Kenneth Moreno and Franklin L. Mata dodged a bullet for a while longer.
Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.
They were the New York police officers — former police officers now — who disgraced the uniform in 2008 with what they did in the apartment of a young woman who was thoroughly drunk. Manhattan prosecutors charged that instead of helping her home and letting her just sleep it off, they raped her.
No way, the men said. Mr. Moreno — described by his own lawyer as “maybe a bit of a simpleton” — did admit, however, to having climbed into bed with the nearly naked woman and having cuddled with her while Mr. Mata napped in the next room.
After deliberating for a week, jurors in state court concluded last month that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove rape. But they found the men guilty of official misconduct, misdemeanor counts that could result in jail terms of up to two years. Hours after the verdict, the Police Department washed its hands of these two mooks, and kicked them off the force.
Tuesday was supposed to be sentencing day, but Messrs. Moreno and Mata won a reprieve. Their lawyers asked, among other things, that the judge throw out the convictions on the grounds that the misconduct charges were not supported by law. So the convicted men got to go free until at least Aug. 8, the next sentencing date.
While that was happening in the courthouse, dozens of women’s rights advocates rallied nearby in Foley Square. They were decidedly (some would say understandably) unhappy, accusing the city of not taking rape seriously enough. They demanded the maximum penalty for the former officers, and denounced what several speakers called “a grave miscarriage of justice.”
It no doubt helped these speakers to be unburdened with having actually followed the trial in person. Unlike the jury, criticized for having let the officers “get away with rape,” they had not sat through more than six weeks of testimony and seven days of deliberations. So much for faith in the jury system.
Still, the issue of what constitutes a just sentence remains. It is a thread running this week through several otherwise unrelated cases.
In compelling interviews with Benjamin Weiser of The New York Times, the federal judge in the Bernard L. Madoff case explained how he came, two years ago on Wednesday, to impose the maximum prison sentence: 150 years. At the time, some questioned whether the judge, Denny Chin, had shown appropriate toughness or, instead, had gone overboard, possibly inviting disrespect for the judicial system.
Judge Chin said he had concluded that the crimes were so “extraordinarily evil” that Mr. Madoff, now 73, deserved not even a glimmer of hope of ever being free again. “A defendant should get his just deserts,” he recalled thinking.
Mr. Madoff’s reaction to this? He went: Boo hoo hoo. In a phone interview with Mr. Weiser from a federal prison in North Carolina, he whined that the judge had turned him into “the human piñata of Wall Street,” and said, “I’m surprised Chin didn’t suggest stoning in the public square.”
Sentencing will also be scrutinized in the case of four men who could get life in prison for plotting to blow up synagogues and military planes. On Wednesday, three of the four are to be sentenced by a federal judge in Manhattan.
The case has been dogged by defense charges of government entrapment and by questions of whether these men were gullible dopes more than committed jihadists. The judge, Colleen McMahon, agreed last month that there was “something troubling about the government’s behavior.” That said, she upheld the guilty verdicts.
It showed, once again, that for all the chest-thumping talk in some circles about how military tribunals are the only acceptable settings in terrorism cases, the federal courts have proved to be a lot tougher, consistently imposing long sentences in trial after trial.
For more local news from The Times, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s tough stance on New York’s nuclear power plants, a judge’s explanation of Bernard L. Madoff’s 150-year sentence and a police crackdown on Midtown food trucks, see the N.Y./Region section.
Here’s what City Room is reading in other papers and blogs this morning.
Isayah Muller, a football star, was stabbed to death hours after his high school graduation in the Bronx. [Daily News] (Also see The New York Times and The New York Post.)
Federal agents arrested several Brooklyn dealers with large quantities of what the agents said were “bath salts,” or methylone, a popular designer drug. [Brooklyn Paper]
The trading slump has led to layoffs on Wall Street. [Wall Street Journal]
A man who opened his home to Rudolph W. Giuliani during the former mayor’s messy 2001 divorce said that Mr. Giuliani promised to conduct a wedding ceremony between the man and his husband if gay marriage were ever legal in New York, but that he has not returned his calls now that it is. [New York Post]
The legalization of gay marriage may force some couples to wed to keep benefits like shared health insurance. [Wall Street Journal]
The State Department of Corrections said they were rewriting the rules for conjugal visits to accommodate gay unions. [New York Post]
A New Jersey gay rights organization plans to file a lawsuit in State Superior Court demanding that same-sex relationships be recognized as marriages, not civil unions. [Star-Ledger]
There is an unfortunate clash between walkers and bikers on the Brooklyn Bridge’s narrow pedestrian walkway. [mcbrooklyn]
The principal of a Manhattan middle school geared toward writers is accused of having plagiarized a David Foster Wallace graduation speech for his own commencement remarks. [Daily News]
A 500-pound pop-up piano was apparently stolen from Norwood Park in the Bronx. [Daily News]
Video: “Pianojohn” tickles the ivories of the piano in Brooklyn Bridge Park. [Brooklyn Heights Blog]
Check out the Second Avenue Subway line construction to see some real-world Autobots. [Lost City]
A guide to this year’s Summer Streets program, which starts Aug. 6. [Gowanus Lounge]