Two New York police officers cleared of rape charges

Reuters News
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Posted: May 26, 2011 11:43 AM
Two New York police officers cleared of rape charges

By Bernd Debusmann Jr.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two New York police officers were found not guilty on Thursday of accusations that they raped an intoxicated woman they had escorted home to her downtown Manhattan apartment.

The jury of seven men and five women had just begun their seventh day of deliberations when they returned the not guilty verdicts against Kenneth Moreno, 43, who was accused of raping the fashion executive, as his partner, Franklin Mata, 29, stood lookout.

Both officers were found guilty, however, of three counts each of official misconduct in the December 2008 incident and face sentencing on June 28 in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

The officers first encountered the woman, then 29, when they responded to a 911 call placed by a cab driver who said she was too drunk to get out of his taxi and into her home.

Moreno testified that after helping the woman home, he made a bogus 911 call so he and Mata could return to her apartment.

He admitted getting into bed with the woman but denied raping her. He also testified that he was trying to help her with her drinking because he had once abused alcohol himself.

The two officers were arrested in April 2009 after the woman, using a watch equipped with a microphone, covertly taped a conversation with Moreno in which he said he wore a condom.

The jury acquitted both officers on charges of rape, burglary and falsifying business records, and Moreno also was found not guilty of tampering with evidence.

Since the case began, the pair has been suspended with pay from the New York Police Department, which now will conduct its own departmental review.

In his closing argument, Moreno's attorney Joseph Tacopina emphasized a lack of forensic evidence in the case, while Mata's attorney Edward Mandery questioned the woman's memory and said she had a vested interest in the prosecution because she filed a $57 million lawsuit against the city in connection with the incident.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Peter Bohan)