Accuser of New York police "devastated" by rape acquittals

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 01, 2011 4:48 PM
Accuser of New York police "devastated" by rape acquittals

By Bernd Debusmann Jr.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The woman who accused two New York City police officers of rape says she was "devastated" last week by their acquittals, which she called "utterly disheartening".

A jury last Thursday returned not guilty verdicts against Kenneth Moreno, 43, who is accused of raping the fashion executive, as his partner, Franklin Mata, 29, stood lookout.

The officers had helped the woman home after a cab driver called 911 saying she was too drunk to get out of his taxi. At trial they admitted returning to her apartment several times but denied the rape.

Jurors said afterward that the prosecution had failed to make a strong case and that the woman's memory seemed unreliable.

"I know that in a criminal trial a verdict of not guilty does not necessarily mean the defendants were found innocent," the 29-year-old accuser said in a statement released late on Tuesday, "but I am devastated and disappointed by the jury's decision."

"Hearing that verdict brought me to my knees; it brought me back to my bedroom on that awful night when my world was turned upside down by the actions of two police officers who were sent to protect, but instead took advantage of their authority and broke the law," she said.

Although the officers were acquitted of rape, they were found guilty of misdemeanor counts of official misconduct for the December 2008 incident and face sentencing on June 28 in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Both were fired from the New York Police Department the day of the verdicts, and their accuser praised Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly for the quick dismissal.

"Thank you both for making such a strong statement that this city will not tolerate criminal actions by its police officers," she said.

At the trial, Moreno testified that he had made a bogus 911 call so he and Mata could return to her apartment and said he had gotten into bed with the woman but did not rape her. He testified he was trying to help her with her drinking because he had once abused alcohol himself.

In her statement, she expressed disappointment that deeply personal details of her life were scrutinized in court.

"Even if people believe you, you are tested beyond what any crime victim should have to endure," she said. "While on the witness stand, defense attorneys seek to shame and humiliate you for hours, even days, with deeply personal questions ... simply because you dare to come forward."

"How saddening, how utterly disheartening," she said.

"Although the accuser cites 'public opinion' as the ultimate verdict, we are a nation of laws; not mob justice," said Moreno's lawyer, Joseph Tacopina on Wednesday.

"It was the jury, and not the public, that heard all of the testimony in this case, including that of the accuser, and rendered a verdict consistent with the evidence and the law."

The woman has filed a $57 million lawsuit against the city in connection with the incident, which is under seal in Manhattan federal court.

Stuart Slotnick, a well-known New York criminal defense attorney, said that the outcome of the trial would likely have little bearing on the civil suit.

"It shouldn't affect it, but obviously if there was a conviction it would have helped," he said. "There is a different standard in the civil case, her lawyers only need to prove that there is a preponderance of evidence, a much lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt."

"Some people like to say that it's like two scales, and one just tips slightly in one direction. She has a better chance of prevailing in her civil suit than she did in the criminal action."

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune)