A New York City police officer accused of standing lookout while his partner raped a drunken woman gave his first public account of the incident Friday, telling a jury that they repeatedly visited the alleged victim's apartment that night because they were concerned about her health, not because they planned to attack her.
"We weren't doing anything wrong," Officer Franklin Mata said of the encounter with the woman in 2008.
Mata and partner Kenneth Moreno are on trial in Manhattan on charges that they carried out a perverse assault on the semi-conscious woman hours after escorting her home when she was unable to get out of a taxi, due to excessive intoxication. Earlier in the trial, the woman testified that she passed out and awoke to find one of the officers removing her clothing.
In his testimony on Friday, Mata said he wasn't involved in any assault on the woman, but he acknowledged some unusual conduct on the night of the incident.
He said that after seeing the woman home, Moreno took her keys, intending to come back later during the night. Mata said his partner had immediately struck up a friendly relationship with the woman, and that taking the keys was her idea.
"She basically asked that we come back and check up on her through the night," he testified. "She told us we could take the keys. Ken took the keys."
He also claimed that the woman, while drunk, was alert and able to make conversation.
"Ken was telling her about his past drinking problem and about how he had a drinking problem at one point and he was fighting for custody of his daughter and he had to make a decision to stop drinking," he said. "Their conversation seemed very friendly, even a little flirty at times."
The officers would ultimately return to the apartment three times during the night, all while they were on duty.
Prosecutors claim that Moreno set the stage for one of those visits by making a bogus 911 call to the police department, where he pretended to be a citizen complaining about a vagrant in a neighboring building.
Mata said he had no knowledge of the call at the time, but later recognized his partner's voice when he heard a recording.
Assistant District Attorney Coleen Balbert asked why the officers had repeatedly returned to the woman's home, if, as they claimed, she was sober enough to take care of herself.
"Ken was more concerned about her emotional state than he was about her physical state," Mata said.
Mata said that during one of the visits, he fell asleep watching television. He said he woke up when his partner tapped him on the shoulder and told him it was time to go.