NEW YORK -- A former police officer who grabbed a schoolteacher off the street and sexually attacked her was sentenced Monday to at least three quarters of a century in prison after being convicted of high-level sex charges, though a jury couldn't decide whether he was guilty of rape.
After staying silent during his trial, Michael Pena apologized to the victim and said he deserved to be punished, though his lawyer later said Pena was shocked at getting 75 years to life, the maximum possible sentence for his conviction.
"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.
A three-year officer who was engaged to be married, Pena was wrapping up an alcohol-soaked 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 testified that Pena forced her into an apartment building courtyard and raped her at gunpoint, threatening to shoot her in the face with his police service weapon.
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 transpired.
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.
But jurors deadlocked on rape charges. Prosecutors are to say May 23 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.
While the attorney called Pena's sentence too severe, the local branch of the National Organization for Women hailed it as taking sexual violence seriously. About five NOW members came to court to show support for the teacher.
Pena was fired from the police force after his conviction.
4 NYPD officers are being accused of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/27/4-nypd-detectives-under-investigation-for-drinking-on-the-job-sex-assault_n_1303937.html?ref=nypd-scandals" target="_hplink">drinking on the job </a>at a restaurant in Washington Heights. To make matters worse, a waitress at the restaurant claims she fell asleep and woke up to one of the detectives inappropriately touching her. She also says she witnessed an exchange of large amounts of money.
In February, disgraced NYPD officer William Masso pleaded guilty to the charges of conspiracy in relation to a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/07/nypd-officer-william-masso-pleads-guilty-gun-smuggling_n_1259520.html?ref=nypd-scandals" target="_hplink">smuggling case</a> involving guns, cigarettes, and slot machines.
The NYPD came under intense criticism after it was revealed the department <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/18/nypd-monitored-muslim-stu_0_n_1286647.html?ref=nypd-scandals" target="_hplink">monitored Muslim college students</a> far more broadly than previously understood, at schools including Yale and the University of Pennsylvania. Furthermore, detectives would follow innocent students' websites and internet activity on a routine, daily basis.
An NYPD veteran, Monty Green, was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/13/nypd-officer-monty-green-pimp-prostitutes_n_1204604.html" target="_hplink">suspected of moonlighting </a>as a pimp and engaging in other "prostitution-related activities."
Officers Kenneth Moreno, 43 years old, and Franklin Mata, 29, were called to help a drunken woman climb out of a taxi in 2008. The woman testified that she awoke to being raped by Moreno. Officer Mata was said to have stood guard during the incident. Moreno was recorded assuring the woman that she "didn't have to worry about getting any diseases" because he "used a condom," but Moreno later claimed that he said that to get her to leave him alone. This summer Moreno and Mata were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/10/franklin-mata-sentenced-t_n_923302.html" target="_hplink">acquitted</a> of rape but found guilty of official misconduct. Mata was sentenced to serve 2 months in jail, with 3 years probation. Moreno was sentenced to a year in prison. Later, jurors would <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/06/06/rape_cop_jurors_moreno_definitely_r.php" target="_hplink">reveal</a> that they thought the cops were guilty but voted not guilty for lack of DNA evidence. Hundreds of people gathered in protest of the verdict.
NYPD officer Michael Pena was off-duty when he was arrested on August 19th after allegedly raping a woman at gunpoint in Inwood. Police responded to the scene after a resident of Park Terrace West in Inwood called 911 around 6:45AM. <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/20110819/washington-heights-inwood/man-with-badge-rapes-woman-at-gunpoint-inwood-sources-say" target="_hplink">From DNAinfo</a>: <blockquote>One neighbor, who asked to have his name withheld due to safety concerns, said he saw what appeared to be a man and woman outside his window having sex after waking up to loud noises. When he confronted the man, saying, "Dude, I live here," the suspect responded by holding up his hand, saying, "Just give me a minute." The witness said he then noticed the suspect, who flashed a badge at some point, holding a gun to the woman's head. The witness then called the police.</blockquote> The NYPD later said they were <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/26/nyregion/nypd-reviews-unsolved-rapes-for-ties-to-officer.html" target="_hplink">investigating</a> whether Pena was involved in other unsolved sexual assaults. Pena, who was suspended from the force without pay, <a href="http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/09/21/michael-pena-cop-accused-of-raping-teacher-pleads-not-guilty/" target="_hplink">plead not guilty</a> to rape charges in September.
