The defense finished closing arguments Monday in the trial of two New York City police officers accused of raping an East Village woman in December 2008. In his last chance to speak to the jury, the lawyer for Officer Franklin Mata likened the prosecution's rape case against his client to a "bunch of fluff."
"There are more holes in this case than a slice of Swiss cheese," said Edward Mandery, Mata's lawyer.
Mata and another officer, Kenneth Moreno, helped the woman into her apartment after a day of heavy drinking. They 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. Mata is accused of serving as a lookout.
Mandery reminded jurors there was no DNA evidence connecting either officer to rape, and the woman blacked out most of the night. Therefore, Mandery said, jurors should doubt the accuracy of her testimony. He pointed out the woman was later mistaken about several facts about the night, such as the ethnicity of the cab driver, what belt she wore to the bar and how many drinks she had.
"This is the memory of someone they want you to base a conviction on," Mandery said to jurors. "It's about proof. Real proof. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt."
He added that the victim was a good actress, pointing to her friendly phone calls to Moreno days after the alleged attack. Prosecutors had supplied her with a cell phone to record conversations between herself and Moreno, and the woman sounded cheerful and thankful as she tried to establish a rapport with Moreno on the phone.
To convict Mata, Mandery explained to the jury, prosecutors have to prove Mata was acting in concert with Moreno to rape the woman -- meaning that he intentionally tried to help Moreno commit a crime. Mandery said no rape occurred, and even if an attack did take place, his client was asleep on the couch. And "being present" in the apartment, Mandery said, isn't enough to convict Mata.
The victim has filed a civil lawsuit against Moreno, Mata and the city. Her complaint asks for $57 million.
Prosecutors will give their closing argument Tuesday.