A former NYPD officer has been sentenced to three terms of 25 years to life in prison after being convicted of grabbing a schoolteacher off a street and sexually assaulting her at gunpoint.
Michael Pena, 28, was sentenced Monday. He was convicted in March of committing a criminal sex act.
"If I could go back in time, to the day of this incident, and somehow grab myself by the shoulder ... I have no explanation for what happened that day," Pena said softly, his remarks punctuated by long silences. "I will just have that guilt for the rest of my life."
Capping a trial that portrayed a hideous, sudden assault by an off-duty officer, the judge excoriated Pena as an embarrassment to police, while the woman said the attack — on her way to her first day of work at a new job — had destroyed her life.
"My life has been shattered — my sense of security, my sense of safety, any and all independence," she said, with a supporter by her side, holding her arm. She wept after she finished speaking.
An officer for three years, Pena was off-duty and wrapping up a drunken night of trying to pick up women when he accosted the teacher on an Upper Manhattan street early one morning last August, according to trial evidence. She was on her way to her first day of work at a new job.
She testified that Pena forced her into an apartment building courtyard and raped her at gunpoint.
Pena didn't testify. Pena's lawyer, Ephraim Savitt, said the officer attacked the woman but never had intercourse with her, a requirement for a rape conviction. The defense said the woman was so terrified that she was mistaken about the extent of what had happened.
A resident of the building heard the attack and called police, who learned Pena was an officer only as they arrested him. One officer said he threw Pena's badge to the ground in disgust.
Pena "showed by his deplorable conduct that he is not one of New York's finest," Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Richard Carruthers said at the sentencing. "Michael Pena is, instead, a sexual predator."
Pena told authorities he was drunk and didn't remember what had happened. No tests were done, so his blood-alcohol level was never established. But the judge took aim at Pena's claim, noting that surveillance video captured Pena steadily trailing the woman, and that Pena tried to mislead witnesses and the responding officers about what was happening.
"The evidence proved conclusively that Michael Pena acted purposefully and intentionally throughout this dreadful incident," Carruthers said.
Jurors convicted Pena in March of some of the top charges in the case, including predatory sexual assault, an offense that involves wielding a weapon during certain sex crimes. It carried the potential for life in prison.
But jurors deadlocked on rape charges. Pena is due back in court May 23 for prosecutors to say whether they plan to retry him on those charges.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. called Pena's 75-year-to-life term "an appropriate sentence that takes the viciousness of the defendant's crime into account." Vance's office had no immediate comment Monday on its plans regarding the remaining rape charges.
Meanwhile, Savitt said he was exploring a potential appeal for Pena.
Pena was fired from the police force after his arrest.
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