Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who covers criminal justice, terrorism and the courts for WNYC. She found her way into public radio after practicing law for five years, and can definitely say that walking the streets of New York City with a microphone is a lot more fun than being holed up in the office writing letters to opposing counsel.
NYPD Officer in Rape Trial Says He Was Trying to Appease Accuser
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
A New York City police officer charged with raping a woman in her apartment told jurors Tuesday he was only trying to calm the alleged victim down when she secretly recorded him disclosing he had used a condom.
Officer Kenneth Moreno told jurors Tuesday that he was "telling her what she wanted to hear" by saying he'd used a condom during a secretly recorded conversation in which he also denied the two had sex.
"I was considering just telling her anything, whatever she wanted to hear, just to make her happy," he said. "She said she was freaking out, and I started feeling bad" for her.
Prosecutors wired the woman with a recording device when she confronted Moreno outside his stationhouse about a week and a half after the December 2008 night he allegedly raped her while she was passed out in bed after drinking. During the confrontation, she demanded to know if he had used a condom, and threatened she would make a scene if he refused to answer.
On the recording, he repeatedly told her "nothing happened" that night. She then said she would go inside the station and "tell them everything."
"I was just thinking about pleasing her," Moreno told jurors. "I was considering just telling her anything, whatever she wanted to hear, just to make her happy."
Moreno testified the woman was "freaking out" about the possibility that she was pregnant or had a sexually transmitted disease: "I didn't want her to worry about anything," he said.
Moreno and his partner, Officer Franklin Mata, are both charged with rape. Mata is accused of serving as a lookout. After helping the woman into her apartment, the officers returned three more times that night without reporting their location to dispatchers. Moreno testified he even made a fake 911 call about a homeless man so he and Mata would be sent back to the woman's block. He admitted he never told Mata the call was fake, and watched his partner looking earnestly for a homeless man that never existed.
But Moreno emphatically insisted he never had sex with his accuser. He said the woman pleaded him to come back to the apartment to check on her, and that he agreed to return because he was concerned about her emotional well-being. Otherwise, he told jurors, she didn't seem that drunk -- he described her as lucid and told the court she never lost consciousness in front of him.
As a former alcoholic, Moreno said he wanted to counsel her about her drinking problem. He testified that she confided in him about her loneliness and her habitual drinking -- and he told he could relate to that. At one point, he said he even told her he would be her boyfriend if she quit drinking.
"It was like motivation," he said, but he added he wasn't serious about the offer.
During his fourth visit to the apartment, Moreno said the woman wanted affection from him.
"She wanted to snuggle," he told the jurors, and then described how he lay in bed next to her while she held his right arm over her body. After she fell asleep, Moreno said he tried to leave by freeing his left arm from under her body. That woke her up, he testified, and she asked him to stay longer.
Mata has testified that he was taking a nap on the woman's living room sofa at the time and couldn't be sure what had happened in the bedroom.
Assistant District Attorney Coleen Balbert asked Moreno why he would break the law by making a fake 911 call for someone he had just met 10 minutes before.
"It was more than just someone I met for 10 minutes; it [was] someone in pain," he said. "I just wanted to let her know that I was going to keep my word and come back."
When Moreno testified he had come across more than a 100 drunk people in his career as an officer, Balbert sharply asked whether he had ever returned to anybody else's apartment three times to check on him or her. He responded he never had.
Moreno said the woman spent the duration of his next two visits next to her toilet, trying to throw up. He testified they talked about their drinking problems, how he fought for custody for his daughter after a long depression, and he said they even made plans to meet for breakfast the next day.
Balbert asked how a woman who was throwing up could be talking about eating breakfast in a few hours.
"Maybe she just wanted some fresh air," Moreno replied.
No DNA evidence was found during the investigation. A gynecological exam revealed a small bruise on the woman's cervix that prosecutors say could have resulted from a rape, but a defense expert testified otherwise.
Moreno and Mata could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted. They have been suspended until a police department review after their trial.
Prosecutors will continue cross-examining Moreno Wednesday. The court expects testimony to conclude this week.