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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

NYPD cop convicted of sexual assault

Officer Michael Pena was convicted of sexually assault, but the jury deadlocked on whether he raped A Bronx school teacher.

TheNYPD cop charged with raping a Bronx school teacher at gunpoint was convicted of predatory sexual assault Tuesday in a trial thrown into chaos by revelations that one juror is pals with Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance

Officer Michael Pena sat silently when the verdict was read but his 25-year-old accuser began sobbing inconsolably when the jury announced it still hadn’t reached a verdict on the four rape counts.

The fact that the jury convicted Pena of forcing her to submit to oral and anal sex — six charges that could send him to prison for life — appeared to be little comfort to her.

Rather than settling for a partial verdict, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Richard Carruthers told the bitterly divided jury to resume deliberating.

“Please be respectful to one another,” he said.

Newly unmasked Vance pal Lloyd Constantine was told to join the seven other men and four women debating the 27-year-old officer’s fate.

But Carruthers allowed the alternate jurors to go home — and they wasted no time escaping the courthouse.

“It was a difficult process, it was trying,” said Pat Lee as she rushed out.

“It’s a relief,” added another female alternate, as she hopped into a cab.

The dramatic developments came after prosecutors suddenly realized that Constantine, a prominent lawyer who was once an adviser to disgraced former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, was juror No. 2.

That discovery was all the more stunning because Vance himself had attended the closing arguments in the trial and Constantine was clearly visible, sitting in the front row of the jury box.

It was not clear if Vance notified the DA’s working the case. But when called to explain why he did not disclose his connection to Vance during jury selection, Constantine arrogantly told

the judge he felt he wouldn’t be biased and that he’d passed his “own subjective test.”

Constantine also admitted knowing Vance socially and attending several fund-raisers for the DA.

And records revealed that Constantine gave Vance a $5,000 campaign contribution in 2008.

This was despite the fact that the managing partner at Constantine’s law firm is Richard Aborn, who ran unsuccessfully against Vance for DA in 2009.

Constantine’s connection to Vance was

expected to give Pena’s attorney strong grounds for an appeal. And before the verdict was announced, he reacted with glee.

“Confusion is never a bad thing for the defense,” said attorney Ephraim Savitt, who said he has no problem with Constantine remaining on the jury. “He’s saying he’s neutral. I can accept that.”

Prosecutors alerted Carruthers about Constantine and the potential conflict of interest after a juror complained about the high-powered lawyer , sources said.

It was only then that the DA’s office realized Constantine was connected, sources said.

“We’ve discovered there may be a social relationship between a juror and someone in the case,” the judge later told the stunned court.

Constantine advised Spitzer when the governor’s penchant for high-end prostitutes was revealed and led to his resignation from office. He later penned an account of Spitzer’s tumultuous 15-month term.

Constantine was ordered by Carruthers to rejoin the seven other men and four women deliberating the rape charges against the 27-year-old office.

Savitt said it’s not a happy group.

“There is a lot of bickering going on,” he said. “It seems to be a remaking of ‘12 Angry Men.’”

Pena was charged with 10 counts total. He has admitted assaulting the woman and threatening to shoot her in the face, but he denies raping her.

Prosecutors say Pena’s semen was in her underwear and eyewitnesses have testified that they saw him rape her.

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