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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Ex-Cop Slapped, NYC Cleared in Pair of Rulings

(CN) - A New York appellate court resolved two cases involving ex-police officers that became tabloid fodder.

In separate rulings, one court upheld a 75-to-life sentence for ex-NYPD rapist Michael Pena, and another cleared New York City of any liability in the case of so-called "road-rage cop" Sean Sawyer.

One of the cases ended with a heavy punishment, and the other concluded without a criminal charge.

Pena, now 30, was off-duty when he threatened to shoot a young school teacher, dragged her into an alleyway and a courtyard of a residential building in Inwood, and raped her in broad daylight on Aug. 19, 2011.

Prosecutors charged him for three separate parts of the same assault, and his lawyers said that his punishment didn't fit the crime.

Five judges from New York's Appellate Division, First Department agreed "the three criminal sexual acts were separate and distinct."

Pena's lawyers never preserved the issue for appeal, but even if they had, the court would "also reject it on the merits," the ruling states.

Noting that this is 63 years higher than the average rape sentence, Pena's lawyer Ephraim Savitt vowed to appeal.

"This is a blatantly disproportionate punishment that violates the Eighth Amendment," he said in an email. "We are appealing to the Court of Appeals, which I trust will give it more serious consideration than the short shrift it got from the First Department."

In the second case, a Manhattan grand jury in 2008 declined to indict Sawyer for shooting 25-year-old Jayson Tirado, who was unarmed and fleeing the scene.

The decision set off a controversy echoing today's protests over grand jury reticence to charge officers for killing unarmed civilians. It also inspired a $6 million lawsuit by Tirado's family, the New York Daily News reported.

A lower court cleared city officials on Nov. 1, 2013.

Affirming that decision the appellate judges said: "Sawyer's act of shooting the decedent was a private, intentional act that occurred outside the scope of his employment as a police officer. Accordingly, any alleged deficiencies in the city's training and instruction of its officers could not have proximately caused decedent's injuries."

The Tirado family's lawyer did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

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