Judge Evans lectures Robocop for 20 minutes: “Today is payback for resorting to an act of cowardly brutality. . . .It ain’t no fun when the rabbit’s got the gun.”
Dent: “I may be able someday to forgive what he did to me as a man, but no one should ever forgive what he did as a police officer.”
Melendez (poem): “Those of us that carry badges can’t always be a saint. We work most Sundays and at times talk tough because the streets can be awful rough.”
Squires: “How many people has he put in jail, maimed and destroyed their lives, like he framed my son and gave him a record? He should have been locked up a long time ago.”
#FloydDent, #Robocop, #WilliamMelendez, #Jailkillercops, #Beatbackthebullies, #Blacklivesmatter, #BlacklivesmatterDetroit, #StopPoliceBrutality, #StopPoliceMurders, #Saveourchildren, #Standupnow, #StopwaronBlackAmerica, #PoliceState, #PrisonNation, #Policeviolence
By Diane Bukowski
February 3, 2016
DETROIT—Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans sentenced former Detroit, Inkster, and Highland Park cop William Melendez to 13 months to 1o years in state prison Feb. 2 for his near fatal-beating of Floyd Dent in Jan. 2015.
“Robocop’s” police dashcam video of the grisly incident had captured worldwide attention.
A majority-Black jury convicted Melendez of “assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder” and “misconduct in office” Nov. 19, before his remand to Wayne County Jail. Judge Evans said a jail time credit of 90 days was to be applied to the second count only.
Melendez had faced a total maximum sentence of 15 years on both counts.
“The victim involved was a 58-year-old Black man driving a Cadillac in Inkster Jan. 28 before his life was changed forever,” Evans said prior to delivering the sentence.
“He was stopped for minor traffic offenses, had his hands extended out of his window, then was grabbed out of the car, thrown on the ground, struck 16 times in the head, kicked and tased by a group of angry and anxious police officers that celebrated afterwards by fist-bumping as shown on the video.”
Below is the dashcam video from “Robocop’s” own car that garnered world-wide attention and outrage.
Judge Evans said she was most struck by a police station video showing a bloodied Dent in an Inkster cell, shaking his head in disbelief at what had occurred.
“He must have been asking himself, ‘What crime did I commit: being a Black man in a Cadillac stopped by a group of racist police?’” she surmised.
Judge Evans notably said that Dent had BOTH hands out of the car before he was dragged to the ground by Melendez’ partner, an issue that was hotly contested by Melendez and his attorney James Thomas during the trial. They claimed Dent was reaching his right hand to the other side of the car.
However, a still frame from the video of his beating clearly shows Dent with both hands out after he opened his car door. Note the photo below, which shows his left hand reflected as a white shape in the glare of the police headlights, while his right hand is on the handle of the car door.
The police station video, which included a section showing Melendez and other cops wiping Dent’s blood off their uniforms as they laughed and mocked Dent, was released only due to the dogged persistence of WDIV (Detroit Channel 4) reporter Kevin Dietz.
Judge Evans also cited racist texts from and to Melendez’ volunteer auxiliary cop partner John Zielenewski, including one that said, “At least give me the satisfaction of knowing you are out there beating up n*****s right now,” one text to Zieleniewski read.
“LOL,” Zieleniewski said in his response. “Just got done with one.” Zieleniewski was the cop who dragged Dent out of his car.
“The way you denigrated that man was awful, making fun of him while you wiped his blood off your uniform,” Judge Evans told Melendez directly. “Today is payback for resorting to a cowardly act of brutality. There’s a saying, ‘It ain’t no fun when the rabbit’s got the gun.’ I can only punish your conduct, but it’s up to God to change your character.”
Judge Evans was constricted by sentencing guidelines of 29-57 months that included no previous convictions. Melendez has never been charged for two killings, beatings, frame-ups and death threats alleged in numerous lawsuits during his 25 year tenure on the Detroit and Inkster police forces.
He was charged federally in 2003 for being the ringleader of an LA “Ramparts” style squadron of Detroit Third and Fourth Precinct cops which brutalized poor people for years, but a jury acquitted him and the others despite the testimony of 17 Black Detroit officers against the defendants.
“He got off light, I was hoping at least three to four years,” Dent said after the sentencing. Most present seemed to deem it likely the state parole board would release Melendez after his minimum sentence, a situation that rarely occurs in the cases of more than 50,000 others in Michigan’s prison system.
“Going to prison is different than jail,” Dent added. “But I feel that no man should be away from his family. I have already forgiven him and have no hatred towards him. Physically and emotionally, I’m doing pretty good considering I can barely move my left arm, and the beating messed up my speech a little bit. But I would be willing to give up the settlement with Inkster if I could go back to my life as it was before Jan. 28.”
