NYC police officers face rape charges

April 28, 2009 3:22:01 PM PDT
A New York police officer called to help a drunken woman get home safely has been accused of raping her as she lay face down in her bed, semiconscious and covered in vomit while his partner acted as a lookout, prosecutors said Tuesday. Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata were suspended from duty and were scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday on charges of rape, burglary and official misconduct in the Dec. 6, 2008 incident in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said.

Their attorneys said Monday they expected their clients to plead not guilty. Moreno's attorney Stephen Worth said his client was eager to confront the evidence against him. Mata's attorney, Edward Mandery, said his client denied the allegations.

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who rarely speaks on pending cases involving officers because he may have to make internal decisions, called the allegations "disgraceful" and said he did not want the charges to tarnish the department's reputation for helping people.

"This is a shocking aberration in stark contrast to the outstanding work that the men and women of the New York City police department do every day on the streets of our city," Kelly said.

"The public needs to know that the police are there to protect them. And I believe that they do."

The two officers were working the late shift in the 9th Precinct that night as the woman, identified as 27-year-old professional, was out drinking with friends at a bar in Brooklyn. Her blood alcohol was at least double the legal limit and possibly more, investigators said, when her friends put her in a taxi and told the driver to take her to her apartment in Manhattan.

When the driver got to her address, she was so drunk she couldn't get out of the taxi, so he called 911 for help, prosecutor said. Mata, 27, and Moreno, 41, responded within minutes.

Surveillance tape shows them helping the woman into her building and leaving a few minutes later.

But the tape also shows the officers entering and leaving the building two more times, when they had been assigned to respond to other incidents in the precinct, prosecutors said. The officers were inside the building 17 minutes the first time they returned and 34 minutes the next time, prosecutors said.

While they were in the apartment, Moreno, who has been a police officer for 17 years, raped the woman as she lay physically helpless on her bed, Morgenthau said. Mata acted as a lookout for Moreno, and "knew his partner was having sex with a semiconscious woman," but did nothing to stop it, Morgenthau said.

The woman reported the sexual assault the next morning and was treated at Beth Israel Hospital and released, investigators said.

She reported the charges to the sex crimes unit of the district attorney's office.

Both officers were indicted on first-degree rape charges, two counts of second-degree burglary for re-entering the apartment twice, and nine counts of official misconduct.

Mata, who has been an officer for three years, also was indicted on charges of criminal facilitation and tampering with evidence for refusing to hand over his memo book used to record shift details and for not stopping the rape, prosecutors said.

During the investigation, a packet of heroin was found in Moreno's police locker, and he was also charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, prosecutors said.