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Manhattan Jury Deliberates Over Whether Off-Duty Officer's Attack Was A Rape

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TWC News: Manhattan Jury Deliberates Over Whether Off-Duty Officer's Attack Was A Rape
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Jurors in the case of an off-duty city police officer accused of raping a Manhattan school teacher last August began deliberations Thursday.

Closing arguments ended Thursday afternoon without Michael Pena taking the stand in his own defense.

The only witness for the defense was Pena's fiancée, who told the court she still loves him and they remain engaged.

Prosecutors allege he raped the school teacher at gunpoint for 15 minutes near her Inwood home last August.

Surveillance video shows Pena, who was off-duty and drunk, following the teacher as she headed to her first day of school.

Prosecutor Evan Krutoy told jurors that witnesses saw what was going on, saying,"You have a man who is in a public place committing a rape in daylight."

As the jurors began deliberating, they asked for a read-back of testimony from expert witnesses who performed a rape kit on the victim, and asked for a definition of "sexual criminal act."

Pena's attorney does not deny an attack took place but says Pena did not rape the woman.

"He did not rape her by penetrating her. There's absolutely no DNA of his, there's no sperm. The same thing is true of the anal area, the same thing is true with every swap they took of the victim's mouth," said Ephraim Savitt, Pena's lawyer. "The fact that it was horrible and terrifying call into question her ability to think clearly."

The prosecution says Pena's DNA was found on the victim's panties and her DNA was found on the defendant.

Pena's family was in the courtroom on Thursday, as were supporters of the teacher, crying at times.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance was there as well. This is an important case for his office, after he failed to get a rape conviction against two other officers last year, and after dropping charges against former International Monetary Fund chief Dominic Strauss-Kahn, who was accused of raping a hotel maid.

Deliberations will continue Friday. If convicted of all charges, Pena could face life behind bars.

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