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.
Ex-NYPD Officer Acquitted of Rape Is Sentenced to Jail
Monday, August 08, 2011
Former New York City police officer Kenneth Moreno, who was acquitted in May of raping an East Village woman, was handed the maximum sentence of one year in jail on Monday as his accuser wept in the Manhattan courtroom.
Moreno and partner Franklin Mata were acquitted in May of raping a woman in her East Village apartment, but they were each convicted of three counts of official misconduct — misdemeanors — for revisiting the woman's apartment three times on a December 2008 night when they were supposed to be on patrol.
On Monday, a stoned-face Moreno sat in a gray suit as Judge Gregory Carro lashed out at him for what he said was abusing the public's trust. Carro said that when law enforcement officers violate the law, they rip at the fabric of society.
Each of the three counts of official misconduct is punishable by up to a year in jail. The judge said, based on his interpretation of the law, all the sentences had to run concurrently and therefore, the maximum time Moreno could spend in prison was one year.
Moreno testified throughout the trial that he re-visited the woman’s apartment three times that night only because he was so concerned about her drinking problem. Carro dismissed this explanation as disingenuous and said no one would risk their job, pension and reputation simply to counsel someone.
"You were in bed with a naked, intoxicated, young female," Carro said. "You wanted to be back in that apartment so badly, you committed a crime to do so."
A man who served on the jury and asked to remain anonymous said he felt remarks made by the judge and prosecutors — who said on Monday that Moreno "demonstrated he has no regard for the law which he took an oath to uphold" — were harsh. The juror said the majority of the jury believed no sexual activity beyond a kiss had taken place between the officer and his accuser.
Outside the courtroom, Moreno’s lawyer said the defense team is seeking to get Moreno released pending their appeal of the case. Tacopina said Carro was under immense public pressure to come down hard on his client.
"You know, I wish everyone was as courageous as the jury was," lawyer Joe Tacopina said. "The probation department called it. They called for no jail sentence. Common sense of justice seems to call for it, but that's what we have appellate courts for and we're on the way right now."
Mata will be sentenced Wednesday.
Meanwhile, narcotics charges are still pending against Moreno. Police sources say several racks of heroin were found in Mata’s locker during investigation of the rape allegations, but Tacopina said his client shares that locker with other members of the police department.
Moreno and Mata's sentencing was originally scheduled for June 28, but was delayed so that defense lawyers could study footage from an HBO documentary about the Manhattan District Attorney's sex crimes unit that was filmed while the case against the police officers was still pending.
Moreno and Mata were immediately terminated from the police department hours after their convictions and have lost their pensions.