Police and Law Enforcement

Michigan officer gets 13 months in prison for assault caught on video

Officer William Melendez.

Officer William Melendez.  (Michigan State Police via AP)

A Detroit-area police officer whose bloody beating of a motorist was captured on dashcam video was sentenced Tuesday to at least 13 months in prison, a punishment that was significantly below the guidelines.

Wayne County Judge Vonda Evans criticized the "Dirty Harry tactics" of William Melendez, but she was also influenced by his long career in law enforcement.

Melendez was an Inkster police officer a year ago when he stopped Floyd Dent, who was pulled from his car after rolling through a stop sign and punched in the head 16 times. Dent, 58, suffered broken ribs, blood on his brain and other injuries.

Melendez declined to testify at trial. He was fired after WDIV-TV broadcast the video last March -- the first public airing of the incident. Inkster quickly agreed to pay $1.4 million to Dent.

"To Mr. Dent and his family, I am truly sorry that this has caused undue hardships," Melendez, 47, said as Dent watched from the first row in court.

In a statement read by a family member, Dent told the judge that Melendez served as "the judge, the jury and executioner" that night in Inkster.

"His actions as `Robocop' were unjustified, reprehensible and made good police officers the subject of public contempt and ridicule. ... You were going to pull me over regardless of how I was driving," Dent said. "Why? Because I was a black man in a Cadillac."

The sentencing guidelines called for a minimum sentence of 29 months to 57 months in prison, but the judge had the authority to go lower or higher. The maximum punishment is 10 years in prison. It's up to the parole board to decide whether to release Melendez once he serves 13 months.

He'll get credit for 85 days served in jail since his conviction in November.