A judge sentenced a second former New York City police officer cleared of rape to 60 days in prison for misconduct on Wednesday, saying he will forever wear a "bright scarlet letter" for repeatedly visiting a drunken woman's apartment.
A tearful Franklin Mata, convicted of the same three misdemeanor counts of official misconduct as his partner former Officer Kenneth Moreno, appeared before Justice Gregory Carro in state Supreme Court in Manhattan and made a tearful plea for leniency.
Earlier this week, Carro sentenced Moreno to the maximum prison term of one year.
Mata, who like Moreno was fired after their trial, said his lifelong dream of being a police officer was already over.
"For as long as I can remember, your honor, I've wanted to do something with my life to help people," he said, his voice breaking. "I never meant for anybody to get hurt."
Mata and Moreno were accused of raping a fashion executive who they helped into her East Village apartment after a cab driver called 911 because she was too drunk to exit his taxi in December 2008. They returned to her apartment three times during their shift that night, including once calling in a fake 911 call to create the opportunity to get inside.
But a jury, faced with no DNA evidence and an intoxicated witness who admitted her recollection was fuzzy, cleared Mata. He was accused of being the lookout, while Moreno was accused of felony rape and burglary charges.
Prosecutors argued that Mata, who testified he fell asleep on the woman's couch, should receive the maximum punishment too since he aided Moreno in committing and then covering up his crimes.
"Mata testified to a story that could be summed up as hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil," said Assistant District Attorney Randolph Clarke.
Though harshly critical of Mata's behavior, the judge said the two men's involvement was not equal and he sentenced Mata to two months in prison and, upon release, three years of probation.
"Forever, you will be a disgraced police officer," Carro said. "Forever, you will have that bright scarlet letter shining on your back. But I don't hold you in the same light as your co-defendant."
The judge, who told Moreno at his sentencing that his testimony that he returned to the apartment to counsel the woman on excessive drinking and only cuddled her in bed was "incredible," criticized Mata for backing his partner's story with "clearly" untruthful testimony of his own.
An appellate court has granted Moreno's release on $125,000 bail pending his appeal, and Mata's lawyer, Edward Mandery, indicated he would make a similar application later Wednesday. Mata is due back in court September 12 to begin his sentence unless the appellate division grants bail.
Mandery said he thought Mata's sentence was fair, particularly in light of Moreno's sentence.
Moreno still faces misdemeanor drug possession charges stemming from a small amount of heroin found in his locker. A trial date will be set September 12.