NEW YORK – When two city police officers were charged with the rape of a woman they had been summoned to help, prosecutors said the younger of the pair had only stood watch but should be held just as responsible.
After both were acquitted of rape but convicted of official misconduct, a judge said Wednesday that now-fired officer Franklin Mata hadn't played the role his former partner had, but Mata still deserved jail time for sticking by the other officer's story.
After tearfully telling the judge he "never meant for anybody to get hurt," Mata, 29, was sentenced to 60 days in jail; ex-partner Kenneth Moreno was sentenced earlier to a yearlong term. Mata is free at least until Sept. 12 while his lawyer asks a higher court to keep him out on bail during a planned appeal; Moreno is free on $125,000 during his appeal.
"You certainly drew the short straw when you got him as your partner," state Supreme Court Justice Gregory Carro told Mata. "But you still continued to toe the line and carry your partner's bags, for some reason."
Mata and Moreno, 43, were called to help a drunken woman get out of a cab in December 2008.
The woman said she awoke to being raped after passing out. Moreno said he cuddled with her in her bed, but there was no sex. Mata said he was napping on her sofa.
Both were charged with rape, burglary and other counts and acquitted of everything except official misconduct. Their convictions were for repeatedly returning to the accuser's apartment while telling dispatchers they were elsewhere.
The Police Department fired both within hours of the May verdict, which ignited criticism from women's rights activists and some city councilwomen who said it spotlighted what they consider unfair attitudes toward women who bring sexual assault complaints.
"I have endured plenty during this time," Mata told the judge, his voice shaky with emotion. "I have lost my job, my name ... and I've lost respect from the people of New York City."
"I have learned from this experience, sir. I ask that you hear me and understand that I never meant for anybody to get hurt that night," said Mata, who also got three years' probation.
Prosecutors said Moreno should get the maximum two-year jail sentence for what he had done — including radioing misleading reports of the partners' whereabouts to dispatchers — and what he hadn't done.
"All he had to do was stand up and say no" to what Moreno was doing, Assistant District Attorney Randolph Clarke Jr. said. "But he didn't. He went along for the ride. He enabled Moreno."
And at their trial, "he failed to testify truthfully and told an incredible version of events," Clarke said.
Mata testified said he couldn't be sure what had happened while his partner and the woman were alone in her bedroom, and Moreno never told him. But, he told jurors, "Ken wouldn't do something like that."
But the judge said Mata had to know that Moreno's "motivations were morally bankrupt" in returning to the woman's apartment.
The officers insisted that they took the woman's apartment keys and returned three times within four hours after the initial call because she had asked them to check up on her. Moreno — who admitted making a bogus 911 call about a sleeping homeless person to provide a pretext for one of the visits — said he was driven to try to befriend the woman and give her advice about drinking because he'd had an alcohol problem himself.
The woman acknowledged her recollections of the night were intermittent. But she told jurors she vividly remembered being raped, and she was certain her attacker was an officer because of memories of police radio chatter and other details.
"I couldn't believe that two officers who had been called to help me had, instead, raped me," the woman testified at the trial.
Days after her encounter with the officers, she wore a wire to confront Moreno outside his stationhouse. He repeatedly denied they'd had sex but also said "yes" twice when she asked whether he'd used a condom. Moreno told jurors he was trying to keep her from making trouble for him at work.
No DNA evidence incriminated the officers, and expert witnesses disagreed about whether an internal mark on the woman could be seen as evidence of a sexual assault.
Now a 29-year-old fashion product developer in California, the woman has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the city over the incident. The Associated Press doesn't identify people who say they are victims of sex crimes unless they publicly identify themselves or agree to be named.
The woman wasn't at Mata's sentencing, though she attended Moreno's on Monday. Her lawyers said Tuesday she wasn't commenting.
But another person close to the case was at Mata's sentencing: juror Christopher Hazeltine, who said he was there in support of the former officer.
Hazeltine said later that he stood by the panel's verdict but was concerned that the rape and other allegations of which the ex-officers were cleared came up at their sentencings.
"The sentencing doesn't have to do with what we convicted them of," he said.
Mata was a police officer for about five years, Moreno for about 17.
Jennifer Peltz can be reached at http://twitter.com/jennpeltz
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