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Behavior after arrest, including spitting on Pasco deputy, adds years to man's sentence

NEW PORT RICHEY — Even before Tuesday, William Melendez wasn't going to walk free anytime soon.

He went to trial last year charged with sexually molesting a woman while he held her down and she begged him to stop. Guilty of sexual battery, a jury decided. Prison for 13 years, a judge said.

But the justice Melendez realized in that case pales in comparison to what he may yet face.

He hadn't even arrived at jail before he brought more trouble on himself. According to prosecutors, that day in June 2009 Melendez, 51, was thrashing and cursing about being arrested. He insisted it was all a mistake. He asked the deputy to let him go.

But sheriff's Deputy Eric Biddle didn't let him go, and Melendez cursed and thrashed some more. Then he leaned his face into the cage partition in the patrol car and spat at Biddle, who caught the wet mess in his right ear.

Charge: battery on a law enforcement officer.

In December 2009, after six months of being cooped up in a jail cell, Melendez acted out again, according to the Sheriff's Office.

"Get ready for hell today," he told a jail deputy who came to do a routine search of his cell.

Deputy Jonathan Krisher ordered Melendez to stick his arms through an opening in the cell door used to slide in food trays so Krisher could remove his handcuffs.

But Melendez grabbed Krisher's arms and held on, the Sheriff's Office said. Krisher sprayed his pepper spray, but Melendez managed to grab it.

Krisher called for backup, and deputies armed with Tasers rushed in and tried to subdue Melendez, who used his mattress as a shield and broke the fire sprinkler, sending water pouring into the cell.

A Spanish-speaking deputy finally calmed Melendez.

Krisher suffered cuts and bruises on his arms and a broken finger.

Charges: battery on a law enforcement officer, times five.

Aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, times four.

Depriving an officer of protection, preventing the extinguishing of a fire and aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer.

Altogether, the post-arrest charges add up to a potential sentence of 75 years in prison, prosecutors say.

This week, Melendez, who had been a laborer in Hudson, went to trial on just one of them — the spitting incident in the patrol car.

The trial was short.

"This defendant spit on Deputy Eric Biddle," prosecutor Joe Lawhorne told jurors Tuesday. "It really is that simple."

Defense attorney Dennis Watson prodded at the question of intent. Wasn't it more likely that Biddle got some spit on him accidentally as Melendez was yelling and cursing?

The jury thought not. Guilty as charged.

And Melendez, who called the trial a farce and a violation of his constitutional rights but otherwise kept his cool, went back to jail with four more years tacked on to his sentence, courtesy of Circuit Judge Michael Andrews.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Behavior after arrest, including spitting on Pasco deputy, adds years to man's sentence 04/19/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 9:24pm]

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