DETROIT (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.
Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Browns are about to throw Johnny Football away.
The team issued a strong statement Tuesday, condemning quarterback Johnny Manziel’s actions and pointing to his release in March, a move that has seemed inevitable for months.
The conduct by the 23-year-old player — rampant partying, two domestic incidents and a general lack of commitment — have been a major problem almost from the day Cleveland drafted the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner in the first round two years ago.
Last weekend, Manziel was involved in a disturbance with his ex-girlfriend in Dallas that is being investigated by police and the NFL.
“We’ve been clear about expectations for our players on and off the field,” said Sashi Brown, the team’s vice president of football operations. “Johnny’s continual involvement in incidents that run counter to those expectations undermines the hard work of his teammates and the reputation of our organization. His status with our team will be addressed when permitted by league rules.”
The Browns, who drafted Manziel with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2014 draft, can release him as early as Monday, the day after the Super Bowl. But salary-cap implications point to the move happening March 9, when the league’s new year begins.
The expected end to his run in Cleveland will conclude two turbulent seasons for the electrifying college star known as Johnny Football, whose arrival with the Browns prompted enthusiasm and a belief by some fans that he could bring the Browns back to respectability.
Instead of excitement, however, Manziel mostly delivered disappointment.
He spent most of his rookie season behind Brian Hoyer before getting his first career start late in the season against Cincinnati. Manziel played poorly in a 30-0 loss to the Bengals and the following week he injured his hamstring. Manziel was then fined when he didn’t show for the final walk-through practice before the finale at Baltimore.
Manziel said he regretted not working harder in his first season and vowed to change. That admission was followed by him checking into a drug and alcohol treatment center in Pennsylvania, where he spent 73 days.
Manziel returned for his second season eager to show he had learned his lessons. The Browns raved about his work ethic and it appeared he had turned the corner.
But once again, Manziel couldn’t stay out of trouble.
In October, Manziel was questioned by police in Avon, Ohio, after a witness reported a roadside confrontation. Manziel and then-girlfriend, Coleen Crowley acknowledged drinking alcohol before their argument. Crowley told police Manziel struck her and pushed her head into the car window.
Manziel was not arrested and he was later cleared of wrongdoing by the NFL, which investigated whether he had violated its personal-conduct policy.
Not long after, Manziel was stripped of his starting job by former coach Mike Pettine after the quarterback had promised he would not be a distraction during the team’s bye week. Manziel’s appearances on social media videos also bothered the Browns, who were caught between being supportive of him while also appearing to be letting him off easy.
Manziel got his job back after Josh McCown broke his collarbone, but he was ruled out of the season finale with a concussion. Manziel then failed to report to a scheduled medical treatment on Jan. 3 at the team’s training facility while his teammates played Pittsburgh. The Browns were not certain of Manziel’s location that day as a report surfaced he was in Las Vegas.
On Saturday, police were called an apartment complex where a woman identified as Manziel’s ex-girlfriend said she had been in a disturbance with Manziel, who was not at the scene. The woman said she was concerned about Manziel’s well-being. That prompted police to use a helicopter to find Manziel, who was deemed “safe and in no danger.”
Police in Fort Worth and Dallas are still trying to determine if Manziel assaulted his ex-girlfriend.
Before this latest matter, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said last week he believed the team’s strained relationship with him could still be fixed. But in light of yet another embarrassing episode, it appears the Browns will move on without him.
Manziel has lost to his own team.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP—NFL
WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI has launched a Facebook page in Farsi to solicit tips on the whereabouts of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran nine years ago.
The new site, which went live in the last few weeks, is part of a broader effort to appeal directly to the Iranian public for information about Levinson’s disappearance and comes as the FBI continues its yearslong search for him. Farsi is the predominant language of Iran.
Levinson, now 67, disappeared from Iran’s Kish Island in March 2007. A 2013 Associated Press investigation revealed that he was working for the CIA on an unauthorized intelligence-gathering mission.
The case drew renewed attention last month when Levinson was not part of a prisoner swap between the U.S. and Iranian governments that set free four other Americans who had been held in Iran’s custody, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian.
