The judge asked everyone in the courtroom not to show any emotion with the announcement of the verdicts in the trial of Stephen Maiorino, a former Boynton Beach Police officer accused of raping a young woman at gunpoint on the hood of his patrol car.
But the silence was shattered when the 21-year-old accuser cried after hearing “not guilty” to all four charges, and she wailed, “No! No!” before her dad held her as she stumbled out the door. She screamed and cried out, “Why?” before being helped onto an elevator.
Over at the defense table, Maiorino pressed his lips together, cried and looked over at his visibly relieved loved ones, before Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer thanked the jurors for the week they spent on a difficult case.
The panel of four men and two women deliberated for 10 hours over two days, before acquitting the 36-year-old ex-cop. The judge told Maiorino he could check out of Palm Beach County Jail and walk free for the first time since he was arrested on Oct. 30.
“Obviously we’re very happy,” defense attorney Michael Salnick told reporters. “But it’s time for everyone to heal … it’s time to move on.”
Assistant State Attorney Marci Rex said she was “proud that this young woman had the courage to come forward and stand up for herself.” The prosecutor also praised the accuser’s family for their constant support.
It was a case that hinged on the credibility of the woman’s testimony and the defense’s insistence the veteran cop was guilty only of using “bad judgment” to have consensual sex with someone other than his wife and while he was on duty on Oct. 15. Maiorino did not testify.
During closing arguments Monday, prosecutors Rex and Jessica Kahn called Maiorino “brazen” enough to think he could get away with his crimes. They said he first forced the victim to have oral sex inside his patrol car, and then intercourse while parked in a grassy area within earshot of Interstate 95.
Stephen Maiorino, seated left, meets with his attorneys during a break in his trial Friday on charges that the former Boynton Beach police officer raped and kidnapped a 20-year-old woman at gunpoint last year
(Marc Freeman/Sun Sentinel)
“He took her to an abandoned field by the side of I-95 like she was a piece of trash,” Kahn told the jury. “She could scream, but who would hear her? … That is not consent.”
The Sun Sentinel is not identifying the woman because of the nature of the former charges: two counts of sexual battery by a law enforcement officer with a firearm; armed kidnapping; and one count called unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior while armed — defined as using his role as a cop to get what he wanted from the woman.
But Salnick, seizing on many conflicting sworn statements by the accuser and other witnesses since that night, argued “there was clearly consent” and a mutual attraction between his client and the woman. He knocked her entire account, including that Maiorino held a gun while she was bent over the car’s hood.
“He’s not a criminal,” Salnick said, reminding the jury not to let bias against law enforcement officers or sympathy for the woman influence the verdicts.
The defense also harped on the accuser for faking the rape story to benefit her lawsuit against Maiorino and the city of Boynton Beach, which was filed three weeks after his arrest.
The “recovery [of money] in the civil case is certainly on the line,” Salnick reminded the jurors.
While on the witness stand, the woman denied such a motive.
“That would make me the most evil human being in the whole world,” she said, calling such a fabrication “a disgusting thing to do to ruin someone’s whole life.”
Maiorino resigned from the Police Department in May; the father of two small children had been an officer for more than eight years.
The defense contended the young woman craved sex on the patrol car “perhaps to be cool.”
Salnick made a point that a few years earlier, while she was in high school, she posed for a photo in which she bent over the hood of the car with her hands behind her back in a “strikingly similar position” as the scene in the alleged crime.
But the woman testified the 2011 photo was just a goof, had no sexual overtones, and was not any kind of a fantasy to have sex on a cop car.
Before meeting Maiorino, the woman was hanging out for hours at a bar with a male friend. On their way home, the friend, who was driving, blew through a DUI checkpoint, and officers caught up with the car after a brief pursuit.
While the friend was arrested and his car towed, the woman was stranded and needed a ride. Maiorino responded to the scene in his cruiser to give her a lift to the police station where her mom could get her.
But while parked outside the police station, Maiorino demanded oral sex in exchange for not arresting her for underage drinking, she said.
The officer unzipped the fly of his pants and held her head down, and then drove to the secluded spot, she said. He then ordered her to take off her clothes while holding his gun, and proceeded to rape her on the car, she testified.
“I thought I was going to die … I was praying for it to stop,” she said through tears.
Prosecutors said Maiorino only stopped because police dispatchers sounded alert tones requesting his immediate response, and he returned with the woman to headquarters and acted like nothing happened.
In one of the key clashes in the trial, the defense claimed Maiorino, after they hurried to have sex, handed the woman his business card because he wanted to see her again. This shows it was consensual sex because a rapist wouldn’t do that, Salnick said.
But the woman, along with her mother and sister, told the jury there was never a business card. The accuser testified later that night at a hospital she wrote Maiorino’s name on a piece of paper so her mom could report the rape.
After the encounter, Maiorino continued with his police shift. The defense displayed a blown up map of the city, to illustrate Maiorino drove around — if he was truly guilty of a crime — had plenty of opportunities to wipe away a DNA trail, and remove other evidence, such as his uniform.
But prosecutor Rex said he didn’t try to hide the crimes because “he doesn’t think she’s going to tell.”
The woman, who said she works as a waitress for a chain restaurant, said Maiorino had warned her: “If you tell anybody, I will find you and I will kill you.”