Though two city police officers charged with raping a woman in 2008 were acquitted of the most serious charges Thursday, they were removed from the force by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and may still face up to two years in prison. NY1’s Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Officers Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata walked out of court smiling but full of emotion Thursday.
"I thought about my wife and all of the people who supported me," said Moreno.
"I've been innocent from day one,” said Mata. “I'm glad everybody sees that now."
On the seventh day of deliberations, jurors found Moreno and Mata not guilty of raping a 27-year-old woman inside her East Village apartment.
However, the officers were found guilty of the much lesser charges of official misconduct. They are scheduled to be sentenced June 29 and could face up to two years in prison, though they might only get probation.
During the trial, Moreno and Mata testified they broke Police Department guidelines by not telling their bosses they were going back to the woman's apartment. Moreno even said he made a fake 911 call so a dispatcher would send him to the building.
In a statement, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Junior said, in part, “We respect the jury’s verdict, which acknowledges that the defendants’ actions that night not only violated the law, they violated the victim’s rights, and the public’s trust.”
Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly gave the officers the boot Thursday.
“The guilty verdicts reached today involved violations of the officers' oaths of office and as a result warrant immediate termination from the Police Department,” said Kelly.
Back in December 2008, the officers were called to the apartment to help the woman, who was drunk, into her building. They returned three more times during their overnight shift.
The woman testified she passed out several times because she was so drunk, but remembered being raped by at least one of the officers.
"I thought she made the whole thing up," said Moreno.
The woman is suing the city for $57 million.
"I hope everything works out for her,” said Moreno. “I wish her no harm.”
Prosecutors tried to convince the jury that Moreno raped the woman while Mata acted as a lookout. Moreno argued he only went back to check on her and to try to convince her to stop drinking.
Moreno called the jury courageous and praised his lawyer Joseph Tacopina.
"I believed from day one Frank and Ken were absolutely innocent,” said Tacopina. “I think this verdict speaks the truth."