Two New York City police officers have been acquitted of raping a woman in her apartment while they were on duty in 2008.
In the words of New York lawyer and blogger Jill Filipovic, "This is fucked up."
The upshot of this verdict is that drunk women are unrapeable in New York City. We have a victim who remembered being raped from the very beginning and went to the authorities promptly. Her story was corroborated the fact that the officers went back to her apartment multiple times that night, lied to a neighbor about why they were in the building, and made a fake 911 call to cover for it. Plus the prosecution had a taped admission by the officer that he had sex with the victim.
The officers responded to a call from a taxi driver who realized that his vomiting passenger was too drunk to get herself up to her apartment. The pair escorted her to her East 13th Street apartment. Witnesses said the victim was "falling down drunk" and surveillance video shows an officer steadying her elbow as they lead her into the building. She'd left her coat at the bar, in December.
One of the officers testified that the victim was too drunk to pay the driver and he had to fish some money out of her purse for the driver.
The next morning, the 27-year-old woman remembered waking up to find officer Kenneth Moreno raping her as she lay face down on her bed. Update: The medical examiner testified at trial that the victim's cervix was bruised, consistent with being violently penetrated from behind. The defense claimed, preposterously, that the contusion was caused by overly vigorous scrubbing in the shower.
An expert from the medical examiner's office estimated that the victim had consumed somewhere between 10.9 to 14.5 standard drinks over a 5-hour period that evening. He also estimated that her blood alcohol level ranged from .20 to .32, or up to 4 times the legal limit. To give you some perspective, most people start puking at .12. Many drinkers lose consciousness around .30. A BAL >.40 can be lethal.
The officers claimed they came back three more times because they were concerned about the victim, but they never called her an ambulance. They also claimed that she was awake and talking the whole time. What are the chances that anyone, even someone much less drunk, having come home sick hours earlier, would be awake circa 3:00am when the cops let themselves in for the last time? It was during the final visit that Moreno went into the bedroom with the victim while his partner dozed on her couch.
Under New York law, "too drunk to consent" means either unconscious or unable to speak. The victim testified that she was unconscious and woke up to find herself being raped by the officer.
Moreno's partner, Frank Mata, who was accused of acting as a lookout while Moreno raped the victim, testified that Moreno was flirting with her and "developing a rapport" throughout the evening.
Moreno admitted to lying on the victim's her bed and "snuggling" with her while she was wearing nothing but a bra. At trial he claimed he never had intercourse with her.
In a taped phone conversation with the victim, Moreno admitted that he used a condom when he had sex with her. He later claimed that he just said it to placate her because she'd threatened to make a scene at the precinct. Here's a transcript of the phone call. At first, he denies raping her, but she's relentless.
Moreno volunteers that during one of his visits, the victim was so drunk that she got stuck between her bed and some other object. She accuses him of taking her tights off. He admits that he took her boots off, but denies removing her tights.
Moreno has credibility problems. His police notebook and the testimony of a paramedic suggest he lied under oath during the trial about a separate incident.
So, it wasn't just the victim's word against the two officers. The victim's memories align with the independently verifiable facts of the case.
So, we have her sworn testimony plus overwhelming evidence that the police knew they were acting inappropriately and even broke the law in an effort to cover their tracks. There's also strong evidence that the victim was helplessly drunk, as evinced by the fact that the police had to take her home in the first place, and the fact that she was vomiting uncontrollably, not to mention the fact that she somehow got stuck between her bed and some object. Given the circumstances, it's hard to believe she would have been awake when the cops let themselves in at 3:00am.
The victim had a bruised cervix consistent with being attacked from behind, which matches her recollection.
Mata testified that Moreno was flirting with the victim. Finally, we have a fleeting admission from Moreno that he had sex with the woman and used a condom.
That's proof beyond a reasonable doubt, unless a woman's word is to be reflexively disregarded just because she was drinking.
A protest against the verdict is scheduled for Friday outside the Manhattan Criminal Court at 100 Centre St. from 5-7pm.
[Photo credit: Aldask, Creative Commons. Illustration only.]