By Shayna Jacobs
MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — Kenneth Moreno, the NYPD officer accused of raping a drunk woman in her East Village apartment told jurors she came on to him but that the most they did was "snuggle" in her bed while he was in uniform and on meal break.
The 43-year-old suspended cop, who took the stand Monday and testified that he's a recovering alcoholic with a "soft spot" for heavy drinkers and was trying to help her, said he returned three times to her apartment because he did not want her to be alone.
He described in detail his version of the bedroom encounter, claiming the woman stripped off her shirt to reveal a pink bra in an attempt to lure him into a romantic liason.
"This was totally unexpected. I didn't see this coming at all," Moreno claimed in testimony that stands in stark contrast to the alleged victim's version of events.
"It was getting crazy. It was getting out of control," he added.
He claimed she approached him for a kiss but he turned away because he smelled vomit on her breath. He claimed she also rubbed against his groin, but he resisted, telling her, "There's another time for this," according to his story.
He said she acted hurt and jumped onto her bed, then slipped into the space between the mattress and the wall, forcing him to pull her out by her legs.
The story bore little resemblance to the alleged victim's emotional testimony three weeks ago — that she felt a sensation of someone ripping off her tights and throwing her on the bed in between periods of alcohol-induced blackouts.
He claimed, after pulling her on top of the bed, that he landed on top of her and settled next to her where they cuddled, because she was pulling him closer looking for comfort.
"I guess i could have put up more resistance," he said, still contending he kept all his clothes and his gun belt on while lying down next to her.
The most he did was "rub her shoulder" and "I may have kissed her back," Moreno said.
Moreno said during one of his visits, he warned the woman about being more careful while she was out drinking, in light of the news that Chelsea clubgoer Laura Garza had gone missing days earlier.
"I told her that when she goes out she needs to be careful," Moreno said.
"You might get out there, you might meet a nice guy he ends up being a bad guy. I'm a good guy."
He eventually told her he had to take "his friend" Mata home and used it as an excuse to get out of there, he testified.
Moreno, 43, claimed he was only trying to help the woman he allegedly attacked when he broke orders and lied to a dispatcher about his whereabouts by making a bogus 911 phone call to buy him more time to be with the woman on Dec. 7, 2008. He said he thought the woman was addicted to alcohol, and reminded him of his old self.
"I developed a soft spot for people who were drinking," Moreno testified at trial in Manhattan Supreme Court Monday afternoon.
"I remembered sitting by myself and, uh, thinking that you didn't have nobody. And I just wanted to be there and just wanted her to feel that you got somebody — somebody's going to be there for you," he added.
He said he was there for the woman, claiming he helped her as she was "sobering up" over the course of several trips back to her apartment by talking about music. He even sang Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" to her.
He said he also gave the woman tips on getting sober.
"I sung to her — I told her one of my favorite groups was Bon jovi and I sung to her a verse of "Living on a Prayer," Moreno testified.
Throughout the the testimony, he referred to the woman by her nickname, which the woman testified earlier that is usually used by her friends.
He flatly denied having any sexual encounter with the woman, who was not present in the courtroom Monday as Moreno and his partner Franklin Mata took the stand.
"Did you commit rape Officer Moreno?" his attorney, Joe Tacopina, asked on direct examination. "Did you have sex [with the alleged victim]?"
"No," Moreno replied to each question.
The woman had been celebrating at a going-away party before getting into a cab and heading home, when Moreno and his partner, Franklin Mata, were called to the scene by a cabdriver who said the woman was too drunk to get out of his taxi alone.
Moreno said he descended into alcoholism after stress over the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and a custody battle over his daughter, and had a "tough time" beating the addiction even with the help of counseling in 2002.
He added that said he's made a habit out of helping other drinkers after he got over his own dependency on wine, amaretto and rum.
The woman testified that she woke up to Moreno tearing off her tights and "penetrating" her from behind as she lay almost unconscious on her bed after she'd vomited several times.
Each officer is charged with rape, burglary and official misconduct. They face up to 25 years in prison a piece if convicted.