On September 24th, a grand jury indicted 17 NYPD officers in a massive ticket-fixing scandal. An extensive investigation that included wire-taps revealed a sub-culture in the NYPD where union officials played key roles in fixing thousands of tickets for fellow officers, their friends, relatives, city officials and even a New York Yankees Executive. Earlier that month, before the indictments, 30-year NYPD veteran Robert McGee— who was involved in the ticket-fixing scandal and told he would have to testify against fellow officers— grabbed hold of a third rail on a Bronx train track in an apparent suicide attempt.
An NYPD officer is shown in a viral video <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/28/anthony-bologna-using-pep_n_985432.html" target="_hplink">pepper-spraying</a> a group of female Occupy Wall Street protesters marching through Union Square in September. Anonymous later identifies the officer as Anthony Bologna and an NYPD internal investigation determines that Bologna <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/19/officer-anthony-bologna-v_n_1019342.html" target="_hplink">violated</a> the NYPD's official guidelines regarding pepper-spray. It's also discovered that Bologna was the subject of civil-rights complaints stemming from protests during the 2004 Republican National Convention
Officer Michael Dargjati was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/17/michael-daragjati-faces-f_n_1016170.html" target="_hplink">arrested</a> for a racially-motivated stop-and-frisk, then false arrest of a black Staten Island man. Federal authorities say they intercepted Officer Michael Daragjati's phone call to a female friend where he is caught bragging about the arrest and that he had "fried another n***er...no big deal." Prosecutors say the 32-year old officer lied when he filled out a report claiming the unnamed African American shoved and kicked him after stopping and frisking him back in April. Another Staten Island man then came forward with a tale of how Dargjati ruined his promising baseball career. From <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/10/19/allegedly_racist_staten_island_cop.php" target="_hplink">Gothamist</a>: <blockquote>"I feel he [Daragjati] racially profiled me," Jared Williams t<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2011/10/19/2011-10-19_racist_officer_ruined_my_life_bogus_arrest_in_05_ended_bigleague_dream.html" target="_hplink">old the Daily News</a>. Williams crossed paths with Daragjati in October 2005, when he was a star center fielder for Wagner College with major league-aspirations. Williams and two friends were busted outside an SI bar for an assault which he claims he had nothing to do with: "I feel we were the first black people he saw and we got pulled over." Williams fought the charge, and a judge eventually tossed out the case a year later, but the damage was done: Williams had been kicked off his team for his senior year because of the court case, and he was disqualified from the baseball draft for not playing that year.</blockquote>
Earlier this month, Officer Stephen Anderson, a former narcotics detective, admitted to routinely faking drug charges in order to help officers meet department quotas. Anderson testified under a deal with prosecutors that it was common for officers to frame innocent people on drug busts, a practice known as "flaking." According to <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2011/10/13/2011-10-13_excop_we_fabricated_drug_raps_for_quotas.html" target="_hplink"><em>The Daily News</em></a>, Anderson's testimony is the first public account highlighting the alleged illicit behavior among Brooklyn South and Queens narcotics teams.
