Jury to consider rape case against NYC officers

May 17, 2011 - 7:28 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Jurors are set to begin deliberations Wednesday in the trial of two police officers accused of raping a drunken woman after they were called to escort her home.

In closing arguments Tuesday, prosecutor Coleen Balbert said police officer Kenneth Moreno may not have believed that sex with the woman was rape, but it was because she was physically helpless. "It was a crime of opportunity," Balbert said.

Moreno denies having sex with the woman.

The two officers on trial were called to help the 27-year-old woman out of a cab and into her Manhattan apartment on Dec. 7, 2008.

They helped her into her apartment building — and then returned three more times. On one of those visits, prosecutors say Moreno, 43, raped her in while his partner, Franklin Mata, 29, sat in her living room.

Balbert accused the officers of lying on the witness stand, calling their testimony "a long, torturous, deceptive admission of guilt." She even disputed Moreno's account of stepping on a roach in the woman's bathroom, showing an image of the intact roach taken afterward.

The defense argued that Moreno was counseling the woman about alcoholism, drawing on his own past drinking problem. On the witness stand, Moreno testified that he sang the Bon Jovi song "Livin' On a Prayer" to her and cuddled with her.

The woman's memory of the night is spotty because she drank as much as four times the legal limit to drive, prosecutors said. Defense lawyers have said she was walking and talking.

The woman testified that she had passed out and awoke briefly to being raped but could not resist because she was incapacitated.

She also remembers vomiting on the bathroom floor, her tights being pulled down and the sound of Velcro ripping, which prosecutors say was Moreno's bullet-proof vest. But she does not have a coherent timeline of the night because she was vomiting and passing out, prosecutors said.

The defense argued there was no sexual contact and that the woman is motivated by a $57 million lawsuit against the officers and the city. Moreno said the woman came on to him and he rebuffed her.

There is no DNA evidence of rape. Medical experts gave conflicting accounts on whether an internal mark found during an examination of the woman was the result of a sexual assault.

Prosecutors contend that other physical evidence, like a gold hoop earring encrusted in vomit on the bathroom floor and a red lighter found near the bed and thought to be Moreno's corroborate the woman's account.

Both men are charged with rape, burglary and lesser charges including official misconduct and could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Mata is not accused of having sex with the woman. But he still faces the rape charge because prosecutors say he knew what was happening, did nothing to stop it and helped cover it up.

Under the direction of the district attorney's office, the woman taped a conversation with Moreno outside his stationhouse in which he told her he wore a condom. He later contended he was just trying to appease her because she had threatened to make a scene inside the precinct.