By JENNIFER PELTZ - Associated Press
She woke up certain she’d been raped and convinced the attacker was a man she would otherwise ask for help – a police officer.
“I was in shock. I couldn’t believe what had happened,” the woman testified Thursday in the trial of two officers charged with raping her after being called to help her get home from a drunken night out.
“And I was scared . because when something bad happens, you think to call the police. And because they did this to me, I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.”
During a day of sometimes emotional and explicit testimony, the 29-year-old woman said she acutely remembers being raped and some other moments in her December 2008 encounter with Officers Franklin Mata and Kenneth Moreno, though she was so drunk she passed out at other points.
Mata and Moreno have pleaded not guilty to rape, burglary and other charges. Moreno’s lawyer says the woman misremembers what happened, and she and the officer had “physical contact” but not sex as he tried to counsel her while fending off drunken flirtations. Mata’s lawyer says Mata, who is accused of acting as a lookout while Moreno forced himself on the woman, did nothing criminal.
But the woman gave jurors a picture of sexual violation revealed in almost photographic flashes amid her blackouts: Two men with blue uniforms and crackling two-way radios by her side as she grasped a railing. A deep-voiced man urging her to drink water as she threw up in her bathroom. The feeling of someone taking off her tights as she lay facedown on her bed.
Waking up to the sensation of being raped, but being too intoxicated to move or scream.
The same deep voice asking whether she’d like him to stay, and then a kiss on her shoulder blade. Two men talking amid the static and chatter of police radios as hands and a flashlight beam seemed to search her bed for something. Awakening the next morning naked, except for a bra.
Moreno’s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, asked her questions that underscored her heavy drinking and spotty memory on the night in question, when she was out celebrating a new job and impending move. Her blood alcohol content was about three times the legal limit for driving.
“We have a long way to go in this case,” Tacopina said after beginning his cross-examination, expected to continue Friday. Mata’s lawyer, Edward Mandery, hasn’t yet had his chance to question the woman.
The woman, who has a corporate job with Gap Inc. and now lives in California, at times cried profoundly enough to halt the proceedings for a few minutes. But she mostly was composed as she answered questions that ranged from her sex life and drinking habits to details of her room’s decor, asked in front of a courtroom packed with more than 100 onlookers.
The Associated Press generally does not name people who report being sexually assaulted unless they agree to be identified.
Moreno, 43, and Mata, who is in his late 20s, listened impassively, took notes and examined documents.
The woman and the officers met after a taxi driver called police to say she was having trouble getting out of his cab.
Surveillance video shows the officers went back to her building three times within four hours after initially ushering her inside, and they told dispatchers each time they returned that they were either on a meal break or responding to other calls. Defense lawyers have said the woman asked them to check on her during the night.
While there is no DNA evidence in the case, prosecutors say there are other medical indications that she was raped.
The woman told jurors she woke up the next morning and immediately felt “the shock of the rape.” After showering, she ran upstairs to tell friends in a neighboring apartment what had happened.
Unwilling to turn to police, she went to a lawyer and then to the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Investigators had her confront Moreno outside his stationhouse a few days later, with her wearing a watch that secretly recorded their conversation.
On the recording, Moreno repeatedly denies violating her. But as she presses him about whether he used a condom, he twice says he did, though he later insists again that they didn’t have sex.
“I was just trying to sincerely help you that day, OK? OK. Anything else that happened, anything that you remembered happened, it wasn’t done intentionally. It wasn’t done to hurt you,” he says at another point.
His lawyer has said Moreno’s seemingly incriminating statements were just attempts to pacify the woman, who suggests in the recorded conversation that she might “make a scene” in the police station.
But to her, “in that moment, when he finally admitted it to me, that was everything for me because I knew what he had done to me,” she told jurors.
“I couldn’t believe that two officers who had been called to help me had, instead, raped me and left me, facedown in a pool of vomit, on my bed to die.”
Mata and Moreno have been suspended until a Police Department review after their trial. If convicted of rape, the officers could face up to 25 years in prison.