Dent’s attorney Gregory Rohl negotiated a settlement of nearly $1.4 million with the City of Inkster after thousands of people marched repeatedly on the Inkster and Highland Park police stations in Dent’s support.
Rohl said, “This sends a message to other police officers, that they face prison time in the future [for such offenses]. For once, a Black man has finally seen this happen.”
Earlier, Dent’s niece Dynisha Smith, wearing a T- shirt declaring, “Stop Police Brutality,” read his “Victim Impact Statement,” which he dictated to her.
“I would first like to thank the court for the kindness and respect shown toward me when I testified . . . I am here as a free man at least,” she read in part. “I am not the one going to court. . . But I will never be the same after Jan. 28. The beating has left me mentally and physically crippled for the rest of my life. I am grateful to all who supported me against the actions of ‘Robocop.’ I may be able someday to forgive what he did to me as a man, but no one should ever forgive what he did as a police officer.”
Dent was originally charged with possession of cocaine and other offenses later dismissed by the Wayne County Prosecutor.
“Justice was served somewhat,” reacted Cornell Squires, who said his son was framed up by Melendez in 1999.
“Now he has a criminal record, now he will get to feel what it is like to be on the other side,” Squires said. “But he’s still getting preferential treatment—this is the second time they didn’t put handcuffs on him when they led him off. How many people has he put in jail, maimed and destroyed their lives, like he framed my son and gave him a record? He should have been locked up a long time ago. They need to revisit every case he had a part of; everyone should be exonerated. I’m glad that he got some time, thank God for a Judge like Vonda Evans that had the guts to have him incarcerated. She’s doing what most judges should do and don’t do.”
Squires is a member of the Original Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality.
“This is just business as usual,” Omar Gaiter, a Detroiter who was in court, told VOD. “It is superhard for a Black man out here, with cops who get paid to beat my a–. You get more time for beating a dog, like Michael Vick did, than [Melendez] got. The police don’t deter crime, the justice system does. They are nothing but a team of paramilitary bullies running around. There are thousands of innocent people in prison. I am afraid for my children in this system.”
The courtroom was packed with Melendez’s family including his wife Terry Melendez, and dozens of white cops, several of whom spent time glaring threateningly at Dent. Although not in uniform, some carried their police sidearms displayed prominently on their hips.
Also present was his former attorney David Lee, who defended him in the 2004 federal trial. Lee was at his side throughout most of this trial.
Melendez himself spoke, citing his military record as an MP, his long service as a cop, his founding of organizations including one for fallen police officers, and the dangers a cop faces working in [majority Black and poor] cities like Detroit, Highland Park and Inkster.
Addressing Dent and his family, he said, “I am truly sorry that this has caused undue hardships in your life and hope it has not caused animosity toward law enforcement. That was not my intent. Please have faith in law enforcement—many would risk their lives for you.”
He also read a poem called “The Final Inspection,” which he said he uses at funerals for “fallen” cops.
“Those of us that carry badges can’t always be a saint,” said one verse. “We work most Sundays and at times talk tough because the streets can be awful rough.”
Melendez’ current attorney, James C. Thomas, said he planned to appeal the sentencing, but did not say on what grounds.
Thomas claimed during the hearing that Dent was not seriously injured according to medical records from Garden City Hospital, where he spent three days after the beating, and from two brief visits to Henry Ford Hospital locations. He also asked Judge Evans for permission to access Dent’s records of psychiatric treatment prior to the beating, a request she denied.
He continued to insist in court that Dent was a drug user and had cocaine on him when he was stopped, despite extensive testimony by a Michigan State Police (MSP) expert at trial that secondary tests did not confirm the presence of cocaine.
Michigan Department of Corrections Probation Officer Eilea Murray, who did the pre-sentencing report on Melendez, took the stand at Judge Evans’ request. In her report, she said, she cited testimony by a Michigan State Police Investigator that although Melendez claimed he found drugs after an extensive search of Dent’s car, no other officer confirmed that allegation.
She recommended that Melendez be incarcerated. Judge Evans spent extensive time peppering her with apparently brutal questions about issues such as her non-inclusion of actual copies of citations given to Melendez by police departments, and medical records from Garden City and Henry Ford Hospitals. Judge Evans said Murray appeared to rely on reports provided by doctors paid by Dent’s attorney, but Judge Evans did not question their expertise.
Murray said she had to prepare the report in a short time frame before Melendez’ original sentencing date of Dec. 4 and did not have those records. But she maintained that even if she did, her recommendation would not have changed.
Despite lengthy suggestions for correction of the sentencing report from Thomas, Judge Evans said it would do no good to have Murray re-do the report since she had already said she would not change its final result.
Video below, courtesy of Jet Magazine, contains full text of Judge Evans’ statement before she sentenced Melendez.
Earlier stories from the Michigan Citizen and Free Press