A former city police officer pled guilty to rape charges in Manhattan State Supreme court Thursday, months after he was convicted of predatory sexual assault and criminal sex act.
When the judge asked Michael Pena, 28, if he knew he was raping his victim, he simply responded "yes".
"He doesn't want his family to go through this again. Frankly, I know the victim was ready to testify again but it's a traumatic experience for her to relive this too," said Defense Lawyer Ephraim Savitt.
Back in August 2011, prosecutors say Pena was off-duty and drunk when he attacked a school teacher as she was making her way to work. They say he threatened to shoot her in the face with his 9 millimeter handgun.
In March, jurors convicted Pena of sexual assault and sodomy but were unable to reach a verdict on the rape charges. Family members of his victim said she was devastated over the outcome.
Pena was sentenced to 75 years to life for the convictions and his lawyer says he plans to appeal the length of the sentence, not the convictions themselves.
"He essentially got a sentence that is commensurate with a triple homicide. It doesn't send the right message. It sends the message that is peculiar and that is if you're crazy enough to rape somebody and you're a public official, and that's a horrible thing to do, if you murder that person you're gonna get a lot less time than if you don't," Savitt said.
For pleading guilty to two counts of rape, Pena is expected to be sentenced to 10 years. For pleading guilty to the corresponding charges of predatory sexual assault, Pena could get another 10 years to life.
Both sentences would be served concurrently.
In a statement, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said, "Michael Pena took responsibility for his violent criminal actions and will serve up to life in prison. This plea spares the victim from testifying again about the crimes committed against her, and it is my hope this resolution brings a brave young teacher a measure of justice and closure.”
Pena's sentencing on the rape charges is scheduled for July 17.