<em>About the same size of said dog.</em> <a href="http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/bronx/cop_sent_dog_flying_uyB7Yc6gmVFrZD4eRAAMJJ" target="_hplink">From <em>The New York Post</em></a>: <blockquote>A brave 7-pound pooch trying to protect three little kids in his family was heartlessly slapped out a third-story window by a cop on a failed drug raid, a lawsuit charges. Chuwie, a miniature Doberman-Pomeranian mix, miraculously survived, but his owner says the family pet hasn't been the same since. "How could a police officer do that to a tiny dog?'' said Iris Ramos, whose son-in-law, Ronald Estevez, 27, owns Chuwie. The dog never tried to attack a cop -- all he did was bark, according to the family's Bronx Civil Court lawsuit against the city and NYPD for unspecified damages, including $300 in vet bills. "Children were crying. Guns were being pointed in their faces,'' said family lawyer Jeffrey Emdin.</blockquote>
This is probably the most harmless scandal in this slideshow. Although we're pretty sure "daggering" with civilians during the West Indian Day parade may violate some NYPD standard of conduct, everyone in the crowd goes wild and loves it. So, whatever. Mayor Bloomberg even went on to say that the video was a great advertisement for New York City. "It sends the message that police officers are our friends, not our enemies," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/14/mayor-bloomberg-commissio_n_961918.html" target="_hplink">he said</a>. Police Commissioner Kelly also downplayed the incident. "You have to put it in the context of the parade," the commissioner <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/14/mayor-bloomberg-commissio_n_961918.html" target="_hplink">said</a>. "I've seen officers in my experience...sort of, you know, get caught up in the spirit of the parade. These young women approached the officers. They didn't go out of their way to be approached."
Melanie Perez <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/24/jason-arbeeny-trial-revea_n_1028284.html" target="_hplink">testified</a> in court last week that an officer, who she knew as Frank, invited her into his apartment only to force her to smoke drugs and perform oral sex. Perez <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2011/10/24/2011-10-24_cop_gave_me_crack_to_perform_sex_says_junkie.html" target="_hplink">explained</a>, "What was I going to do? I did it." Another officer, who's been identified as Sean Johnson, allegedly also gave Perez crack. "He gave me a nice piece for Christmas. It was crack and it was kickin'," Perez said. The testimony came at the Jason Arbeeny trial. Arbeeny is one of eight officers in the Brooklyn South Narcotics unit currently charged with planting drugs on innocent people in order to make quotas and get overtime pay.
Coucilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), and Kirsten John Foy, a top aide to city public advocate Bill de Blasio, told reporters at a press conference that they were walking on a blocked-off sidewalk during the West Indian Day Parade when uniformed cops confronted them,<a href="http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/06/councilman-denounces-police-for-detaining-him/?ref=nyregion" target="_hplink"><em> The New York Times </em>reported</a>. Williams and Foy claim to have previously been given permission to walk on the sidewalk by another, higher-ranking police officer while on their way to a post-parade event at the Brooklyn Museum. The two city officials, both of whom are black, say they tried to show their city IDs to officers but their efforts were ignored. An argument ensued until cops eventually threw Williams and Foy to the ground and handcuffed them. After 30 minutes, and once their identities were confirmed, the two men were released.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/25/5-nypd-officers-arrested-_n_1030210.html" target="_hplink">From The AP</a>: <blockquote>A sting operation resulted in the arrest of 12 people, including five New York Police Department officers, on charges that they smuggled $1 million worth of firearms, cigarettes and slot machines they thought were stolen, authorities said Tuesday. Three retired NYPD officers and a New Jersey corrections officer and three civilians are among the other defendants named in a federal criminal complaint. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said they were willing to smuggle a variety of contraband "as long as the price was right." Arresting fellow law enforcers "is a heartbreaking thing, but it's our duty to uphold the law," he said. "The vast majority of police officers do outstanding work to protect the city," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. "A case like this is disheartening to the entire department."</blockquote>
At the end of this summer, in a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/06/nypds-demographics-unit-e_n_950637.html" target="_hplink">blockbuster report</a> from the Associated Press, it was revealed that the NYPD had "compiled lists of mosques and Muslim businesses it saw as potential security risks for reasons that included endorsing conservative religious views or having devout customers." The "Demographics Unit," working unusually close with the CIA, identified hundreds of "hot spots" in its hunt for terrorists, including 250 city mosques. It remains unclear why certain places were targeted other than being occupied primarily by muslims. A Bangladeshi restaurant for example, was identified as a hot spot for having a "devout crowd." The NYPD also maintained a list titled "Ancestries of Interest" in its counter-terrorism efforts, which included "American Black Muslim," a religion, not an ancestry. Surprisingly, that the NYPD was targeting groups of people based solely on their religion failed to create a large public outcry. The media, although covering the story, gave it secondary coverage. Most prominent politicians have remained mum on the issue. City Council admitted they were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/07/new-york-city-council-adm_n_999808.html" target="_hplink">powerless</a> to oversee the NYPD spy unit. Earlier this month, a group of civil rights lawyers asked a federal judge in Manhattan to force the NYPD to turn over records about the clandestine police programs, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobileweb/1969/12/31/lawyers-seek-nypd-docs-on_n_992657.html" target="_hplink">according to the AP</a>. It was the first official action against the NYPD in regards to the "Demographics Unit."
