NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two New York police officers were found not guilty on Thursday of accusations they raped an intoxicated woman they had escorted home to her downtown Manhattan apartment.
The jury of seven men and five women had just begun their seventh day of deliberations when they returned the not guilty verdicts against Kenneth Moreno, 43, accused of raping the fashion executive, as his partner, Franklin Mata, 29, stood lookout.
Both officers were found guilty, however, of three misdemeanor counts each of official misconduct for the December 2008 incident and face sentencing on June 28 in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.
Each misconduct count is punishable by up to one year in jail.
The officers will lose their jobs, New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in a statement.
“The guilty verdicts reached today involved violations of the officers’ oaths of office and as a result warrant immediate termination from the Police Department, and we will pursue that today,” Kelly said.
The pair had been suspended with pay since the case began.
The officers first encountered the woman, 29, when they responded to a 911 call placed by a cab driver who said she was too drunk to get out of his taxi and into her home.
Moreno testified that after helping the woman home, he made a bogus 911 call so he and Mata could return to her apartment.
He admitted getting into bed with the woman but denied raping her. He also testified he was trying to help her with her drinking because he had once abused alcohol himself.
After the verdict, Moreno appeared shaken.
“I just want to go home. I just want to be with my children,” he said. “I made a judgment call, and I paid for it.”
The two officers were arrested in April 2009 after the woman, using a watch equipped with a microphone, covertly taped a conversation with Moreno in which he said he wore a condom, while also insisting repeatedly that nothing had happened.
“I think the jury accepted that tape for what it was,” Moreno’s lawyer Joseph Tacopina said. “We’re thrilled.”
The jury acquitted both officers on charges of rape, burglary and falsifying business records.
“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,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement.
In his closing argument, Moreno’s defense attorney emphasized a lack of forensic evidence in the case, while Mata’s attorney Edward Mandery questioned the woman’s memory and said she had a vested interest in the prosecution because she filed a $57 million lawsuit against the city in connection with the incident.
Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton