Published on The Daily Femme – Friday, May 27, 2011
Contributed by Annamarya
If I wasn’t ashamed of my hometown enough as it is, the recent acquittal of two NYPD officers accused of rape really clinched my disgust.
Officers Kenneth Moreno, 43, and Franklin Mata, 29, were found not guilty of raping an inebriated woman in December 2008 because, according to The New York Times, although the jurors believed the defense’s story to be sketchy, they felt the prosecution failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, citing the lack of DNA evidence as a major factor. Instead, the jury found the two guilty of official misconduct, which could yield a two-year stint in prison when they’re sentence on June 28. New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly immediately fired the two after the verdict was handed down.
Here’s the deal: In December 2008, Moreno and Mata were called to assist the inebriated victim out of a taxi and up to her apartment. Instead of just leaving when they reached her door, Moreno stayed, subsequently leaving and entering the apartment three times after stealing her keys (they were also cleared of three second-degree burglary counts). The victim alleged that she woke up in the middle of Moreno raping her while Mata was acting as a lookout–charges they deny, although, during a secretly tape conversation between Moreno and the victim, he repeatedly reassures her she has “nothing to worry about” in regards to STDs and pregnancy and admits to using a condom in the same breath he denies raping her (he claimed this was an attempt to calm her down because she was threatening him). During testimony, Moreno admitted to cuddling with the victim in an attempt to her comfort since she was sick from drinking, and Mata admitted to sleeping on her couch. It also came to light that Moreno made a FAKE 911 CALL about a homeless person near her apartment because they knew they’d get assigned to respond and have an excuse to return to the victim’s block (they were also cleared of falsifying business records). DNA evidence wasn’t presented in the case because it wasn’t collected, and an internal mark on the woman was debated between experts as whether it was a result of rape (a doctor testifying for the defense of course said it wasn’t). The victim had no chance of seeing justice because she was set up for failure.
And after all that, the two officers were only found guilty of official misconduct. What does that mean to women? That even if an officer admits to cuddling you when you are too drunk to give your consent to being intimately touched–too drunk to give your consent to anything–they will get away with violating you and your privacy with just a slap on the wrist. That means if an officer sends in a false 911 call, something any other civilian would be arrested, charged and convicted for, they will get away with it. And, sadly, I’m not surprised. I’m not surprised because this has happened before, as Jesse Ellison recounts for The Daily Beast. This injustice is part of our destructive rape culture. The perceived “hero”–whether a cop or basketball star or ex-football club chiefs–historically gets a pass at criminal behavior because we, refuse to believe that those we put trust into are capable of such vicious acts. And our refusal to hold them responsible and to the same standard as any other civilian when it comes to sexual assault just goes to show that all you need is a badge or varsity letter–or just money–to avoid a lengthy jail sentence.
What’s worse, the attitudes of the defendants and Mata’s lawyer, Edward Mandery, who called the victim “a gold digger who is suing the city for $57 million.” are terribly repulsive. Their dispositions towards the woman and the situation is replete with a victim-blaming arrogance that will not only influence their peers and public, but also further victimizes all victims of sexual assault. How so? In the case of Moreno, he warned other NYPD officers to “be very, very, very careful” when dealing with drunk women instead of taking responsibility for and warning against his grievously inappropriate actions that, as Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance put it, “violated the victim’s rights and the publics trust.” He admits to nothing, no matter the amount of evidence suggesting otherwise. Either he’s delusional or manipulative but either way, it’s toxic. As Ellison suggests, it is women who will have to remain cautious and careful around authority because “if we can’t feel safe with the people we pay to protect us, are we ever safe at all?”
If you are outraged by this verdict and live in New York City, join Feministe’s Jill Filipovic, feminists Lori Adelman, Erica Sackin, and Julie Klausner, and feminist group Permanent Wave tonight between 5 pm – 7 pm in front of the Manhattan Criminal Court building at 100 Centre Street to protest the acquittal. For more information on the rally, click here.