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Sanford Rubenstein Cleared of Rape Accusations

By Heather Holland | January 5, 2015 3:25pm | Updated on January 5, 2015 4:35pm
 The Manhattan DA has decided not to charge Rubenstein with rape, officials said.
The Manhattan DA has decided not to charge Rubenstein with rape, officials said.
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Getty Images/Stephen Chirnin

UPPER EAST SIDE — The Manhattan District Attorney has decided not to prosecute a rape accusation made against high-powered attorney Sanford Rubenstein that allegedly took place in his penthouse apartment last year, officials said.

The prosecutor's decision comes three months after news broke that police had searched Rubenstein’s penthouse for evidence of rape.

Rubenstein, 70, had taken the Brooklyn mother-of-two, a vice-president of Government and Public Affairs at Macy's with ties to the National Action Network, back to his apartment after the two attended Rev. Al Sharpton’s 60th birthday party at the Four Seasons on Oct. 1, according a civil complaint filed on her behalf in Brooklyn Monday.

The 37-year-old woman accused Rubenstein of giving her a cookie laced with marijuana and having sex with her without her consent, according to the accuser's attorney Kenneth Montgomery.

The DA has been investigating the incident since October, including looking through video surveillance, physical evidence and medical records. The office has also conducted extensive witness and expert interviews, according to DA spokeswoman Joan Vollero. 

"In this matter, as in every matter that comes before this office, prosecutors must determine whether a crime has been committed, can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt and can therefore be prosecuted," Vollero said in a written statement. 

The Chief Medical Examiner conducted toxicology and forensic testing, and 48 individuals were interviewed over the course of the investigation, including the accuser's friend who accompanied her to Rubenstein's apartment, Four Seasons employees and employees of the building where the incident occurred, Vollero said.

"Given the available evidence, the degree of the complainant's recollection of what occurred at the suspect's apartment, and the results of the toxicology testing, neither the provable facts nor the applicable law support a prosecution in this matter," Vollero said.

Rubenstein is a famed personal injury and civil rights lawyer who represented the family of Eric Garner in their civil case against the city. He stepped down from the case after the rape accusation went public.

"No one gets their life back completely after an allegation like this has been made, even when you are completely exonerated," said Ben Brafman, Rubenstein's lawyer, in a press conference on Monday afternoon.

"[Dropping out of] the Garner case is an unfortunate example of the damage caused to Mr. Rubenstein's reputation as a result of this allegation, which now has been proven false."

“I am pleased that after a very thorough investigation the District Attorney has closed the case and concluded that I should not be charged with any crime whatsoever,” Rubenstein said in a written statement. “I want to thank my family, my partners and the staff at my firm and my attorney Ben Brafman, who guided me through this ordeal."

“I look forward to many more years of practicing law and representing victims,” Rubenstein said in a statement.

But Montgomery said his client will continue to press her case.

"At this point, she didn’t get justice in the criminal side of the law, she’s going to get justice on the civil side," Montgomery said. "Everyone will have their day in court."

Rubenstein is pressing his case as well, demanding an apology from Al Sharpton, who has spoken in support of the accuser's cause in the past, and said Sharpton should publicly support Rubenstein, Brafman said.

"Now after an exhaustive investigation, in which [Sanford] has been cleared, I think it's time for him to choose a site. And the side should be [Sandy's] side," Brafman said.

In response, Sharpton told DNAinfo New York he had nothing to apologize for, and denied having a relationship with Rubenstein. Sharpton said he is waiting on taking a stance on the issue until he meets with the board of NAN.

"I take my organization and the leaders of it seriously," Sharpton said.

Additional reporting by Lisha Arino.