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Jury to begin deliberating in New York police rape case

By Bernd Debusmann Jr.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A jury is set to begin deliberations on Wednesday in the trial of two New York City police officers accused in the rape of an intoxicated woman.

Kenneth Moreno, 43, is accused of raping the woman, a fashion executive, as his partner, Franklin Mata, 29, stood lookout. Both men are charged with rape, burglary and misconduct in the December 2008 incident.

Each officer faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

"These two were supposed to be New York City's finest but on December 7, 2008 they were New York City's worst," Assistant District Attorney Coleen Balbert told jurors during her closing remarks in state Supreme Court in Manhattan on Tuesday.

The two were arrested in April 2009 after the victim, using a watch equipped with a microphone, covertly taped a conversation with Moreno in which he said he wore a condom.

The officers first encountered the woman, then 29, when they responded to a 911 call placed by a cabbie who said his fare was too drunk to exit his taxi.

During the trial last week, Moreno testified that after helping the woman from the cab to her apartment, he made a bogus 911 call so that he and his fellow officer could return to her home.

Moreno testified he was trying to help her with her drinking problem because he previously abused alcohol himself after being upset over the September 11, 2001 attacks and a custody battle over his daughter.

"This has nothing to do with checking on (the victim). This is about Officer Moreno wanting to have sex (with the victim)," Balbert said.

"The only thing that was honest about Officer Moreno's testimony was his name," she said.

Moreno last week admitted getting into bed with the victim but denied raping her.

In his closing argument, Moreno's attorney Joseph Tacopina pointed to a lack of forensic evidence as proof no crime occurred.

"No semen, no lubricant and no injuries means no sex," he said.

Tacopina noted that outdoor surveillance camera footage of the victim entering the apartment building on the night of the incident shows she was more sober than prosecutors allege.

"(Moreno's) overriding motivation and purpose was pure," the defense attorney said.

During his closing argument on Monday, Mata's attorney Edward Mandery called into question the victim's memory of the incident.

"It's very dangerous to rely upon the testimony of someone who doesn't have a clear memory," Mandery said.

Mandery also said that the victim has a vested interest in the prosecution of the officers because she has filed a $57 million lawsuit against their employer, the city of New York.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Tim Gaynor)

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