Sometimes a situation is so horrible that a Douchebag Decree just doesn’t cut it. However, I can think of nothing douchier today than the NYPD trial verdict, which found the two accused officers not guilty of rape.
Trigger warning for descriptions of rape and sexual assault, as well as completely rage-inducing behavior from the police and the justice system.
For those unfamiliar with this case, here is a brief description of what allegedly happened (more details can be found here and here): In 2008, the alleged victim, a 27-year-old fabric designer for The Gap, was celebrating a promotion and had too much to drink. She called for a cab, and when the cab arrived at her apartment she needed help getting inside. In accordance with regulations, the cab driver called the police and officers Kenneth Moreno, 43, and Franklin Mata, 29 arrived to escort her inside.
Here’s some of what happened next, via today’s New York Times:
Prosecutors accused Officer Mata, 29, of standing guard while Officer Moreno had sex with the woman.
After initially helping the woman into her apartment, the officers were captured by surveillance cameras as they re-entered the woman’s East Village building three times.
Officer Moreno, 43, testified during the nearly two-month-long trial that he was a recovering alcoholic and had developed a rapport with the woman that night, when she confided in him that her friends were mad at her because she drank too much. They flirted, he sang Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” to her and she actually came onto him, wearing nothing but a bra, he said. He testified that he kissed the woman on the forehead and snuggled with her in her bed, but insisted that they did not have sex.
But the woman, now 29 and living in California, told a much different story. She said she did not have a drinking problem and would never have said something like that to the officer.
I’m sure I don’t have to spell out to you all that is heinous and wrong with the above report. Even if no penetrative rape occurred (though evidence suggests it did, even if the jury disagrees), these officers returned to the woman’s apartment THREE TIMES throughout the night. Moreno got in bed with the woman and kissed her and snuggled her and sang songs to her! The officers lied to a neighbor about why they were in the building, and made a fake 911 call to cover for it. These are police officers whom she called to assist her—it is beyond horrifying.
Of course, as we know now, this disgusting behavior was not enough to convince the jury of these officers’ guilt. Nor were the testimonies of 35 witnesses, nor was the recorded conversation between Moreno and the woman in which, after originally denying that they had sex, he said that they did in fact have sex and that he wore a condom. No, none of this was enough because, well, the woman was drunk. Again from today’s Times:
A central point of argument in the case was whether the woman was too drunk to consent to sex. Under the prosecutors’ theory of rape, they had to prove that the woman was physically unable to consent to sex, meaning that she was either unconscious or unable to speak when she was penetrated.
Defense lawyers pointed to surveillance footage of the woman walking on her own as she entered the building in front of the officers as evidence that she was conscious and able to communicate. They also contrasted what the woman told some friends shortly after the alleged rape — that she thought she was raped — with the certainty that she was expressing on the witness stand. Her spotty recollection of that night, the defense said, was enough to raise reasonable doubt over whether she was raped.
It’s because of reports like this one that women are afraid to report rape and sexual assault crimes. Because even in a scenario where a woman has overwhelming evidence to back up her accusations, and has evidence to prove that she was intoxicated (in addition to needing assistance to enter her apartment she vomited in the cab and inside her home), the jury decided that maybe she wasn’t drunk enough for this to constitute rape. And why not? Because she was able, with assistance, to walk upright? Because she, after a night of drinking, had a “spotty recollection” of the events?
This entire trial is a disgusting exercise in victim-blaming and humiliation. Not only that, but if the point of a trial is to prove something beyond “a reasonable doubt,” well, what else did the jury need? They had video footage, a taped admission of guilt, witnesses, a false alibi from the officers, and the testimony of the victim. If that isn’t enough to convince them that a drunk woman was raped, nothing is.
If you live in the New York area and are as outraged by this verdict as we are, consider attending a protest of the verdict organized by some New York feminists. Here are the details:
When: Friday May 27, 5-7pm
Where: In front of the Manhattan Criminal Court building at 100 Centre Street.
How: Public Transportation Directions: Take the No. 4 or 5 train to the Brooklyn Bridge Station; the C, N, R, 6 train to Canal Street; the 1 train to Franklin Street. Take the 1, 6 or 15 bus line.
Why: On Thursday May 26, New York police officers Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata were found not guilty of charges that Moreno raped a woman in her apartment while Mata kept guard, despite the fact that the amount of evidence against the officers in this case was overwhelming. Instead, the jury convicted both officers of official misconduct for entering the woman’s apartment, but found them not guilty of all other charges, including burglary and falsifying business records. This despite the fact that one of the officers had been recorded on tape admitting to using a condom when having sex with the woman who made the accusation. The cornerstone of the defense required that the woman was too drunk to have a credible account of the incident, but sober enough to consent to sex.
Join us in protest. Because raping a drunk women while on patrol is more than “official misconduct.” Because calling 911 should not be an invitation to be raped. Because NO behavior, including being drunk, is an invitation to be raped. Because rapists do not deserve the protection of our tax-funded police department and city officials. Because we recognize this incident as part of the NYPD’s long, horrific history of violence – sexual and otherwise – often and disproportionately against people of color. Because the people of NYC will not accept victim-blaming, cronyism, and a culture of silence that allows rapists to roam free, without consequence.
“Two New York City Police Officers Acquitted of Rape” via New York Times
“Two New York police officers cleared of rape charges” via Reuters
“New York City Cops Acquitted of Rape” via Big Think
“Protest the NYC Cops’ Rape Acquittal” via Feministe