When A Rabbit’s Got the Gun: Black Judge Eviscerates Brutal White RoboCop Caught By the Eye of Justice
White cops are still killing black men - or, today in Austin, a naked 17-year-old boy - but perhaps some justice is coming. In November, William Melendez, a former officer in Detroit suburb Inkster who's earned the moniker RoboCop and been sued 12 times for brutality, corruption and planting evidence, was found guilty by a black-majority jury of what prosecutors termed a "brutally excessive" assault on Floyd Dent last year after he stopped Dent for an alleged rolling stop. Dent, now 58, is a longtime Ford Co. employee who was unarmed and has no criminal record. Dashcam video caught Melendez, backed up by several officers, as he dragged Dent from his car, placed him in a chokehold on the ground and punched him 16 times in the head before arresting him; according to testimony, Melendez then planted cocaine in Dent's car, returned to the station, declined to offer medical aid to the battered Dent, and stood cracking racist jokes and exchanging celebratory fist-bumps with his buddies as they cleaned Dent's blood off their uniforms. Other testimony featured racist text messages between Melendez and his partner after the assault praising each other for being "out there beating on niggers LOL."
The jury of eight women and four men, seven of them African-American, found Melendez guilty of two counts of assault with intent to do great bodily harm; he was found not guilty of strangulation. At last week's sentencing hearing, Melendez, 47, spoke for the first time in court. He read a poem seeking to excuse brutality by police in the name of their noble mission, and told Dent, who has suffered permanent brain injuries, he was "truly sorry this has caused undue hardships in your personal life."
But badass Wayne Circuit Judge Vonda Evans seemed unimpressed. In a fiery, righteous, thoughtful, 20-minute takedown of Melendez “cowardly acts of barbaric behaviour” and the blue wall of silence that so often allows it, Evans charged that Melendez and his cohorts were "playing a game, and today you pay for it." She acknowledged the hardships of police work and its low wages, and ultimately went below the sentencing guideline of 29 months to give Melendez 13 months to 10 years in prison - after which she ordered Melendez' wife back in the courtroom when she stormed out. But Evans spent most of her time railing against what she called, her face twisted in disgust, "a group of racist officers looking to do a nigger" who chose Dent because he was "a black man in a Cadillac." "In 2015!" she declared, throwing up her hands in disbelief.
Above all, Evans credited the dashcam video for bringing all-too-common abuses to light. “The way you denigrated that man..." said an appalled Evans. "You thought no one would care about a lone black man. Boy were you wrong. You were so into your bravado that you forget the eye of justice was watching and recording it.” She added, “There’s an old sayin’ - It ain’t no fun when a rabbit’s got the gun. It’s equally applicable when he has the video." Below, short and full version of her statement. Highlight: The moment she snaps, "Please be quiet in my courtroom" before furiously ripping off the next page.
Floyd Dent in court, after being beaten for being "a black man in a Cadillac."