Judge Vonda Evans of Detroit made a compassionate speech about racism and police brutality before sentencing former Michigan police officer William Melendez to prison Tuesday for the beating of an unarmed Black man last year.
The former Inkster police officer was sentenced to 13 months to 10 years in prison for the beat-down that left long-time Ford employee Floyd Dent with multiple injuries. The 58-year-old was pulled over by Melendez and partner John Zieleniewski for an alleged traffic violation in January 2015.
After it was discovered Dent was driving with a suspended license, he was thrown out of his car, placed in a chokehold, and punched in the head 16 times by Melendez, Yahoo Newsreports.
Dash cam footage later showed the officers fist-bumping and congratulating one another. Dent was charged with resisting arrest and drug possession. He claimed a bag of cocaine was planted on him by the officers. The charges were eventually dropped after video of the encounter went public.
The city of Inkster settled with Dent for $1.4 million.
Melendez was convicted of two felonies in November: misconduct in office and assault with intent to do great bodily harm.
Judge Evans’ 30-minute sentencing speech called out the former police officer and deemed the beating “disgusting.”
“I know that Mr. Dent would give back every dime of his million-dollar settlement to go back to where he was in his life before Jan. 28,” Evans said. “I wonder: What would one-half of that $1.4-million settlement awarded to Mr. Dent have done for the Inkster Police Department, training officers that wanted to serve and not hiring officers that didn’t belong?” If we don’t invest in our police officers, we’re going to see more incidents like the one that I’m presiding over today.” Evans said.
“The one image [from this trial] that stood out to the court was looking at Mr. Dent in his cell, shaking his head in disbelief of what had occurred to him,” Evans said in a courtroom video published by local television station WJBK.
“If his conduct was indicative of what he was thinking, I would have thought this: ‘What crime did I commit, being a black man in a Cadillac, stopped for a minor traffic offense by a group of racist police officers looking to do a nigger?’
Melendez apologized to Dent and his family before the sentencing.
“To Mr. Dent and his family, I am truly sorry that this has caused undue hardships in your personal life,” Melendez said. “And if you have any animosity towards law enforcement, that was not my intention.
Melendez attorney James Thomas said his team plans to appeal the sentencing.
Watch Evan’s powerful speech at the 4:06:18 mark below.