Officer Pena gets arraigned
An off-duty New York City police officer accused of raping a teacher was being held on bail of $500,000 cash or $1 million bond after appearing in court Saturday.
Michael Pena, 27, is accused of grabbing a woman off the street, forcing her into an alley and raping her as she walked to work Friday in Manhattan.
Police said Pena, who was intoxicated, approached the 25-year-old woman as she was walking near Park Terrace West in Inwood and asked for directions to the No. 1 train.
He then showed her his gun in his waistband, put his arm around her, saying "you are coming with me," and took her to an alley, police said.
In their courtroom account of the alleged rape, prosecutors said Pena ushered the woman behind a building on Park Terrace West. A resident inside the building told police she looked out the window and saw the defendant violating the woman. The resident called 911.
After two 911 calls, police arrived to find Pena with his pants still down.
Pena was arraigned Saturday on charges of first degree rape, forcible rape, and predatory sexual assault.
Prosecutors argued in court Pena acted in a calculating manner, taking his victim's cell phone and throwing it onto a building roof so she couldn't call 911.
But attorney Juan Campos suggested Pena might not have had his wits about him. "I'm not saying alcohol excuses this if it is true but it may explain certain behavior," Campos said.
Campos said Pena was a family man who recently moved in with his fiancee. "My client is a very soft-spoken, peaceful individual," Campos said. "If these allegations are true they could be the product of something that can't be explained."
As family members left court Saturday, Pena's aunt told NBC New York they were stunned by the allegations. "He's a good kid," said Ramona Pena. "He's a gorgeous person. He's a person with a lot of moral value."
"We are in shock and surprised just like everybody else," she said.
Pena is assigned to the 33rd precinct in Washington Heights and has been on the job for three years. He has been suspended without pay.
Sources say it was his day off and it was not clear why he was in the area.
In the spring, two NYPD officers were acquitted of charges they raped a drunken woman they had been summoned to help get out of a cab.
The officers were convicted of official misconduct for repeatedly returning to the woman's apartment while telling dispatchers they were elsewhere.
The police department fired the two officers within hours of the May verdict.