NYPD Fires Cops Cleared of Rape Charges

NYPD Fires Police Officers Cleared of Rape Charges

They're off the hook -- and off the force.

Almost immediately after their stunning rape and burglary acquittals, former NYPD Officers Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata were fired yesterday and stripped of their comfy salaries and lucrative pensions.

They also still face up to two years behind bars on their convictions of official misconduct for returning to their accuser's apartment after helping her into her building.

Moreno, 43, has earned more than $150,000 in the two years since he was first accused of raping a drunken fashion executive after being dispatched to help her out of a taxi outside her East Village apartment. He'd just passed the 20-years-of-service mark and could have retired with a full pension had he not been facing charges.

Mata, 29 -- a cop for just three years who'd been charged with serving as his partner's lookout -- made about $110,000 in the time since the pair's December 2008 arrest.

It was money for nothing for both cops, who were placed on modified duty and earned their paychecks simply by checking in with supervisors at Police Headquarters, according to one source. That gravy train has now derailed.

"The guilty verdict warrants immediate termination from the department," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said of the misconduct ruling. "We will pursue that today. What they did was in violation of the officers' oath of office."

At around 4 p.m., Kelly signed off on the duo's walking papers and their pensions were voided, a police spokesman said.

But the ex-partners still looked relieved as they faced the cameras after their acquittals yesterday -- spared of as much as 25 years in prison had they been convicted of rape.

Moreno told reporters he believes the fashion executive at the center of the case had lied on the witness stand about being "penetrated" by him.

"I think she made the whole thing up," the father of two said, with just a hint of bitterness in his voice, as he spoke to reporters outside Manhattan Supreme Court.

"To be honest, I believe she made the whole thing up," he repeated, describing how it felt to sit at the defense table and hear the woman testify tearfully to waking up from a semiconscious, drunken state to find herself stripped and prone on her bed with the on-duty Moreno, in her words, violating her.

Still, he said of the woman, who still has a $57 million federal lawsuit against him, "I hope everything works out for her. I wish her no harm."

The seven-man, five-woman jury struggled for more than six days before clearing Moreno and Mata of all felony charges of rape, burglary and falsifying business records.

Yesterday, jury forewoman Rita Moore announced the acquittals in an almost triumphant tone -- but rendered the convictions with a stern, almost angry firmness.

The two officers were each convicted of three misdemeanor counts of official misconduct after jurors found that they knowingly refrained from their duties during three caught-on-video return trips to the accuser's East 13th Street apartment.

Sentencing is set for June 28; each officer faces anything from zero to two years in prison if the counts are sentenced consecutively, as allowed.

"I believe in my heart of hearts justice was served," Moreno's lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, said.

Prosecutors Coleen Balbert and Randolph Clarke labored to win a conviction despite a lack of rape forensics and a he-said, she-said scenario where the woman was reduced to pitting her booze-blurred memory against the witness-stand protestations of innocence by the two cops.

Prosecutors did possess formidable circumstantial evidence -- most notably a secretly recorded tape in which Moreno admitted to the woman that he'd used a condom and that it was "just me," not his partner, too.

Prosecutors also had incriminating sidewalk surveillance video from that early morning in December 2008 when they were dispatched to help her out of a taxi outside her apartment.

The video showed the cops using the drunken woman's key to let themselves back inside her apartment three more times.

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