NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It was a dramatic day in the trial of two New York City Police officers accused of raping a woman in her apartment while she was drunk.
In a risky move for the defense, Officer Franklin Mata, accused of covering for his partner, took the witness stand Friday and told a much different story than anyone had heard to that point, reports CBS 2’s Pablo Guzman.
Prosecutors allege officers Kenneth Moreno and Mata helped an inebriated 29-year-old fashion industry executive out of a cab in December 2008 before Moreno allegedly raped her inside her East Village apartment, while Mata served as a lookout.
1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reports: Officer Mata Takes The Stand
Mata said he never saw the accuser unconscious, unable to walk or speak but stated that she was visibly intoxicated when the officers first responded to a call from a cab driver that drove the woman home from her own going away party.
Mata said the accuser asked that the officers return to check on her and also gave them permission to take the keys to her apartment.
WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell: Officer Mata Says The Alleged Victim Was Never Unconscious
Mata aimed to distance himself from his partner and co-defendant, saying he sat in the living and got the woman a glass of water from the kitchen as Moreno attended to the accuser in the bathroom.
During one of their visits to the East Village apartment, Mata said he turned the television on and at another time had fallen asleep. He described the woman’s conversations with Moreno as “friendly and sometimes flirty.”
During cross-examination, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Coleen Balbert questioned why the officers had repeatedly returned to the woman’s apartment. Surveillance video shows both officers re-entering the woman’s apartment, using her key, four times that night.
Balbert: “You encounter a lot of drunk people on the midnight tour, right?”
Officer Mata: “Yes.”
Balbert: “You always go back a second and third time to check on their condition?”
Balbert: “But you did that night. Are you with Social Services?”
That prompted a fierce objection from Mata’s lawyer, Ed Mandery.
Balbert: “You’re supposed to be patrolling your sector, not making house calls, right?”
Another objection followed.
Referring to Officer Mata’s claim that he was not aware of a rape because he fell asleep while his partner was with the woman, Balbert asked, in a biting tone, “And yet you don’t believe everything that happened in that apartment, right?”
To which Mata replied: “Nothing happened. And I never thought I’d be sitting here.”
At the end of the day Mandery was reluctant to answer questions, but CBS 2’s Guzman did get him to say why he put Mata on the stand.
“So he could explain what happened,” Mandery said.
Defense lawyer Max DiFabio explained to Guzman the dangers of calling a defendant to the stand.
“It’s a great risk and, as I said earlier, it’s a gut-wrenching decision. It’s not a decision that is taken lightly,” DiFabio said.
Last month, the accuser took the stand and described a day and night of drinking with friends to celebrate her new job in California.
Testifying she blacked out numerous times, the victim said she did recall two police officers helping her out of a cab and leading her up to her apartment.
Of her few memories, the woman said she remembers being shaken out of her stupor by someone rolling her tights down her legs. She said she heard clothes rustling and Velcro ripping before passing out one more time.
The accuser said when she awoke the following day, dressed in nothing but her bra, she “felt the shock of rape.”
Earlier in the trial, the jury heard 911 tapes after prosecutors said Moreno and Mata called police pretending to be citizens and reported phony situations that required police attention in order to keep themselves in the vicinity of the East 13th Street building where the alleged rape occurred.
There is no DNA in this case.
Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.