New York Post
May 25, 2012


Thug who assaulted cop convicted in Queens after earlier acquittal by Bronx jury

By CHRISTINA CARREGA and BOB FREDERICKS

It took a Queens jury just minutes to accomplish what critics say the Bronx DA’s office couldn’t during a lengthy trial.

A gun-toting ex-con who was cleared by a Bronx jury after running over a cop and breaking her leg with a stolen car was finally convicted today for swiping that same vehicle in Queens.

The Queens jury took less than an hour to convict Rafael Then, 28, of the Bronx, of robbery after a week-long trial for the gunpoint theft of a 2003 Lexus from Baron’s Auto Mall on Northern Boulevard in 2006.

The verdict finally provided a measure of justice for ex-NYPD Officer Fannie Ortiz, 40, whose leg was broken in three places when she and a partner busted a heavily armed Then, 12 days after the car theft.

The thug had been charged with assaulting the officer, weapons possession and grand larceny after he was picked out of a lineup by a dealership employee he’d threatened to shoot during the robbery.

But at his Bronx trial in 2009, Then was incredibly cleared of all charges by a Bronx jury — despite the ID and even though his fingerprints and DNA were found on a handgun in his possession.

A top PBA official praised yesterday’s verdict while blasting Bronx DA Robert Johnson for blowing the earlier case.

“An ineffective prosecution by the Bronx District Attorney’s office for the attempted murder of a police officer and a Bronx jury that was totally unsympathetic to the career-ending shattering of a dedicated officer’s leg resulted in the incomprehensible acquittal of this criminal,” a furious PBA president Pat Lynch said.

But Johnson defended the prosecution - and even took credit for the Queens verdict.

“We are certain we conducted a quality prosecution in our case, and in fact the conviction in Queens is in part based on information we shared with the Queens DA’s office,” Johnson said.

Queens DA Richard A. Brown said the verdict ensures the cold-blooded creep will do a long stretch in the slammer.

“This defendant is a menace to society and must be removed from our streets. This conviction ensures that he will be severely punished for his actions,” Brown said.

The career thug faces up to 25 years behind bars when he is sentenced by Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth R. Holder on June 7.

“We are indebted to the Queens District Attorney’s office and the men and women of the jury who yesterday convicted a thug by the name of Rafael Then in the armed robbery of a car from a dealership that he later used in the Bronx to shatter the leg and the career of Police Officer Fannie Ortiz,” Lynch said.

Then went to the dealership on Oct. 15, 2006 - just 12 days after he got out of prison after serving two years on an assault charge.

At gunpoint, he ordered a dealership employee who was moving cars around the lot to turn over the keys to the Lexus and sped off.

Twelve days later the empty car was spotted at Clay Avenue and 173rd Street in Claremont by cops who were using a mobile plate reader to search for stolen vehicles.

The officers waited until Then and a gal pal came out of a nearby building and got in the car.

They ordered him to turn off the ignition, and when he refused one cop reached in to grab the keys.

But another cop spotted Then reaching into his waistband and shouted”Gun!”

Then slammed the car into reverse and floored it, pinning Ortiz between the car’s door and a metal pole, shattering her leg in three places.

Another officer opened fire and shot Then once in the cheek as the suspect desperately tried to escape.

When they pulled him from the car, a 9-mm handgun fell to the ground and another pistol was found in his waistband.

Then was in custody before the trial after he was convicted of assaulting a correction officer and other charges in the Bronx.

He also has a conviction in Seneca County for possession of prison contraband for having a cell phone at the Five Points Correctional Facility.

ccarrega@nypost.com