea hearing showed she was affiliated with Melton. Haynes said Chase operated as the gang’s bookkeeper, collecting money from gang members and then sending the funds to incarcerated members.
When agents with the FBI’s Columbia Violent Gang Task Force approached Chase at her place of work in Columbia on April 9 about the investigation, she denied knowing Melton as well as having any sort of contact with any gang member in the previous year.
But agents reviewed Melton’s prison phone records and found that Chase and Melton had been in recent contact. Her number was associated with Melton’s prison number more than 50 times since the investigation began.
Janssen is the father of the prosecutor who sentenced Melton to life. His captors sent pictures and text messages to Janssen’s family, telling them he would be tortured and killed if Melton’s demands weren’t met.
The FBI rescued Janssen after agents conducted a raid on the Atlanta apartment where he was being held. Nine others still face federal criminal charges in connection with the case.
Chase was facing a maximum of five years in prison with a $250,000 fine for her charge, but Anderson gave her a reduced sentence of three months because she has no prior criminal record.
“Three months is better than five years,” Chase’s defense attorney Allen Burnside said after Anderson’s sentencing.
Chase and her attorney have the opportunity to appeal the sentencing, but it was unclear Thursday if they would pursue the appeal.