MANHATTAN CRIMINAL COURT — An NYPD officer who sexually assaulted a woman at gunpoint on an Inwood street was sentenced to 75 years in prison Monday — as the tearful victim told the judge he "shattered" her life.
NYPD cop Michael Pena, who has since been bounced from the force, was convicted on three counts of sexual assault after attacking a 24-year-old teacher as she walked to her new job for the first time Aug. 19, 2011.
"That day was supposed to be a brand new job. Since August 19, my life has been shattered," the victim said in court, dissolving into sobs as she returned to her seat in the front row of the courtroom.
"Every single day, it’s something I think about. It’s hard to do every piece of my life now. He used his weapon and basically destroyed my life with the choices he made that day."
Judge Richard Carruthers praised the victim for her courage, saying that "in spite of pain and mental torment," she had managed not only to survive the assault but to remember key details that helped put her attacker behind bars.
Carruthers sentenced Pena to 25 years to life on each of the three sex assault charges, to be served consecutively, for a minimum of 75 years. The jury was deadlocked on the rape charges Pena was indicted on, resulting in a mistrial on those charges, and sparking outrage from the victim's family as well as many in the city. Prosecutors have until May 23 to decide to retry Pena on the rape charge.
"(She) was a young woman looking forward at the time of the incident to teaching underprivileged little children their ABCs, however Michael Pena stalked her as she walked alone and unaware of the evil that was about to overtake her," Carruthers said. "For her persistence and stength of character, (she) has defeated her tormentor."
In a brief, quiet speech, Pena apologized to his victim, her family, and his own family, including his fiance.
"I'm terribly sorry for my actions," Pena said, speaking from his seat at the defense table. "If I could go back in time to the day of the incident, I somehow would drag myself by my shoulder... to not have hurt her."
Despite his apology, the judge said he had nothing but scorn for the disgraced police officer. Carruthers refuted suggestions that Pena had been intoxicated at the time of the attack, saying he was "as alert on that day as he was vicious and devious."
"Members of the New York City Police Department are known as New York’s finest. That phrase is deserved by the great majority of New York City Police officers," Carruthers said. "Michel Pena, although employed as a police officer, showed by his deplorable conduct that he is not one of New York’s finest."
Defense attorney Ephraim Savitt called the sentence an overreaction to the crime.
"There are terrorists who are getting less time than my client," Savitt told reporters outside the courthouse. "Seventy-five years is what mass murderers get."
Under the terms of the sentence, Pena would be more than 100 years old before he would be eligible for parole.
"I have no explanation for what I did," Pena said. "If there’s something I could do to make it up to (the victim) and her family, I would—but there isn’t anything I can do."