The FBI says it continues to investigate every lead and remains committed to finding Levinson and bringing him home. A $5 million reward for information leading to his whereabouts remains in effect.
The FBI has long had an English-language social media campaign aimed at encouraging tips and leads. The new Facebook page, as well as a missing-person poster and press release in Farsi that were already in circulation, represent the most concerted effort so far to reach Iranians in their native language.
The page went live in the two weeks since the prisoner swap was announced, but it had been in the works before then, FBI officials said. Additional pages are planned in the Arabic and Urdu languages.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said last month that Levinson may no longer be in Iran, but no evidence has surfaced publicly to support that idea. Though Levinson was last seen on Iran’s Kish Island, the Iranian government has never acknowledged arresting him and has said it doesn’t know where he is.
In late 2010, Levinson’s family received a video that offered proof that he was still alive. In the video, Levinson, who had lost considerable weight, pleaded for help to return home. In April 2011, the family received photos showing Levinson, with unkempt hair, dressed in an orange jumpsuit. His relatives have said that he suffers from diabetes, gout and hypertension.
But Secretary of State John Kerry said after the prisoner deal last month that U.S. officials did not know whether Levinson remained alive.
One of Levinson’s children, Daniel Levinson, said in an interview with the AP last week that the family was “devastated” that Levinson was not part of the prisoner swap and was upset that it had no advance notice that the exchange would take place.
He said it should be “unacceptable not just to us but to the American people to leave someone behind like that,” noting that his father had missed joyful family events like weddings and births of grandchildren.
“We’re not going to go away. We’re not going to give up,” Levinson said. “We’re going to continue pressing.”
Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.
Facebook link for Levinson search: https://www.facebook.com/seekingrobertlevinson
Follow Eric Tucker at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP
In the wacky world of recruiting, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh sleeping over at a prospect’s house somehow makes perfect sense.
Just ask Gerry DiNardo, who used to coach in the Big Ten himself.
“We felt like whatever we could do to distinguish ourselves within the rules, we would do,” DiNardo said. “I was all for the gimmicks. I think they’re effective. I think the only difference now is everybody knows what’s going on because of social media.”
If Twitter had existed 20 years ago, maybe DiNardo could have been the football coach going viral. Instead, it’s Harbaugh who has made waves over the past month for his unorthodox approach to recruiting, and he’s just one example of the intensity and creativity that big-time programs show in the hypercompetitive weeks leading into signing day.
“It’s gotten crazy, of course,” said Donald Chumley, who coaches one of the nation’s top prospects at Savannah Christian Prep in Georgia. “Everybody’s trying to make that last impression.”
Demetris Robertson of Savannah Christian is the No. 8 prospect in the country according to Rivals. With his recruitment coming down to the wire, Notre Dame caused a stir by sending a truck to Georgia in an effort to impress him. Chumley said he saw the massive vehicle — practically a billboard on wheels for Notre Dame football — at school.
Chumley says all this attention can be a positive if players keep it in perspective. For recruits who are under a lot of pressure, it’s nice to be able to have fun with the process.
Harbaugh, who has rarely shied away from the spotlight since taking over as Michigan’s coach about 13 months ago, recently spent the night at the house of Quinn Nordin, a top kicking prospect from Rockford H.S. in Michigan.
Nordin told MLive.com that Harbaugh arrived just after midnight.
“He slept in the guest room at our house,” Nordin said. “I was in my pajamas laughing when he showed up at the door. I couldn’t believe it. There were fans in the street.”
Harbaugh may offer more details about that tactic at signing day Wednesday, especially if Nordin ends up at Michigan, but until the letters of intent are signed, college coaches aren’t allowed to say much about players they’re recruiting. Still, information about who is recruiting whom — and how — isn’t hard to find, especially now that players can post pictures and videos on social media.
So there’s value in these types of stunts. A coach can’t come out and announce who he’s recruiting, but if he acts in a way that will draw attention on Twitter, suddenly there’s additional buzz for his program.
