A police officer charged with rape told jurors Tuesday he was just trying to appease his accuser when he seemingly admitted having sex with her.
During a secretly recorded conversation days after he'd been called to help the woman get home, Officer Kenneth Moreno repeatedly denied having sex with her. But as she demanded to know whether he'd used a condom and suggested she might otherwise make a fuss inside his stationhouse, he began to focus on "telling her what she wanted to hear," he testified Tuesday.
"I was considering just telling her anything, whatever she wanted to hear, just to make her happy," he said.
"She said she was freaking out, and I started feeling bad" for her as she said she was concerned about the possibility of pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease, Moreno added. "I didn't want her to worry about anything."
Moreno and his partner, Officer Franklin Mata, both are on trial on rape and other charges in the December 2008 incident. Mata is accused of acting as a lookout. Both deny the allegations.
They had been called to escort the woman home from a taxi; she had gotten very drunk while celebrating an impending promotion. The officers then returned to her Manhattan apartment three times within four hours, without telling dispatchers where they were; at one point, Moreno even made a bogus 911 call about a sleeping vagrant to provide an excuse for them to return to her block, he acknowledged in earlier testimony.
The officers say the woman had asked them to come back and check on her, and Moreno says he was only trying to cheer her up and counsel her about drinking.
She has testified that she passed out and awoke to being raped in her bed, while too drunk to fight the man off. While the 29-year-old fashion company staffer acknowledged her memories of the night are intermittent, she said recollections of voices and police radio chatter convinced her that her attacker was an officer.
Moreno said she made sexual advances during his final visit, and he lay alongside her for a time to comfort her. But they didn't have sex, he says. Mata has testified that he was taking a nap on the woman's living room sofa at the time and couldn't be sure what had happened in the bedroom, but "Ken wouldn't do something like that."
No DNA evidence was recovered during the investigation. An examination of the woman found an internal bruise that prosecutors' forensic expert said could be the result of a rape; a gynecologist who testified for the officers said otherwise.
After contacting prosecutors, the woman wore a wire to confront Moreno a few days later outside the police station where he worked.
Reflecting on his encounter with the woman, Moreno said Tuesday that "it was a mistake."
"I tried to help her. Now she's coming to me saying I didn't help her," he said, his voice faltering. "Look where I'm at now, two and a half years later. It doesn't make sense to me."
Moreno, 43, and Mata, 29, could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted. They have been suspended until a Police Department review after their trial. Moreno has been an officer for 17 years, Moreno for about five years.
Jennifer Peltz can be reached at http://twitter.com/jennpeltz