Two police officers made four visits within about three hours to the apartment of a woman they are charged with raping when she needed help, prosecutors said Monday as they added to a slate of charges against the officers.
Already fighting charges including rape, burglary and official misconduct, officers Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata pleaded not guilty Monday to additional counts of burglary, official misconduct and falsifying business records.
Moreno is accused of raping the drunken, semiconscious woman while Mata acted as a lookout in December 2008. They deny the allegations. Jury selection for their trial is expected to start next week.
The officers had been poised to go to trial earlier this month when prosecutors abruptly announced that they planned to return the case to a grand jury — an unusual move so close to a trial. At the time, they declined to say why.
It became clear Monday. Prosecutors said they had found that surveillance cameras had captured the officers entering the woman's building four times, not three, in the early hours of Dec. 7, 2008.
They initially were called to usher the 27-year-old home when she had trouble getting out of a taxi after a night out with friends. Then the officers repeatedly returned for periods of a half-hour or more, ultimately spending an hour there during their last visit, starting at 4:11 a.m., prosecutors said.
While on a meal break, "they snuck out of the precinct and went to her apartment," Assistant District Attorney Coleen Balbert said. She said the new charges strengthened prosecutors' case.
The officers' lawyers said they weren't sneaking around, and they said the new allegation of a fourth and final visit should fuel doubt about authorities' account of the events.
To Moreno lawyer Joseph Tacopina, the new timeline either contradicts authorities' earlier statements about the time of the alleged rape or implies the officers returned after committing the alleged attack, something he suggested no one would do.
"That's the illogical conclusion, based on the new charges," he said. "I believe there's substantial evidence that will support (the officers') claim of innocence."
Mata said in a secretly taped conversation with the woman that she had asked him to come back to her apartment.
After reporting that she had been raped, the woman wore a wire to confront Moreno outside the police station where he worked and ask for his account of the events.
Moreno repeatedly told her "nothing happened," but when she pressed and suggested she'd make a scene inside the stationhouse, he eventually said "yes" twice when she asked whether he'd used a condom, according to the recording. He then again told her they hadn't had sex.
Tacopina has said the officer's seemingly incriminating statements were just his efforts to mollify a woman he thought could cost him his job.
Mata's lawyer, Edward Mandery, says his client committed no crime.
The officers were stripped of their guns and badges after the allegations were made public. Moreno, 43, has been an officer for about 19 years. Mata, who is in his late 20s, has been an officer for about five years.
If convicted of rape, the officers face up to 25 years in prison.