NEW YORK — A former police officer who admitted grabbing a schoolteacher off the street and raping her was sentenced Monday to at least a decade in prison as he fights a far longer sentence from a related conviction.
Monday’s sentencing resolved, for now, the complicated legal case surrounding Michael Pena’s off-duty attack on a woman heading to her first day at a new teaching job. Although Pena has long acknowledged some form of a sexual attack, the case has navigated a trial, a partial jury deadlock, a guilty plea and two sentencings — one of which is now headed for review by an appeals court.
Pena, 28, declined to speak at Monday’s sentencing. He has said that he will “have that guilt for the rest of my life.”
Pena spent a night drinking and trying to pick up women before he confronted the 25-year-old teacher on an upper Manhattan street last August, according to evidence presented at his trial earlier this year. He forced the woman into an apartment building courtyard, raped her at gunpoint and threatened to shoot her in the face if she resisted, she testified. A building resident heard what was happening and called police.
Pena was in his third year as an officer. He was suspended after his arrest and fired after his conviction.
During his trial, Pena admitted sexually attacking the 25-year-old woman but denied having intercourse with her, a requirement for a rape conviction. A jury deadlocked on the rape charges but convicted him of predatory sexual assault, a top-level felony that involves wielding a weapon during certain sex crimes.
In May, Pena was sentenced to 75 years to life in prison on that conviction, a sentence he is appealing. His lawyer, Ephraim Savitt, said Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Richard Carruthers “went beyond the scope of his authority.”
As the Manhattan district attorney’s office weighed whether to retry Pena on the rape charges, he pleaded guilty last month in exchange for a minimum 10-years-to-life sentence on those charges. That term overlaps with the 75-year-plus sentence.
Carruthers said Monday he agreed to the deal only to spare the woman the pain of a second trial.
“This sentence in no way reflects the seriousness or grievous nature of this offense,” the judge said.
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