No charges filed against NYC lawyer in rape investigation

Sanford A. Rubenstein
In this Sept. 24, 2014, file photo, attorney Sanford A. Rubenstein appears at a news conference at his offices in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — A flashy New York attorney who once represented the family of a man killed in a police chokehold won’t face criminal charges after being accused of rape, prosecutors announced Monday.
Prosecutors decided no charges were warranted against Sanford Rubenstein, who has denied any criminal conduct in an episode that prompted him to step down from the chokehold case and became an awkward point for the Rev. Al Sharpton. Rubenstein, who has served as Sharpton’s own attorney, was accused of sexually assaulting a woman involved in Sharpton’s National Action Network after Sharpton’s birthday party.
“Given the available evidence, the degree of the complainant’s recollection of what occurred at the suspect’s apartment, and the results of the toxicological testing, neither the provable facts nor the applicable law support a prosecution in this matter,” said Joan Vollero, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney.
There was no immediate response from the accuser’s attorney.
Rubenstein reiterated that he did not commit any crimes and said he was “pleased that the system worked and that I have now been fully cleared.”
His attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said the case involved “consensual sex between two consenting adults” who were fully conscious and capable of making decisions. “There was no rape,” Brafman said.
Rubenstein is known for bringing lawsuits stemming from allegations of police brutality. The rape allegation put him under investigation by a police force he had often criticized.
The accusation emerged days after Sharpton’s star-studded 60th birthday party, where guests including Aretha Franklin, Spike Lee, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio feted the civil rights leader at the Four Seasons restaurant.
Rubenstein, 70, and his 42-year-old accuser both attended the party and went back to his apartment afterward. The woman later awoke to find Rubenstein sexually assaulting her and bloody condoms lying around, her lawyer, Kenneth Montgomery, wrote in an October letter urging prosecutors to bring criminal charges.
He said surveillance video showing Rubenstein and the woman arriving together at the apartment building was no proof of her consent to what allegedly occurred inside his apartment.
Prosecutors said investigators reviewed video surveillance from several locations, physical evidence and medical records. Investigators said they interviewed 48 people, including the woman, Rubenstein, a friend who accompanied the woman to Rubenstein’s apartment, guests at Sharpton’s party and employees of both the restaurant and the apartment building.
The accusation prompted Rubenstein to step down from representing the family of Eric Garner, whose chokehold death has prompted new training for New York police and has become a rallying point for protests about police conduct.
Sharpton said in October that the rape allegation against Rubenstein put him “between a rock and a hard place.”
“I have never seen anything in his character to suggest that he would assault a woman,” Sharpton said then, but he said he would stand with the woman if forced to choose sides: “I don’t see anything to suggest she’s a liar.”
Rubenstein was Sharpton’s lawyer during Sharpton’s three months in jail after protesting Navy bombing exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, and Sharpton has praised Rubenstein as “always willing to stand up.”
Rubenstein was among lawyers who secured an $8.75 million settlement for Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant whom a police officer admitted sodomizing with a broomstick.
He also represented relatives of Sean Bell and Ousmane Zongo, unarmed men who were shot and killed by police; their families received multimillion-dollar settlements. He also handled a case surrounding a woman whose death on the floor of a hospital where she’d waited more than 24 hours for treatment.

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