DOWNTOWN — An Inwood police officer accused of raping a school teacher on her way to work allegedly told other cops that he was afraid to call his girlfriend after his arrest for fear she would think he was “cheating.”
Hours after his arrest, suspended NYPD officer Michael Pena, 27, told an officer, "I wanted to call my girlfriend but how am I going to call her when I got arrested for cheating with another girl?" according to court papers released on Wednesday.
Pena’s attorney Ephraim Savitt said his client, who also allegedly asked if investigators could "fast track" his case, is engaged and was due to get married a few months after his arrest. He said Pena's fiancee is "supporting" him and that he still hopes to marry her if he is cleared of the charges.
It was not clear if she was in the courtroom during Wednesday’s proceedings.
Pena was indicted on five counts of predatory sexual assault, two counts of first-degree rape and three counts of a criminal sexual act in the first-degree and was arraigned on the indictment in Manhattan Supreme Court Wednesday. He pleaded not guilty and is being held on $500,000 cash or $1 million bond. His lawyer said his family is trying to raise the bail money.
The District Attorney's office said Pena, who was off duty at the time, attacked the woman on Aug. 19 at 6:30 a.m. in a courtyard behind a building on Park Terrace West and 217th Street after threatening her with a firearm while she was heading to work. After he took her to the courtyard he assaulted her "multiple times," according to the DA's office.
Witnesses who saw what was happening called 911, prosecutors said.
Once under arrest, Pena allegedly confessed to being drunk at the time, and to having some of his relatives’ sleeping pills in the passenger side of his car, which was parked nearby, according to the court documents.
He identified himself as a police officer assigned to the 33rd precinct, and told the officers, “I’m already cuffed. Tell them to slow it down. My shield is in my back pocket.”
He also seemed concerned about his black Honda, asking “are they going to impound the car?”
“How long before it comes to trial?” he asked later, “Is there any way to fast track it? Do you know what the sentence is?”
His lawyer said at his arraignment on Wednesday that the DA's office was too quick in charging the officer before all the evidence was in.
"They clearly jumped the gun," said Savitt during a Wednesday court appearance for Pena, where he pleaded not guilty to the indictment in Manhattan Supreme Court.
"It remains to be seen if it's strike three for the DA's office," he said, referring to two high profile rape cases which ended in acquittal or dropped charges this year. They involved former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who had allegations that he attacked a hotel maid dropped, and two police officers who were acquitted of attacking an East Village woman.
Savitt added that both DNA evidence and results from a rape kit taken after the incident are not in yet.
Dozens of Pena's family members packed into the courtroom Wednesday, and several cried when he was brought out in an orange Department of Correction jumpsuit by a court officer.
"The brazenness of the horrific attack charged by the grand jury is truly shocking," said District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr.
"It is all the more disturbing that the defendant in this case was committed to investigating cases of sexual assault in Manhattan and bringing the perpetrators to justice."