No Rape Conviction For "Rape Cop" Michael Pena Hardly Means He Beat The Rap
As we reported earlier, former New York City police officer Michael "Rape Cop" Pena has been convicted of several of the top charges against him for the vicious sexual assault of a teacher last summer. However, the jury was deadlocked on whether to convict him of two rape charges -- which is what the media has spent much of the day focusing on, causing people to freak out (below, we'll share some of the outrage found in comment sections of news stories about the lack of a rape conviction).
The narrative, as it's being presented by certain media outlets (we're lookin' at you, New York Post -- read the paper's lede to its recent Pena story here), is that a New York City cop beat a rape conviction, which technically is true, but fairly misleading
While the rape conviction probably was deserved, not getting one doesn't mean Pena's not headed to the hoosegow for a long, long time (75 years to life if he's sentenced to the max and the sentences run consecutively)
"Rape" is a powerful word, and it's easy to get hung up on it in a case like Pena's. But the crimes Pena was found guilty of -- in the legal sense -- actually are more serious offenses than rape.
Predatory sexual assault, a crime for which Pena is now thrice convicted, is the most serious sex crime in New York's penal code -- it's a class A-II felony. Rape, on the other hand, is a class B violent felony.
Predatory sexual assault is defined in New York penal code as follows:
A person is guilty of predatory sexual assault when he or she commits
the crime of rape in the first degree, criminal sexual act in the first
degree, aggravated sexual abuse in the first degree, or course of sexual
conduct against a child in the first degree, as defined in this article,
1. In the course of the commission of the crime or the immediate
flight therefrom, he or she:
(a) Causes serious physical injury to the victim of such crime; or
(b) Uses or threatens the immediate use of a dangerous instrument; or
2. He or she has engaged in conduct constituting the crime of rape in
the first degree, criminal sexual act in the first degree, aggravated
sexual abuse in the first degree, or course of sexual conduct against a
child in the first degree, as defined in this article, against one or
more additional persons; or
3. He or she has previously been subjected to a conviction for a
felony defined in this article, incest as defined in section 255.25 of
this chapter or use of a child in a sexual performance as defined in
section 263.05 of this chapter.
Basically, you can think of predatory sexual assault as being like a sex crime plus -- it's rape, or a criminal sexual act, where other factors are present that make the crime more heinous.
The difference between rape and criminal sexual act isn't the seriousness of the offense, but the orifice that's violated (rape is strictly vaginal intercourse, where criminal sexual act is oral or anal contact).
We hate to be crass, but this means Pena is guilty of forcing his penis into the victim's mouth or anus.
The jury's decision to not convict Pena of rape is bizarre; basically,
the jurors deadlock indicates that they agreed that Pena was pinning
down the victim and sexually assaulting her, but they couldn't decide
whether his penis -- at any point during the assault -- touched her
vagina (according to the law, rape is any vaginal penetration, "however slight").
Regardless, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has pledged to show the former officer "no mercy" at his sentencing hearing in May, at which point Vance will likely ask the judge for the maximum sentence. If he gets it, Pena wouldn't even see a parole board until he's more than 100 years old.
So, Pena may not technically be a "rapist," but hardly beat the rap -- which doesn't mean he's not a worthless creep, don't get us wrong.
Now that we're clear on what predatory sexual assault is, let's take look at some of the comments -- inspired by the sexy narrative of "Cop Beats Rape Charge" presented by certain media outlets -- found posted on stories about Pena's case.
Alan Cohen posted the following on the New York Post's website: "I commented on this case a few days ago and said that a few of the jurors were in the pocket of the defense---this is horrible what has happened to this woman--now shes been raped by the legal system."
Marty Cohen posted this gem, also on the Post's website: "not the first time and not the last time [police] get away with rape and murder."
"IHEARTNYC" left this comment on the New York Daily News' website: "It was deliberate.. Too many coincidences... She needs to demand a state probe.. The DA, JUDGE, JURY and NYPD need to be put through the ringer.. She was victimized by a junkie of power and now these other idiots are doing the same to save their boy... If I was her, I would be demanding alot more... There is something very wrong. My heart goes out her and hope she will find comfort again..."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.