A lawyer for the NYPD officer accused of raping a 25-year-old schoolteacher at gunpoint in the Bronx admitted in court Thursday that his client, Officer Michael Pena, did assault the woman, but argued that Pena didn't technically rape her.
During his opening statement, The New York Post reports, Attorney Ephraim Savitt contended that Pena repeatedly '"thrust" at the victim during the attack in Inwood, but failed to have intercourse with her.
“This was a terrible crime, an unforgivable crime, but it does not rise to the level of the charges," Savitt told the Manhattan Supreme Court jury, to whom he also admitted that the prosecution's case was "disturbing, horrifying and to a large degree accurate."
Prosecutor Evan Krutoy argued that Pena's semen was found on the victim and her underwear, and that an eyewitness is expected to testify he “[saw] the defendant penetrating her.”
Authorities say Pena, who was off-duty at 6:15 AM on August 16th, approached the woman-- who was waiting outside West 217th Street and Park Terrace West in Inwood to get a ride to work from her school’s principal, only a week after she was hired to teach second grade--and asked her for directions to the subway.
Krutoy says Pena, who had spent the night before drinking at a strip club, then asked her if she would go to the station with him. She declined, prompting Pena to show the woman his 9mm Glock pistol, and forcing her behind a building where he allegedly raped her. During the assault, Krutoy says Pena also warned the victim that if she screamed or looked at him, he would shoot her in the head. Pena reportedly told one witness who happened upon the scene, "Don't worry, I'm almost done."
A neighbor eventually called 911 and Pena was arrested. He is charged with multiple counts of rape, including a first-degree aggravated rape charge, which carries a life sentence if he is convicted. He is currently being held on Rikers Island on $500,000 bail.
This is the second rape trial in a year for New York City cops. In May, two officers were acquitted of rape and sentenced for official misconduct after a woman in the Lower East Side alleged she was raped by the two cops in her apartment. One of the cops, Kenneth Moreno, claimed he got into bed with the woman but only "snuggled" with her.
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