NYPD officer pleads not guilty to rape charges

AP News
Posted: Sep 21, 2011 3:41 PM
NYPD officer pleads not guilty to rape charges

An off-duty police officer accused of raping a teacher in upper Manhattan identified himself as a patrolman at the time of his arrest, admitted he was drunk and fretted about his girlfriend finding out he had been caught _ in his words _ "cheating with another girl," prosecutors said Wednesday.

The statements to arresting officers were made public after Officer Michael Pena pleaded not guilty to rape, sex assault and other charges. The 27-year-old officer was arrested last month and remains behind bars after failing to post $1 million bond.

Defense attorney Ephraim Savitt said his client denies the charges. Authorities, he added, haven't yet produced any physical evidence.

"We're still at a very early stage," Savitt said outside court. "There's nothing forensically that shows he raped anyone."

Authorities allege an off-duty Pena approached the 25-year-old woman at about 6 a.m. Aug. 19 in the Inwood neighborhood and asked her how to get to a subway stop. Then he grabbed her, showed her his gun, ushered her several blocks to an apartment building backyard and raped her, they say.

A resident of the building called 911, saying she saw from her window that something was amiss in the yard.

When officers arrived, the woman ran to them and warned them Pena was armed, police said. Officers didn't realize Pena was a colleague until they found his police ID upon arresting him, they said.

Pena told them there was no need for backup, according to the court papers. "My shield is in my back pocket," he said.

The papers say that a few minutes later, when asked if he was drunk, he said, "Yes."

That evening while in custody, the papers add, Pena confided to a sergeant that he didn't want to make a phone call.

"I wanted to call my girlfriend, but how am I going to call her when I got arrested for cheating with another girl?" he allegedly said.

The arrest came about three months after two other New York Police Department officers were acquitted of charges they raped a drunken woman they had been called to help get home. They were convicted of official misconduct for repeatedly returning to the woman's apartment while telling dispatchers they were elsewhere. They were fired after the verdict.

Pena joined the police force in 2008. He has been suspended without pay.

The Pena case "is truly shocking," District Attorney Cyrus Vance said Wednesday in a statement. "It is all the more disturbing that the defendant in this case was a law enforcement officer sworn to protect the citizens of this city."

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, calling the allegations "very disturbing," has ordered an investigation into the officer's background to see if there's evidence of other misconduct.