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Ex-Phoenix officer acquitted of sex crimes now alleges he was maliciously prosecuted

A former Phoenix police officer acquitted of sex crimes — allegedly committed while on duty — now says he was the victim of malicious prosecution. 

Sean Peña is suing his former employer and Maricopa County. Speaking outside Phoenix City Hall, Peña said he wants a jury trial to recoup lost wages and future income.

“Everyone that had actually knew me knew that I wouldn’t do anything like this. But when it comes to higher up people, they needed a scapegoat and they got one I guess," Peña said.

Phoenix fired Peña in 2020, and police said an internal investigation substantiated the claims against him. The city paid out nearly a million dollars in settlements to two of his accusers. A jury acquitted Peña last year.

This week, County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said she stands behind the work of her office. A seasoned sex-crimes prosecutor, Mitchell said convictions can be hard to come by. 

“And so it can present a number of challenges. But that said, we will go forward to defend ourselves and our prosecutors for what they did in this case," Mitchell said.

As of Aug. 25, no hearing has been set in the civil case.

Jill Ryan joined KJZZ in 2020 as a morning reporter, and she is currently a field correspondent and Morning Edition producer.