The "No More West Indian Day Parade Detail" Facebook group for NYPD officers has vanished, but over 70 pages worth of racist, violent comments directed at paradegoers (including "Let them kill each other") were uncovered by a pair of Brooklyn lawyers and have been <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/06/nyregion/on-facebook-nypd-officers-malign-west-indian-paradegoers.html?_r=3&pagewanted=2" target="_hplink">given to The New York Times</a>. The page was reportedly full of police <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/06/nypd-group-no-more-west-i_n_1131830.html?ref=nypd-scandals" target="_hplink">writing racist rants</a> against the marchers of the parade. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly later commented on the debacle. "It is disturbing when anyone denigrates a community with hateful speech," Kelly <a href="http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/07/police-commissioner-criticizes-insults-of-parade-goers-by-officers/?ref=nyregion" target="_hplink">said in a statement</a>.
Definitely not one of the worst, but scandalous nonetheless. AIDS Day protesters claim that cops stole the pizza that was intended for them. In a funny press release, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/02/nypd-allegedly-steals-piz_n_1125920.html?ref=nypd-scandals" target="_hplink">they describe the harrowing scene</a> <blockquote>...NYPD officers at Manhattan's 7th Precinct did not give [the Robin Hoods] dinner, as they are required to do. Instead, the cops at the precinct punished them by eating two large pizzas that had been sent by the activists' supporters. The pizzas were two large cheese pies from the revered pizzeria Mini Munchies, which earned four and half stars on menupages.com The NYPD malfeasance did not stop there--the Robin Hoods also say that the cops drank the 1 liter bottles of Sprite and Coke that were sent to accompany the pizzas. Moreover, the NYPD did not offer the thirsty Robins water and went so far as to tell them that the vending machines were completely sold out of water and soda. </blockquote>
21-year-old Carnegie Mellon student Samantha Zucker was in Riverside Park after closing when a cop ticketed her for tress-passing. Her friend, Alex Fischer, showed the cop identification and was allowed to go. But Zucker did have proper ID on her, so she was arrested. What happened next was a little out of the ordinary: From <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/02/nyregion/dismal-tale-of-arrest-for-tiniest-of-crimes.html" target="_hplink"><em>The New York Times</em></a>: <blockquote>She was handcuffed. For the next 36 hours, she was moved from a cell in a Harlem precinct station house to central booking in Lower Manhattan and then -- because one of the officers was ending his shift before Ms. Zucker could be photographed for her court appearance, and you didn't think he was going to take the subway uptown while his partner stayed with her at booking, did you? -- she was brought back to Harlem. There she waited in a cell until a pair of fresh police officers were rustled up to bring her back downtown for booking, where she spent a second night in custody. The judge proceeded to dismiss the ticket in less than a minute.</blockquote> Zucker <a href="http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2011/11/samantha_zucker_nypd_arrest.php" target="_hplink">told the Village Voice</a> that was shocked and disturbed by the incident, and the callousness of her arrested officer: <blockquote>Every cop along the way, whether they act this way themselves or not, allowed my unlawful arrest to continue by not speaking up. If I went back to my university and pretended like nothing happened, I too would be perpetuating the system, which is why I found it so important to say something. Surplus arrests and the wasting of resources happen all the time, especially in poorer communities. Perhaps I've gotten more attention because of my race, economic status, and education. While that is entirely unfair, the best I can do is to take the opportunities I've been given and try to make a difference.</blockquote>