Reporting Carol D'Auria
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – After seven weeks of testimony and seven days of deliberations, jurors on Thursday acquitted two New York City cops who were accused of raping a woman in December 2008.
Officers Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata were found not guilty of the most serious charges in the incident involving a then-27-year-old drunk fashion executive in her East Village apartment.
The two were also acquitted of other charges, including burglary and falsifying business records. Both, however, were convicted of official misconduct.
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The two look stunned, but remained stolid after hearing the verdict.
“I thought about my children,” Moreno said about hearing the not guilty verdict at a news conference outside the courthouse. “I didn’t even say goodbye to them this morning, this verdict came to us as a surprise. I thought about my wife and all the people that supported me throughout this.”
“This has been a long two and a half years,” said Mata. “I’ve been innocent from day one. I’m glad everybody sees that now. I just want to go home and, like I said, get on with my life.”
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“In one second, your heart could be in the right place; another second, someone could misconstrue it and you could end up pretty close to where I was,” Officer Moreno said. “It’s too easy to point a finger at somebody and say, ‘hey, they did this.’”
The prosecution’s case rested largely on the witnesses’ testimony. There was no DNA linking the officers to the woman.
“It is a win,” Moreno said. “It’s a lesson and a win.”
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, however, said the officers were not off the hook.
The officers were each convicted of three official misconduct charges, all misdemeanors, for going back to the woman’s apartment three times after the initial call without telling dispatchers or superiors where they were.
“The guilty verdict that was reached today involved the violation of the officers’ oath of office, and as a result warrant immediate termination from the Police Department,” Commissioner Kelly said.
“We respect the jury’s verdict, which acknowledges that the defendants’ actions that night not only violated the law, they violated the victim’s rights,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement.
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During the trial, Moreno testified he went back to the woman’s apartment to check on her. But prosecutors said it wasn’t to check on her.
“Moreno wanted to have sex with her,” prosecutor Colleen Balbert told the jury during closing arguments.
Surveillance video showed they returned to her East Village apartment a total of four times.
The accuser testified she remembers throwing up and passing out that night, and was awakened to a cop having sex with her on her bed before passing out again.
Moreno said Thursday that the accuser made up the whole story.
“I made a judgment call. I believed in something that night and I paid for it,” he said. “I went there in all sincerity to help somebody. From the purest of my heart, my intentions were from the beginning just to help her.”
“He said he has regrets, but he didn’t do any crime, and he certainly did not have sex with the woman who said she was raped,” Moreno’s attorney, Joseph Tacopina, said.
Moreno testified during the trial that the accuser was flirtatious and tried to lure him onto her bed, while Mata said he dozed off on the couch in another room.
“I couldn’t believe that two officers who had been called to help me had, instead, raped me,” testified the woman, who is suing the city for $57 million over the incident.
Moreno and Mata still face up to a year in jail on each official misconduct charge. Sentencing is scheduled for next month.
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