Police officer Ken Moreno, left, exits the courtroomwith his attorney Joe Tacopina.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Louis Lanzano
NEW YORK --
Officer Kenneth Moreno went to lengths to forge a connection with a drunken woman he'd been summoned to escort home and said he wanted to help.
He went back to check on her three times within four hours, once placing a bogus 911 call about a sleeping vagrant as a pretext to go back to her building, he told jurors Monday. He told her he'd quit drinking and gave her advice on how to do the same. He sang to her a verse of Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer." He lay alongside her in her bed and held her for a while.
But they didn't have sex, Moreno said as he became the key defense witness in his own rape trial.
Moreno and fellow officer Franklin Mata both face rape and other charges in the December 2008 incident. Mata also denies the allegations; he's accused of acting as a lookout while Moreno raped the woman.
Somber but forthcoming, Moreno described a complicated encounter that began with getting the woman out of a taxi and culminated, he said, in him batting away advances in her bedroom.
"It was getting crazy," he testified, saying the overtures were "totally unexpected."
"I told her, 'There's another time for this. Not tonight.' ... I kind of had her by the shoulders, and I said, 'We're not doing this.'"
The woman, who has a corporate job in fashion and is now 29, gave jurors a very different picture in her testimony last month.
After being ushered home by police officers, she passed out and awoke to being raped, she said. While her memories of the night are intermittent, she said, flashes of voices, police radio chatter, flashlights and other recollections made her certain that her attacker was an officer.
"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," she said.
In a secretly taped conversation with her days later, Moreno alternately denied having sex with her and seemed to admit it, twice saying he'd used a condom. His lawyer has said the seemingly incriminating statements were efforts to mollify the woman.
A taxi driver had called police to help the woman get out of his cab and into her Manhattan apartment. She had been out celebrating an impending promotion and move to California.
Once upstairs, she began crying and saying that her friends were upset about her drinking when Moreno asked whether he could call a friend to look in on her, he said. Though trial testimony has shown several of her longtime friends lived in her building, Moreno said she asked him to check on her later, she suggested he take her apartment keys and he agreed.
"I felt bad for her. I've been there," said Moreno, who said he was an alcoholic who got sober in 2002. The woman testified that she didn't drink more than her peers and didn't see her drinking as a problem.
Moreno and Mata did indeed come back, without telling dispatchers they were there or noting the visits in logs. Moreno created an excuse for their first return by using a payphone and a phony name to place the phony 911 call about a homeless person at a nearby building, so they could pick up the nonexistent assignment.
"It was stupid," he said.
Over the ensuing visits, he gave the woman water to drink, sat by her as she threw up, discussed his own struggle with drinking, sang her a snippet of the Bon Jovi hit, killed a cockroach in her bathroom and made plans to have breakfast with her, he said.
Then, as Mata snoozed in the woman's living room during the last visit, she went into her bedroom and asked Moreno to come in and leave the light off, Moreno said. He said she got out of her bed, wearing only a bra, and tried to kiss him and make other sexual overtures.
He refused but ended up in her bed after she managed to fall between her bed and a wall and needed to be pulled out, Moreno said. He said he stayed there with her for a time, out of sympathy, but was fully clothed and didn't have sex with her.
Mata testified earlier Monday that he was taking a nap and couldn't be sure what happened while his partner was alone with the woman in her bedroom.
But Mata said he didn't believe Moreno had violated her.
"I know Ken ... that Ken wouldn't do something like that," Mata said.
Mata and Moreno have been suspended until a Police Department review after their trial. If convicted, each could face up to 25 years in prison.