Published November 17, 2014
Unaired footage for a recent documentary about sex-crimes prosecutors has become a last-minute issue likely to delay sentencing for two former police officers acquitted of rape but convicted of misconduct, people familiar with the case said Monday.
Ex-New York Police Department officers Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata were scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday on the misdemeanor charges, which stem from their December encounter with a drunken woman they were called to help. Convicted late last month, they could face anything from two years behind bars to not even probation.
But two people familiar with the case told The Associated Press on Monday that the sentencing likely would be postponed, partly because of the film footage. The people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters not yet made public in court.
They said prosecutors days ago gave defense lawyers material shot for but not included in "Sex Crimes Unit," which was shot by an independent filmmaker and debuted June 20 on HBO. They said it's unclear whether the unaired footage will ultimately affect the case, but prosecutors thought it should be turned over to the defense, and the ex-officers' lawyers want time to evaluate it.
Under evidence rules, documents or other recordings of authorities' preparation of a case can fall within what defense lawyers are required to get a chance to see.
Defense lawyers are "going to review it" and decide whether to file papers raising legal questions about it, one of the people said.
The people declined to detail what was in the footage, which one characterized as "discussions that were had" in prosecutors' offices.
The Manhattan district attorney's office declined to comment Monday. A member of the officers' legal team, Edward Mandery, would say only that the sentencing would likely be put off "because of various legal reasons."
A spokeswoman for filmmaker Lisa Jackson didn't immediately respond to an email message Monday night.
Defense lawyers also may ask a court to weigh other legal issues before sentencing Mata, 29, and Moreno, 43.
Jackson was afforded unusual behind-the-scenes access to the Manhattan DA's sex-crimes unit. Her film includes prosecutors strategizing, visiting a crime scene, picking jurors, solving a cold case and talking about their lives and reasons for working in one of the nation's most prominent sex-crimes prosecution offices.
Former DA Robert Morgenthau, who gave the OK to Jackson's project, told the AP in an interview earlier this month that he thought the film would help show the public how sex crimes are handled.
Still, the project was subject to some ground rules, such as a ban on using footage about any case not resolved when the film was being finalized. That included pieces related to the case against Moreno and Mata, Jackson has said.
Moreno and Mata were called to help their accuser, now 29, get out of a taxi. She had gotten very drunk while out celebrating a job promotion.
After escorting the woman into her apartment, the officers returned three times within the next four hours without advising dispatchers and supervisors of their whereabouts — the basis for their misconduct convictions.
Moreno, who admitted making a bogus 911 call about a sleeping vagrant as an excuse to go back to the woman's building, said she'd asked them to check on her.
The woman told jurors she passed out and awoke to being raped in her bed. Moreno testified that he snuggled with her in her bed but that they didn't have sex. Mata told jurors he was napping on her sofa.
No DNA evidence implicated the officers, and experts debated whether an internal mark on the woman could be seen as evidence of rape.
In a secretly recorded conversation with the woman days later, Moreno repeatedly denied they had sex but also said "yes" twice when she asked whether he'd used a condom. Moreno told jurors he was trying to placate her.
The officers' acquittal on rape, burglary and other charges brought an outcry from women's rights advocates, who planned to demonstrate outside the courthouse Tuesday to press for the maximum possible sentence for the former officers.
Moreno and Mata had been suspended after their arrests and were fired within hours of the verdict.