A New York City police officer accused of sodomizing a drug suspect in a subway station was acquitted Monday after defense attorneys spent weeks chipping away at the credibility of the accuser, a self-professed gang member who admitted to smoking pot regularly. Two colleagues were acquitted of a cover-up.
Officer Richard Kern had faced as many as 25 years in prison if convicted of aggravated sexual abuse, while Officers Andrew Morales and Alex Cruz could have gotten up to 4 years on charges of hindering prosecution.
The defendants' families sighed loudly and cried softly as the verdict was read. After jurors were dismissed, the officers hugged their attorneys and families, and representatives from their union clapped each other on the back. "I'm glad the system works," Kern said outside court. "I knew coming in this I was innocent."
The man accusing the officers, Michael Mineo, was not in the courtroom for the verdict. Outside court he said that he had a feeling the case would turn out as it did.
"If you want to commit a murder, join the NYPD," he said, referring to other cases where officers were tried and acquitted in shooting deaths. He said later that he feared for his safety, asking, "Who's going to police the police?"
Mineo has filed a $440-million lawsuit against the city. His attorney, Stephen Jackson, said the lawsuit would continue as planned and would be unaffected by the outcome of the criminal case. They're also planning to ask federal officials to investigate and want the U.S. Marshals Service to protect Mineo.
Mineo said later Monday that his credibility wasn't relevant to the facts of the case and "has nothing to do with me being sodomized."
The 25-year-old Mineo claimed he was assaulted in a Brooklyn subway station on an October afternoon in 2008 after the cops chased him for lighting a joint on the street. He said that after he was handcuffed, one of the officers sodomized him with a baton.
Mineo was hospitalized for days with a small non-penetrating wound, then returned again later for more medical care for an internal abscess.A transit system police officer who witnessed the struggle testified for the prosecution, but jurors said in a handwritten statement that they found reasonable doubt after examining the evidence. They deliberated just under three days after a trial of nearly four weeks.