Courts - New York Prosecutors: Ex-NYPD cop used job to prey on women

By Jennifer Peltz

Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- The police officer could hardly have seemed more helpful. After a young mother locked herself out of her car, he offered to help her apply for a job as a school crossing guard, sign her young son up for an after-school program and even get a coveted parking permit, she said.

All that was a pretext to get her address and phone number -- information Wilfredo Rosario used days later to track her down and molest her, prosecutors said Tuesday as the now-fired officer went on trial on charges of using his job to prey on two women in separate incidents.

Rosario has pleaded not guilty to charges including sexual abuse and misconduct. His lawyer, Steven R. Fusfeld, said the women's accounts were unreliable.

The trial marks a second round in a slate of charges accusing Rosario of parlaying police work into an opportunity to make unwanted sexual advances. He was convicted in January of misconduct after being accused of telling a teenager he would tear up a ticket, for staying in a park after-hours, if she did him a sexual favor. He faces up to a year in jail on that conviction.

He also is to be tried separately on a charge of raping a woman who had come to a police station looking for information on children's programs. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.

The current trial centers on allegations that Rosario approached women in his capacity as a community affairs officer, struck up conversations with them about after-school programs and other topics to gain their trust and contact information, and then turned up at their homes and groped them.

One woman, now 29, testified that she met Rosario in March 2008 after she locked herself out of her car. She said she gave him her phone number after he said he'd contact her later to help with the crossing-guard job, parking permit and after-school program.

"He told me he worked in the community, and he would help me get a job," she testified, with the help of a Spanish interpreter. The married woman, who is from Puerto Rico, said she trusted him because "he was a police officer."

Rosario contacted her four days later, lured her into his car by saying he needed to explain a job application, drove her to a secluded area and fondled her and forced her to kiss him while refusing to let her leave, the woman testified.

In a phone call from Rosario that she secretly recorded later that night, the married officer appears to acknowledge a sexually charged encounter but says "nothing has happened," according to a translated transcript provided by prosecutors.

Brushing off her protestations that the episode made her uncomfortable, he insists he'll become her confidant and more: "When you have given me your mind, you will give me that body."

Another woman, also expected to testify, had a similar encounter with Rosario in August 2004, Assistant District Attorney Artie McConnell told jurors in his opening statement. The officer approached her on the street in a police van as she was walking with her two children, offered her information on after-school programs, came by her apartment that night, threatened to arrest her and then molested her in her bedroom, McConnell said.

Rosario told both women not to report the abuse, the prosecutor said.

"He used his job as a public servant to commit two personal and very horrible crimes," McConnell said.

Rosario's lawyer noted that the alleged 2004 incident wasn't reported to police for two years, and the alleged 2008 encounter was reported by a friend of the accuser.

"There is no merit to these charges," Fusfeld said.

The New York Police Department has fired Rosario, who had been on the force for 10 years.

Published: Thu, May 20, 2010