On Tuesday, in Michigan’s Wayne County, Judge Vonda Evans sentenced an abusive former police officer to 13 months to 10 years in prison after he was caught on tape beating an unarmed black man last year. Evans spoke for a full half hour, a few minutes of which you can watch above: in the footage she wonders aloud, “In 2015…how could this happen?”
Judge Evans spoke with the flair, fairness, fury and disgusted exhaustion that this case deserves.
“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?’”
In January 2015, William Melendez, a former police officer in Inkster, Michigan, pulled over 58-year-old Floyd Dent for a minor traffic violation, according to MIC. Instead of ticketing the auto worker for driving with a suspended license, police car dash camera footage show Melendez and his partner John Zieleniewski dragging Dent from his Cadillac and onto the ground where they wrapped their arms around his neck and punched him in the head 16 times. Then more Inkster cops arrived at the scene to watch without stopping Melendez or Zieleniewski.
Dent was eventually arrested for resisting arrest and drug possession, thanks to a bag of cocaine he says cops planted on him. Then Dent was put in a cell, where he heard officers joke about beating him while cleaning his blood from their uniforms. Last May, Dent sued the city of Inkster; all of the charges against him were dropped and he was awarded a settlement of $1.4 million.
Each part of Dent’s encounter made it into Judge Evans’ 30-minute speech. In her final statements, she talked about the struggles officers face in their profession, including “high divorce, alcoholism and suicide rates, low pay and the persistent scrutiny of a public that often looks on them with hostility.” She decried America’s crappy police training programs that led to officers like Melendez being hired, and talks about how the $1.4 million awarded to Dent could’ve been better spent properly preparing officers to serve and protect.
“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.
She also referenced racist texts traded by Melendez and Zieleniewski.
In one damning moment from the trial, Melendez and his partner were also revealed to have exchanged racist text messages a few months after attacking Dent. “At least give me the satisfaction of knowing you’re out there beating up niggers right now,” Melendez texted Zieleniewski in March, the Guardian reports.
“[Lol], just got done with one,” Zieleniewski responded.
Rightfully, Evans seems plain tired of cases like these, and she used her court room to point out the arguments many Black Lives Matter protestors have been chanting over the last year—just treat people like people.
You can watch Judge Evans’ full speech below:
FULL COURT VIDEO