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Trial beginning for white Detroit cop accused in beating black motorist

DETROIT —The trial of a white former suburban Detroit police officer accused in the videotaped beating of black motorist Floyd Dent in January is scheduled to begin this week.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Monday, and Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans said opening statements in the case could begin on Wednesday in a case that made national headlines after Inkster police officer William Melendez was caught on a police dashboard-camera punching Dent in the head during a traffic stop.

The case was one of a number of incidents across the United States that have fueled a national debate on race and policing. The trial is expected to last about two weeks.

Melendez, 47, has pleaded not guilty to charges of misconduct in office, assault with intent to do great bodily harm and strangulation and faces up to 10 years in prison in convicted. He was fired in April from the Detroit suburb’s police force.

Dent, 58, who has said he suffered memory loss and other damage from the beating, earlier this year reached a $1.4 million settlement in a civil lawsuit against the city of Inkster, which has a majority black population but a majority white police force.

In the video, Melendez can be seen approaching Dent’s car with his gun drawn before the door opens and his partner pulls Dent out. Melendez then wraps an arm around Dent’s neck and punches him on the head while his partner handcuffs him.

In 2003, Melendez was among several then-Detroit police officers accused of, but later acquitted, of misconduct in federal indictments. He was also named as a defendant in several federal civil lawsuits dating back to 1996.

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