“More coaches are doing things they know can and will go viral because it’s great advertisement,” said Mike Bellotti, the former Oregon coach who is now an ESPN analyst. “The other thing is that at one point, coaches could rely on their football accomplishments and the strength of their program and all of those things. Now there’s a little bit of a kickback to be more personable, to be more ‘with it’ — to relate to the athlete better.”
DiNardo coached at Vanderbilt, LSU and Indiana and is now an analyst for the Big Ten Network. He recalled the time he was recruiting a linebacker named Carlton Hall to Vandy, and he couldn’t go into Hall’s house because of NCAA rules.
So he stayed by the curb and visited from there.
“I had burned my home visit early in recruiting,” DiNardo said. “So I got a speaker phone, and I had the assistant coach go into the house, reorganize the furniture and put the kitchen table by the kitchen window. I parked on the sidewalk. I had my cellphone, and the assistant coach was in the house because he was allowed to be there more than once. So I conducted my second home visit from the curb.”
The idea is to show players how important they are to your school. Handwritten notes are another tactic, and DiNardo had a system.
“I would put 10 names on the greaseboard in the morning before the staff room,” he said. “Every coach had to write a handwritten note to those 10 people before they left the staff room. So we basically had about 100 handwritten notes. … So a prospect could very well get 10-15 notes from us in one day, handwritten notes.”
DiNardo did have to amend that strategy in one respect.
“I had one coach who couldn’t spell,” DiNardo said. “I had to stop him from writing handwritten notes.”
The No. 1 recruit in the country right now, according to several rankings, is Rashan Gary, a defensive lineman from New Jersey. Needless to say, he’s had a lot to think about lately.
“It’s getting crazy,” he said recently. “A lot of college coaches are trying to get back into the fight. It’s just me and my mom, me and my family handling it. It’s getting crazy but I’m enjoying it.”
Clemson recently gave Gary’s mother a cake. Every little gesture can help.
“It’s a competition,” Bellotti said. “People forget coaches are competitive at everything. You never want to lose. You don’t want to lose a recruit, you don’t want to lose a battle.”
AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee and College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — It may sound like a flight of fancy, but Dutch police are considering using birds of prey to swoop down and pluck rogue drones out of the sky.
Police are working with a Hague-based company that trains eagles and other birds to catch drones to investigate whether the birds can be used above large events or near airports, where the small flying machines are banned.
Dennis Janus of the national police said Tuesday that trainers exploit the birds’ natural instincts to tackle the high-tech problem of drones flying in restricted areas.
Janus says the birds are trained “to think drones are their prey” and get a reward if they catch one.
Video released by police showed a small white drone with four propellers rising into the air and a bird of prey grabbing it from above with its talons in one fluid motion.
Dutch police will likely make a decision later this year whether to use the birds.
Janus said part of the evaluation includes research by a respected Dutch scientific organization into whether catching drones could harm the birds of prey.
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The latest on the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos meeting reporters at media day, now known as Super Bowl Opening Night (all times local):
Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis returned to practice on Monday with no limitations.
Davis broke his arm in the NFC championship game but says he expects to play in the Super Bowl.
Davis says “it feels great” and he’s glad to be back on the field with his teammates.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is parrying plenty of goofy questions with some one-liners of his own.
One person asked if he would dress like a guy near his podium who was in a ski outfit, complete with skis.
“Would I dress like that?” Newton replied. “If I was going skiing.”
Newton responded to another question by saying: “You want me to kiss your wife?”
Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis waved his broken right arm to crowd. Luke Kuechly got his usual “Luke.” Cornerback Josh Norman danced to intro music in line while others were introduced. And quarterback Cam Newton flashed a victory sign.
The Panthers were very relaxed and loose Monday night as they began to speak with reporters on Monday night in San Jose.
Carolina’s players held their session after the Broncos finished with the journalists and others in the crowd for the prime-time event.
— Barry Wilner
Miss Universe, also known as Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach of the Phillipines, is busy working for Inside Edition at Super Bowl 50. And Steve Harvey’s mix-up of the winner happened too long ago for her to worry now.
Of course, the mistake only delayed her being crowned as the winner.
“Oh, I’m not thinking about that anymore,” Miss Universe said. “It’s been over a month already, so we’re here for the Super Bowl, and that’s what we want to focus on right now.”
