NEW YORK — A New York police officer called to help a drunken woman get home safely instead raped her as she lay face down in her bed, semiconscious and covered in vomit while his partner acted as a lookout, prosecutors alleged Tuesday.
Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata were suspended from duty and pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of rape, burglary and official misconduct in the Dec. 6 incident in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan.
The two officers were held on $175,000 bail. Their attorneys disputed the woman's version of the events.
Moreno is "prepared to fight these charges every step of the way," said his attorney, Stephen Worth. Mata's attorney, Edward Mandery, said it wasn't a crime for his client to be seen at the location and believes the woman was so drunk she doesn't know what happened.
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 does 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 a 27-year-old professional, was out drinking with friends at a bar in Brooklyn. Her blood alcohol level 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 there, she was so drunk she couldn't get out of the cab, so he called 911 for help, prosecutors 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 18 years, raped the woman as she lay physically helpless on her beige sheets, according to court documents. Mata acted as a lookout for Moreno, and "knew his partner was having sex with a semiconscious woman," but did nothing to stop it, said District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. But it's not clear exactly when the assault took place, officials said.
The woman reported the incident to prosecutors the next morning and was treated at Beth Israel Hospital. The officers were stripped of their guns and badges after the allegations were made public earlier this year.
Moreno's attorney said the investigation took months because prosecutors were unsure about the case. "They had concerns, some questions about the accuracy of the complainant's version of what occurred," Worth said.
There was no DNA evidence recovered, but prosecutors said Moreno admitted he used a condom during the assault.
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. Some of his family appeared in the courtroom and left in tears, refusing to speak to reporters.
Mandery, Mata's attorney, said there was no way the woman could say his client was an accomplice. "I don't think she could say that my client had done anything, even if you believe the allegations," Mata said.
During the investigation, a packet of heroin was found in Moreno's police locker, and he also was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, prosecutors said. Moreno has a wife and two children, and is just two years from retiring with a NYPD pension.
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The officers face up to 25 year in prison on the most serious charges of rape.