Attorney Sanford Rubenstein won't be charged in alleged rape case

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The Manhattan district attorney's office announced Monday that it will not be pursuing charges against Sanford Rubenstein after a woman claimed she was raped by the prominent attorney in his Upper East Side apartment back in October.

"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," the 70-year-old Rubenstein said. "I want to thank my family, my partners and the staff at my firm and my attorney Ben Brafman, who has guided me through this ordeal. I look forward to many more years of practicing law and representing victims. I maintained from the very beginning that I did not violate the law. I am pleased that the system worked and that I have now been fully cleared."

The powerhouse attorney arrived at his posh, East Side home Monday evening a free man, no longer living under the cloud of a possible prosecution on rape charges.

The allegations stemmed from an incident on Wednesday, October 1, when a 60th birthday party was held for activist Reverend Al Sharpton. Rubenstein was there, along with Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, as well as celebrities and staff from Sharpton's National Action Network. A female executive who works for Sharpton allegedly went to Rubenstein's East 64th Street apartment after the birthday party. 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.



"To the extent that a civil lawsuit is filed with the expectation that it will be settled, it' s not going to be settled," Rubenstein's attorney Benjamin Brafman said. "There's no money here. She has not been damaged. She's entitled to nothing. She will get nothing. Second, this case, if filed, will be vigorously defended with a counter claim for defamation...A false accusation for rape is a serious offense with serious consequences that Mr. Rubenstein has already suffered."

Montgomery and attorney Keith White spoke out after the announcement was made, saying they received no advance warning regarding the decision and that a civil lawsuit has been filed in Brooklyn. They said the accuser insists that she never gave Rubenstein the OK to touch her sexually, and they maintain that their client was raped.

"She is a very strong lady, and to be honest, the way this case was handled from its inception, it really wasn't a surprise," Montgomery said. "I think she's more upset that the system simply doesn't work."

They said she has been very strong up to this point but took the news hard Monday, breaking down.

"She made a rape allegation, and now, she is being threatened that if she continues to say what happened to her, that they're going to sue her," White said. "And if she subsides from doing that, then they're going to let her live? Let her be fine? That sounds like a threat."

The attorneys say that the accuser is back at work and that she receiving private counseling in an effort to get her head around this whole incident.

Prosecutors decided no charges were warranted against Rubenstein, who has denied any criminal conduct in an episode that prompted him to step down from representing the family of Eric Garner in his chokehold death case and became an awkward point for the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Manhattan DA spokesperson Joan Vollero released the following statement:

"In this matter, as in every matter that comes before this Office, prosecutors must determine whether a crime has been committed, can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and can therefore be prosecuted. Over the past three months, the District Attorney's Sex Crimes Unit has conducted a thorough investigation into the incident that occurred on October 2nd and was reported to authorities approximately 36 hours later. In keeping with standard procedure, prosecutors and investigators with decades of experience in such matters reviewed all aspects of the incident, including video surveillance, physical evidence, and medical records, and conducted extensive witness and expert interviews.

"The video evidence in this case included surveillance footage from before and after the incident, taken from the lobby and elevator of the suspect's apartment building, as well as from earlier in the evening at the Four Seasons restaurant. The investigation also included the collection and testing of multiple items of physical evidence, many pursuant to a search warrant executed at the suspect's apartment, as well as electronic devices and telephone records.

"A review of medical records was conducted by an independent medical expert. Experts at the National Institutes of Health and the FBI were also consulted. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner conducted toxicology and forensic testing, and further testing was performed at a second independent laboratory.

"In all, 48 individuals were interviewed over the course of the investigation, including the complainant, the suspect, the complainant's friend who accompanied her to the suspect's apartment, Four Seasons employees, employees of the building where the incident occurred, drivers, and event guests.

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."


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.

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."

Sharpton released the following statement: "We have been informed of the announcement by the Manhattan District Attorney in regard to the investigation around allegations against Attorney Sanford Rubenstein. The accuser is and remains a member in good standing of our National Board of Directors. We will refer the District Attorney's decision to the general board before we have any further response or comment."

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.
Copyright © 2019 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.