She was busy interviewing the Denver Broncos in the first team session of media day, but she had plenty of Broncos lining up waiting to not only answer her questions but make sure and get a photo with the reigning Miss Universe. For her part, Wurtzbach says being at media day has been great.
“Everybody’s been so game to answer questions,” she said. “It’s my first time, and I’m really having a lot of fun.”
Wurtzbach told another reporter she now knows this is the biggest game in America. She says she can’t believe she hadn’t been here before.
— Teresa M. Walker
Peyton Manning can take his time to make a decision about retirement, while the Broncos will also try to lock up their quarterback of the near future.
“It’s one that’s going to change his life,” general manager and vice president John Elway said Monday night. “Whether it be this year, next year or the year after.”
Elway said that no matter Manning decides, the team doesn’t want to lose backup Brock Osweiler to free agency.
“We’re hoping to get something done with Brock this offseason,” Elway said. “… We needed both quarterbacks. We wouldn’t be here without both of them.”
— Janie McCauley
Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was reminiscing about his last media day at the Super Bowl. He says this one was “much cooler.”
Now a star for Denver, Sanders was a rookie at the game five years ago with Pittsburgh. That meant he was in the midst of the scrum of cameras and microphones and notepads rather than sitting at a podium.
Now, as a key member of the Broncos, he landed one of the 11 booths on Monday night.
No standing among the masses to answer questions this time.
“I wanted a booth back in (2011), and I said, ‘How do I get up there? What do you need to do to get a booth?'” he said. “Guess I was just a rookie and my time hadn’t come. But if I ever got back, I needed to get up there.”
At that Super Bowl in Dallas, which Pittsburgh lost to Green Bay, Sanders and Antonio Brown had not emerged as stars. They got their moment in the spotlight, they felt, during an interview with Deion Sanders.
“I still go back and watch that video and see how far we have come,” Sanders said. “It’s surreal.”
He knows how he wants this Super Bowl to end: Sanders playing the role of Santonio Holmes and making the winning catch in the final minute.
“We were just watching that catch,” he said, “and I said one of us has got to make a catch like that. Hopefully it’s me.”
— Barry Wilner
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was quite succinct when asked whether he would retire following the Super Bowl.
Manning said Monday night: “I haven’t made my mind up and I don’t see myself knowing that until after the season’s over.”
— Eddie Pells
Introductions at what’s now billed as “Super Bowl Opening Night” are almost as involved as what goes down before an actual game.
Broncos players were introduced Monday night over 6 minutes, with a montage introduction on a large screen behind them. Players stepped from behind a curtain onto a platform made to look like the Golden Gate Bridge.
Several players are taking cellphone video and selfies.
They were introduced to moderate cheers until quarterback Peyton Manning came out. He got a huge ovation as he drank from a cup and held a towel.
— Barry Wilner
Getting into the NFL’s media day is no easy task.
Reporters lined up and had their equipment checked by bomb-sniffing dogs as a band played drums outside on Monday night. Inside, a band played on a stage as fans settled into their seats and reporters got into position.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, possibly playing the final game of his illustrious career, was a popular target as a crowd built an hour before the event started Monday at the SAP Center in San Jose.
The event has attracted Miss Universe — yes, the winner Steve Harvey called a runner-up at first — posing for photos and answering questions.
An Austrian TV reporter is the early leader for the most unique outfit. Phillip Hanszjan is dressed as a skier from helmet to suit to skis.
The Super Bowl circus known as Media Day is hitting prime time.
Now known as “Super Bowl Opening Night,” the free-for-all with the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos will last one hour with each team on Monday night.
Players and the head coach from each team will face hundreds of international journalists at SAP Center, along with the usual contingent of oddballs looking for a quick moment of fame.
The NFL moved the supersized press conference to Monday night from its usual Tuesday daytime slot to give more fans a chance to watch live on cable. The NFL Network and ESPN2 are expected to air live coverage.
The other big TV news event Monday night: the Iowa caucuses, where Democrats and Republicans running for presidents face voters for the first time after more than a year of campaigning.
AP NFL website: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP—NFL