Posted: Aug 20, 2011 9:40 PM by Kirsten Bennett
NEW YORK (AP) - An off-duty New York City police officer accused of raping a teacher was being held on bail of $500,000 cash or $1 million bond after appearing in court Saturday.
Officer Michael Pena was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on charges of first-degree rape, criminal sexual act and predatory sexual assault.
His aunt, Ramona Pena, told WNBC-TV that the family was shocked about the allegations.
"He's a gorgeous person. He's a person with a lot of moral value," she said.
The television station reported that his attorney, Juan Campos, said in court that his client was "a very soft-spoken, peaceful individual." Campos could not immediately be reached by telephone for additional comment after the arraignment.
Authorities say Pena grabbed the 25-year-old woman off a residential street in upper Manhattan, showing her a gun, before walking her several blocks through an alley to a deserted backyard, where he raped her.
He was arrested Friday by officers after police say a witness saw through her window that something was happening in the backyard and called 911.
His loaded gun was recovered near where Pena was standing, according to the criminal complaint.
Pena, an officer in the 33rd Precinct in Washington Heights, has been suspended without pay. The alleged rape took place in the neighboring Inwood section.
Earlier this summer, two NYPD officers were acquitted of charges they raped a drunken woman they had been summoned to help get out of a cab.
The officers were convicted of official misconduct for repeatedly returning to the woman's apartment while telling dispatchers they were elsewhere.
The police department fired the two officers within hours of the May verdict.