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Press Release

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Hosts the 65th Annual Attorney General Awards Honoring Department Employees and Others for their Service

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of North Carolina
Two Individuals Honored in the Eastern District of North Carolina

WASHINGTON – Attorney General Jeff Sessions recognized 202 department employees for their distinguished public service today at the 65nd Annual Attorney General’s Awards Ceremony.  Nineteen other individuals outside of the department were also honored for their work.  This annual ceremony recognizes individuals for their outstanding service and dedication to carrying out the missions of the Department of Justice.  The department will also present one posthumous award to Deputy Commander Patrick T. Carothers for exceptional heroism in the line of duty during a fugitive apprehension in Allenhurst, Georgia on Nov. 18, 2016, in which Deputy Commander Carothers was mortally wounded.


    Every single day, the 115,000 men and women of the Department of Justice work to protect our national security against terrorist threats, defend the civil rights of all Americans, reduce violent crime in our communities, stop deadly drug dealers and their organizations, and strengthen the rule of law,” said Attorney General Sessions.  “This work benefits every American, and each Department of Justice employee plays a role that helps us accomplish our objectives. Today, we take a moment to recognize those who have distinguished themselves by exemplary service to the Department. Each one of these men and women—through their dedication and commitment—has made a difference. Meeting with them and their families today, I am more confident than ever that the Department—and the safety of the American people—are in good hands.”


    Robert J. Higdon, Jr., United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina said:  “It is impossible to overstate the importance of the Melton case and the work of Mr. Duffy, Ms. Cooley and the entire trial team.  The kidnapping and torture of a family member of a prosecutor of our community strikes at the heart of the rule of law in our society.  If you are able to intimate prosecutors and law enforcement officers, we are left with little protection as citizens.  So, I am very pleased to recognize this prosecution and those who worked so diligently to protect the rule of law for us all.


    This year’s program honors individuals across the department and our federal, state, local, and tribal partners for their self-less efforts, protecting our national security and our civil rights, addressing rising violent crime in our communities, going after gangs and those trafficking in dangerous narcotics and human beings.  The awards also honor the work of civil and environmental litigation, which enforces the rule of law and upholds our Constitution.  They also recognize employees whose ideas and efforts save taxpayer dollars and help our government operate more effectively and efficiently, among other contributions to public safety and good governance.

    In the Eastern District of North Carolina Assistant United States Attorneys Dennis Duffy and Leslie Cooley received The John Marshall Award.  The John Marshall Awards are the Department's highest awards offered to attorneys, for contributions and excellence in specialized areas of legal performance.  Twelve awards in nine categories are presented this year.  The award is in the Trail of Litigation category for their outstanding performance in conviction of a United Blood Nation Member.

    This team is honored for its outstanding work in the conviction of United Blood Nation member Kelvin Melton in a jury trial, as well as the conviction by guilty plea of nine co-defendants, and the conviction of a tenth in a separate jury trial.  In April of 2014, Melton orchestrated the kidnapping and torture of an Assistant District Attorney’s father as retribution for his State conviction and life sentence, all while incarcerated in the State of North Carolina’s maximum security prison.  The victim spent five days bound to a chair, locked in a closet, deprived of food and water, beaten, tased, and forced to urinate on himself.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation was able to utilize cellular telephone analysis and a Title III wiretap to locate and rescue the victim just hours after Melton gave the order to have him killed, and arrest nine individuals who had perpetrated a string of heinous crimes culminating in the kidnapping.  The recipients conducted a sweeping probe into the North Carolina Department of Corrections to determine which corrupt officials were responsible for prisoner access to cellular telephones while incarcerated.  The team took a tremendous amount of evidence and created a cohesive and powerful trial presentation, diligently prepared a large number of gang members and inmates for trial, and distilled hundreds of thousands of pages of digital evidence into a succinct overview that led to Melton’s conviction of all counts.  The recipients accepted a case that posed significant personal risk, investigated and expertly prepared it for trial, and secured swift justice for one of the most dangerous criminals in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina’s history.

Updated October 25, 2017