Detroit-area ex-officer found guilty in videotaped beating

20 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Detroit-area ‘RoboCop’ found guilty in beating of unarmed black man.

A former Detroit-area police officer who is white was found guilty Thursday of assault and misconduct in the beating of a black driver during a traffic stop that was captured on video.

Wayne County jurors handed down the verdict in the case against the officer, William Melendez, who was charged in the January beating of the driver, Floyd Dent. Police stopped Dent, 58, in the Detroit suburb of Inkster for disregarding a stop sign, and dashcam video from a police vehicle shows Melendez punching him 16 times in the head.

The trial caps a law enforcement career for Melendez that included a litany of accusations in lawsuits and a federal indictment of planting evidence, wrongfully killing civilians, falsifying police reports and conducting illegal arrest. At one point, he received more citizen complaints than any officer in Detroit, where he started his career in 1993 and served until his resignation in 2009.

The incident didn’t garner significant attention until video depicting the beating during a routine traffic stop was obtained and released in March by a local TV news station – a catalyst for the criminal investigation of Melendez, who’s known by his nickname “RoboCop”. The packed courtroom was largely quiet after the verdict was read, following Evans’ orders to neither “cry out” nor “applaud” out of respect for the jury. “If you feel that this is just too much, leave now, because I have to let them know that they (the jurors) have reached a verdict, they’ve come together and they’ve made a decision.” Evans ordered Melendez to jail pending his Dec. 3 sentencing. Prosecutors and Melendez’s attorney, James Thomas, played the dashcam footage numerous times, and each attempted to use the video to bolster their arguments: To assistant prosecutor Robert Donaldson, it showed Melendez abused the “enormous power” entrusted to law enforcement officials; to Thomas, it showed Dent resisting arrest, therefore justifying the officer’s conduct.

Melendez didn’t testify during the eight-day trial, but his attorney said the officer was justified in the assault because Dent was aggressive and resisting police. The judge scolded her for leaving as her husband was “dealing with a lot”. “Public confidence in law enforcement is eroded ‎when police officers abuse citizens,” said Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy, in a statement following the decision. “The jury’s verdict in this case is important because it shows that police brutality cannot and will not be tolerated.” Outside the courthouse, Thomas said he was disappointed by the verdict and plans to file an appeal. His client was “very reserved – obviously very sad, you could tell that,” he said. “Listen, these things aren’t easy, you put your emotion into a case for a period of almost three months, you’re fighting every day, and, essentially, his fate was in everybody else’s hands,” said Thomas, who also represented convicted former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in his lengthy corruption trial. “But the way that trials progress, and whether or not trials are fair, is always something you have the ability to litigate at a different time. Dent, a Detroit native and veteran Ford employee, continued to drive at roughly the same speed to a well-lit area and pulled his Cadillac over near an old police station.

Dent, who admitted to driving with a suspended license that evening, was initially charged with resisting arrest and possession of cocaine, but the charges were eventually dropped. Some witnesses – including Melendez’s then-boss, former Inkster police chief Vicki Yost – agreed that the repeated punches to Dent’s head weren’t justified. “From the first time you saw this video,” Donaldson told jurors on Wednesday, “you knew this was wrong, and nothing’s changed. Nothing’s changed.” Dent’s attorney, Greg Rohl, said he would have liked to see Melendez convicted on the strangulation charge, but was pleased by the jury’s decision. Given the longstanding financial woes in the city of 25,000, Inkster’s treasurer has said a one-time tax hike on homeowners would be levied to raise funds for the settlement, a nearly $200 increase on property tax bills for residents.

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