MANHATTAN (CN) – A former New York City police officer will spend 60 days in prison for his lesser role in the notorious East Village rape case, but a scarlet letter will follow him even after he gets out, a Manhattan criminal judge said Wednesday.
“Forever, you will be a disgrace for police officers,” Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Gregory Carro told former officer Franklin Mata. “Forever, you will have that big scarlet letter on your back.”
In a May verdict met with widespread protest, a jury acquitted Mata and his partner, Kenneth Moreno, of rape and burglary, while convicting them of three counts of official misconduct for repeatedly breaking the law to visit the apartment of an intoxicated, young woman.
One time, Moreno testified that he placed a fake 911 call to get an assignment back at her place. They met the woman while escorting her home from the back of a taxicab in which she had passed out.
Prosecutors said Moreno raped and burglarized her while she was passed out in her bedroom, all while Mata stood guard in her living room in case patrol looked for them.
Moreno got the maximum one-year penalty for misconduct on Monday with Carro saying that the former officer had “ripped the fabric of our society.” Moreno was carted off to prison immediately, then temporarily released pending an appeal.
During that sentencing, Carro made it clear that he found the accuser’s story far more credible than that of the cops, even though he respected the jury’s decision.
Mata sat in the courtroom during that speech, and came to the judge fighting tears for his own sentencing.
“I’d like to express how sorry I am for my actions,” Mata said. “I have endured plenty during this time. I lost a job, my name in the public eye.”
Mata always had insisted that his partner, Moreno, merely gave the accuser alcohol counseling and help on the night of Dec. 7, 2008.
During his sentencing, Mata said: “I never meant for anyone to get hurt that night.” He asked for leniency, noting his previously spotless record. One individual who wrote a letter to the judge on Mata’s behalf was a woman the officer saved from suicide, his lawyer Edward Mandery said.
But Carro said he was concerned with Mata’s now-tarnished reputation.
“You were here when I sentenced your co-defendant,” Carro said. “So you know what I said about the damage you did to the fabric to our society.”
He added that Mata “certainly drew the short string” when getting Moreno as a partner.
“For some reason, you continued to carry your partner’s bags,” Carro said, later adding. “You knew his motivations were morally bankrupt.”
Mata insisted he heard nothing and took a nap in the living room while his partner admittedly was in the bedroom with an intoxicated and naked woman. And he said he never asked about what happened later.
The woman testified at trial that she heard the sounds of Velcro being ripped, while she lay immobile in the bed from too much alcohol.
“That wasn’t a very thick wall,” Carro said, referring to the one separating the bedroom from the living room. “That blue wall’s a lot thicker.”
Retired NYPD Detective Carlton Berkley, an activist representing the Bronx organization Brothers and Sisters Who Care, echoed that sentiment to reporters outside the courthouse following the sentencing.
“The blue wall of silence must be buried,” Berkley said.
Mata was sentenced to 60 days in prison and three years of parole, which he will begin serving on Sept. 12. That same day, Moreno will appear in court for heroin possession charges.
Moreno and Mata also face a civil lawsuit by their accuser.