After two New York police officers were acquitted of rape charges yesterday, many people are unsurprisingly livid at the verdict, and a lot of them plan to protest it at 5 p.m. today at the New York City courthouse at 100 Centre St. in Manhattan. The accusation raised a furor when the alleged victim stepped forward in 2009, and many now believe police officers Kenneth Moreno and Frank Mata got off on a technicality of reasonable doubt. Jezebel's Margaret Hartmann called the verdict "profoundly disturbing" today, and shortly after the decision came out, an announcement went up on Facebook about the protest today. The department moved to fire the two officers almost immediately, and they may still face two years in prison for the misdemeanor convictions.
The officers were found to have violated police procedure by returning to the apartment of a drunk woman they escorted home, and Moreno went so far as to admit he cuddled with her while she wore only a bra. The prosecution in the case was hampered by the fact it had no physical evidence that intercourse occurred. But the prosecution pointed to a conversation the accusing witness surreptitiously recorded, in which Moreno admitted he had sex with her, and that he had worn a condom. The defense argued that Moreno had only admitted that to defuse a possible embarrassing scene at his station house, but as Hartmann and others have pointed out, there is other evidence a rape occurred.
A forensic examiner said there was bruising on the victim's cervix that confirmed her claim that she was attacked from behind. The defense tried to explain this away by calling the bruise a "minor blemish," and suggesting that it could have come from a venereal disease or injury during a "vigorous shower scrubbing."
The Facebook page announcing today's protest points out, "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." The fact that an argument along those lines prevailed has led to a lot of outrage about the verdict.
A New York Times commenter captured the sentiment of many following the verdict:
After this acquittal it's hard to feel safe as a woman in this city, and that breaks my heart. The very people in whom we are asked to place our trust, the very men who were called to this woman's aid by a good samaritan cab driver who could tell she needed help, some how found it acceptable to "cuddle" with her in her intoxication, in her nakedness, and leave her in her own vomit. At the very least. Whether there was actual sex or not is not the only question here. They betrayed her trust, and our trust, and have made women across this wonderful city walk with more fear than we walked with yesterday.
The New York Daily News talked to a few jurors after the case, who explained that while they found the accuser credible, the lack of physical evidence cast a reasonable doubt on the prosecution's case. "No one is ever going to know what happened in that apartment because [the victim] was blacked out," juror Richard Schimenti told the paper. "The prosecution really failed to prove their case. There was no evidence of a rape--except that she said it."