Former Phoenix officer acquitted in sex assault case appealing termination from force

Surrounded by his attorneys, former Phoenix police officer Sean Pena said it's been a trying two years.
Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 6:25 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Former Phoenix Police Officer Sean Pena said with conviction he is innocent of the sex assault charges leveled against him. “Did you have any kind of contact with these women at all? Any sexual contact?” Arizona’s Family reporter Angie Koehle asked him. “No, no,” Pena shook his head.

Surrounded by his attorneys, Pena said it’s been a trying two years. The 26-year-old was facing decades behind bars after being charged with sexually assaulting three women while on patrol in south Phoenix. “It was three people, I get that that does not look good. But you don’t leave your common sense at the door when it comes to sending someone to prison,” he said. “When you actually look at the facts presented for each case, it falls apart pretty quickly.”

Pena stood trial a second time this month after a jury couldn’t decide on five of seven felony counts earlier this year. They found him not guilty on two. Then on Monday, the second jury returned after less than an hour with a not guilty verdict on the remaining charges.

The cases span from 2018 to 2019. Two of the accusers came forward weeks to months after the alleged incidents. The other reported it right away. “I gave my DNA willingly. They judged her DNA and my DNA,” he said.

Another man’s DNA was found, but Pena’s was not. “They were false allegations. They were absolutely false and provably false,” Josephine Hallam, one of Pena’s attorneys.

Two of the women filed civil suits with the help of community activist reverend Jarrett Maupin. Maupin sent us a statement reading:

Today, the Justice system worked. It worked for Sean Peña like it worked for O.J. Simpson or George Zimmerman or Fatty Arbuckle. The decision of the jury must be respected. I do not know what that decision does to bring healing to victims because, according to the jury, there are none. What I do know is that the City of Phoenix has already paid the price for any injustice, literally and figuratively. That may be of comfort to those impacted. Beyond that, I want to again affirm my faith in our judicial process and deep respect for the Maricopa County Superior Court, the judge, and the diverse jury that did the impartial job they are called to do. To both the prosecutor and defense attorneys, I express great admiration for their professionalism and demeanor. As for Sean Peña, I am praying for his growing family and for this teachable moment to have positively impacted his life. He is, legally, innocent.

The city settled lawsuits with two of the three women. As for legal action Pena may take now that he’s been acquitted, his attorney didn’t rule it out. “He’s exploring a lot of different options in this case. The dust has to settle,” said Jess Lorona, one of Pena’s attorneys.

Pena joined the force in 2017, and the first allegation surfaced in 2018. He was ultimately fired in 2020.