DADE CITY — At first, William Melendez planned to represent himself. He stood accused of attacking several deputies during a stint in the county jail. The 53-year-old Hudson laborer told jurors Wednesday that the allegations were totally made up.
Then he thought better of his game plan.
After jurors were dismissed for lunch, Melendez accepted a plea deal with a court-appointed attorney by his side. Circuit Judge Susan Gardner sentenced him to five years, considerably less than the 75 years he could have received if convicted on all counts.
"We feel it's in his best interest to take this plea," said Jorge Angulo, the attorney appointed to the case.
Melendez's troubles began in June 2009, when he was arrested for sexually assaulting a woman. While in the patrol car, he spit into the deputy's ear. That got him four years in a separate trial, on top of 13 years for the sexual assault.
Then, about six months later, authorities said, Melendez grabbed Deputy Jonathan Krisher through the food slot in his cell and refused to let go. When the deputy tried to subdue him with pepper spay, Melendez grabbed it.
Krisher called for backup, and deputies armed with Tasers rushed in. Melendez 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.
Melendez pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer and one count of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, as well as depriving officers of a means of protection and terminating the extinguishment of a fire. The five-year sentence will be added to the time he is already serving in state prison.