NEW ROCHELLE - Former city police officer David Rodriquez acknowledged today that he engaged in sexual conduct with a 17-year-old girl he'd been accused of raping as part of a plea deal.
Pleading guilty to official misconduct, a misdemeanor, Rodriguez was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge, similar to being on probation for a year, and is subject to a five-year order to stay away from the victim.
The maximum sentence could have been a year in jail.
Rodriguez resigned from the Police Department on Sept. 18.
"His resignation was the logical thing to do," said police Commissioner Patrick Carroll. "I guess it was a fait accomplis. You're going to plea to a misdemeanor, your job is over here anyway, so why go through the charade."
Evaluation of the evidence, consultation with the victim, her attorney, and the defense counsel led the prosecution to reduce a felony first-degree rape charge to misconduct, Assistant District Attorney Heidi Mason told City Judge John P. Colangelo.
Mason said in court that Rodriguez acknowledged that, "acting without authorization of the Police Department," he returned to the victim's apartment while off duty and "used his authority as a police officer to engage in sexual conduct with the complainant."
"He's doing what's best for his wife and family," Rodriguez' lawyer, Stephen Worth, said after court. "It's what we said from the beginning. It was in no sense rape, in any shape or form."
Rodriguez and his wife, Darlene Rodriguez, a WNBC news anchor, have teenage daughters. They live in Croton-on-Hudson.
"The settlement of the case under the circumstances was in the best interest of all parties, including the Police Department, because we wanted closure as well," the commissioner said.
The lead investigator, Detective Lt. Christopher Hearle, called the outcome "sufficient," but said, "I can't say I am happy with the charge."
Lawyer Jonathan Damashek, who is representing the girl in a planned civil suit against Rodriguez and possibly the Police Department, said his client felt vindicated by the guilty plea because it means Rodriguez has admitted he had sexual contact with her. She stands by her claim that she was raped, he said.
"Mr. Rodriguez and his wife have been paraded on TV, saying how innocent he was and what a family man he is," said Damashek. "This shows he was lying.
"He preyed on a young victim of domestic violence. Just because he took a plea doesn't mean he didn't rape her. I understand, as my client does, the challenges that face the district attorney. Whether they plea this out, that was the DA's prerogative, but my client feels vindicated."
Rodriguez's guilty plea does not preclude him from applying for a position on another police force, technically, Carroll said.
An internal investigation of the Feb. 9 incident, in which Rodriguez was accused of returning to the 17-year-old's home after having been there earlier in the evening to remove her 35-year-old live-in boyfriend and father of her child for violating an order of protection has been "filed," Carroll said.
It is not closed, he said, but it would serve no purpose to pursue it.
Carroll said Rodriguez had a good career, and was on track to be promoted to lieutenant.
"For any police department, it's a sad day when a police officer gets convicted of a crime, but it's good to have closure and move on," he said.
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