MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — The devoted fiancee of a cop charged with brutally raping a 25-year-old teacher in an Inwood alley stood by her future husband on the witness stand at his trial Thursday, telling jurors she still loves him and plans to marry him.
"As you sit here today and as you testify are you still his fiancee ... and do you still care for him and love Michael Pena?" defense attorney Ephraim Savitt asked the tall, slender woman who told jurors she is an architect who hails from the Dominican Republic and was living in Yonkers with Pena at the time of his arrest.
Rodriguez, speaking softly, calmly answered "yes" to both through a Spanish translator during his trial which opened on March 15.
In her brief testimony, which came on the day that the case was given to the jury, Rodriguez described how she knew that Pena, 28, had gone out for the night with his uncle to a restaurant in Washington Heights on August 19, 2011, the day he's accused of raping the victim at about 6:15 a.m.
She also revealed that she had sex with Pena hours before the alleged rape and prosecutors briefly grilled her about his ability to perform sexually in an apparent effort to show he was capable of the attack.
On her way out of the courtroom, Rodriguez wrapped a headscarf across her face and hurried away from photographers.
Savitt, who conceded his client sexually attacked the Bronx teacher, has argued that prosecutors charged Pena with rape inappropriately because there's not enough proof that there was sexual penetration.
In closing arguments Thursday, Savitt said Pena did "a terrible thing, an unforgivable thing," but told jurors he should not be found guilty of rape in the first degree. He also suggested the woman would have been too terrified to properly register what was happening and was mistaken about the penetration.
Assistant District Attorney Evan Krutoy rebuked the defense concessions calling the defense case "absurd" and argued they only served to buffer the case against Pena.
"Thanks for the concession — you're really helping me out," Krutoy said.
He also assured the jury that the victim was "thoughtful and deliberative" and "not in a fog of any kind," when she rightly assessed that she was brutally raped by the police officer who worked a night beat in the 34th Precinct.
Closing arguments in the trial concluded Thursday afternoon and the jury began deliberations at about 3 p.m. They are expected to return Friday morning.