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Judge Accepts Partial Verdict In Off-Duty Officer's Rape Trial

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A former off-duty city police officer accused of raping a Manhattan teacher was found guilty of the most serious charge against him Tuesday.

A jury has convicted Michael Pena on three counts of committing a criminal sex act and one count of a predatory sexual act, and now the off-duty police officer could face up to life in prison.

Prosecutors claim Pena was drunk last August when he stopped a woman near her Inwood home to ask for directions, forced her into an alley at gunpoint, and attacked her.

Pena's lawyer has said his client is guilty of attacking the woman, but not of rape.

The judge decided to accept the partial verdict after word the panel members could not come to a decision on rape charges, which deal with vaginal penetration only, and two other predatory sex assault counts.

As a result, jurors have been sent back to further deliberate.

The 25-year-old victim was in the courtroom to hear the partial verdict and wept out loud.

The defense attorney, Ephraim Savitt, said Pena was not shocked by the verdict, because he admitted to using his police-issued gun to attack the teacher.

"He's been remorseful from the very first moment. But his head cleared and he realized what a terrible thing he did," said Savitt.

The police department says Pena, who was suspended from the force in December, is now fired because of the convictions.

Deliberations where halted for a while Tuesday when it was discovered that a prominent lawyer who was on the jury knows Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and even contributed to his election campaign. He also has a law partner who ran against Vance.

The judge decided to let that go. He also had to deal with a lengthy note jurors sent him, saying deliberations were getting very volatile over the rape charges.

"They're in there at each others' throats at this point. It seems to be a remaking of [the movie] '12 Angry [Men']," said Savitt.

The judge reminded jurors to keep deliberations cordial and not to let their personal lives interfere with the case.

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