Who’d have ever thought that the rape trial of two police officers would turn out to be the second-most-absorbing sex-crime case unfolding in the Criminal Courts Building in Lower Manhattan?
First place, in case you slept though a long weekend, belonged on Monday to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a leading French Socialist and managing director of the International Monetary Fund, who was charged with trying to rape a hotel housekeeper.
The accusations were shocking enough. But some people were almost as gobsmacked by the setting: Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s $3,000-a-night suite at the Sofitel New York, on West 44th Street. Three thousand is a fierce sum for a night’s rest. They’re raising an interesting breed of Socialists in France.
Interest in this case was huge, even if one were to go only by the enormous crowd of photographers and microphone holders that massed on Centre Street. French was at least as dominant a language as English. Asked if he’d seen anything quite like it, a courthouse security officer thought a bit and said, “Maybe Russell Crowe.” That was in 2005, when the Australian actor was arrested for throwing a fit and, in the process, throwing a phone at a hotel clerk. (What is it about our hotels that brings out the worst in some visitors?)
Overshadowed by the hubbub was a case that may be of more enduring consequence for New Yorkers. As Mr. Strauss-Kahn appeared before a judge on the first floor, the trial of Police Officers Kenneth Moreno and Franklin L. Mata was winding down in a courtroom 12 stories up. The jury may get the case on Tuesday.
Officer Moreno is accused of having raped a young woman one December night in 2008, and Officer Mata of having helped him. They say no such thing ever happened. Obviously, the six men and six women on the jury will have to sort it all out. But other New Yorkers might do some sorting out as well.
The woman was drunk — totally hammered, according to testimony. The police were called to help her out of a cab and into her apartment on the Lower East Side. One might reasonably think that all they needed to do was to get her home and let her sleep it off.
Instead, while still on duty, the officers went back to the apartment three times that night. Testimony showed that Officer Moreno even made a phony 911 call to create a pretext for returning. He admitted in court to having kissed the woman — chastely, he insisted, on the forehead and maybe a shoulder. He admitted to having cuddled with her in bed, she wearing only a bra but he in full uniform. He admitted to singing a Bon Jovi song to her, “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
He did all this, Officer Moreno testified, because he was concerned about her heavy drinking, and wanted to help. If anything, she was the sexual aggressor, he said, but he honorably resisted. Oh, and he kept all of this from his partner, Officer Mata, said to have been asleep in the next room.
“I don’t kiss and tell,” Officer Moreno said in court. How gallant. The “kiss and tell” line impelled even his own lawyer to describe him in closing remarks to the jurors as “maybe a bit of a simpleton.”
Whatever the verdict on the rape charges, New Yorkers might well form conclusions of their own. Whether or not there was violent sex, when did the city authorize its officers to become self-appointed social workers — let alone with, literally, a bedside manner?
Just as the French are trying to figure out what to think and do about Mr. Strauss-Kahn, the people of this city may wonder if they want their police force to keep employing — and arming — anyone who is acknowledged by his own representative to be a simpleton.
For full local Times coverage, including an exclusive corps of cabbies who drive Lexus hybrids, see the N.Y./Region section.
Here’s what City Room is reading in other papers and blogs this morning:
New York State’s attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, has requested information and documents from three major Wall Street banks about their mortgage securities operations during the credit boom, indicating a new investigation into practices that contributed to billions of dollars in losses. [DealBook]
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a diminished pension tier for public employees and increasing the minimum retirement age to 65 on Monday to cut costs by up to $93 billion. [New York Post]
Electric bikes have become common in New York, even though they are illegal. [Wall Street Journal]
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg claimed “there aren’t very many panhandlers left” on the subway on Monday. [Daily News]
A group of downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan leaders are trying to ban helicopter tours because of noise. [Brooklyn Daily Eagle]
An enlightened screed on the problems of government prioritizing when it ignores public transportation. [2nd Avenue Sagas]
Community Board 13 voted in favor of adding a concrete portion to the Coney Island Boardwalk despite public objections. [Gowanus Lounge]
Some Facebook posts and text messages of five Old Bridge, N.J., teenagers charged in the fatal beating of Divyendu Sinha will be allowed as evidence. [Star-Ledger]
The former PTA treasurer charged with embezzling $100,000 from Public School 29 in Cobble Hill may avoid jail time. [Carrol Gardens Patch]
Bernard L. Madoff’s wine collection will be sold in an online auction on Wednesday. [New York Post]