Police investigate rape claim against NYC attorney

AP News
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Posted: Oct 06, 2014 5:21 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — An attorney known for handling police brutality allegations is being investigated by detectives after a woman accused him of rape following the Rev. Al Sharpton's 60th birthday party, two law enforcement officials said Monday.

The woman said the attack happened when she went back to Sanford Rubenstein's Manhattan apartment, the officials said. Investigators were searching Rubenstein's apartment Monday, removing a mattress and several other evidence bags.

Rubenstein's lawyer said in a statement that his client denies any criminal conduct.

"Mr. Rubenstein is one of the city's most successful and respected attorneys," Benjamin Brafman said. "He denies any criminal conduct whatsoever in connection with his matter and we are confident that when the investigation is completed, it will be closed without the filing of any criminal charges."

The two officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. A New York Police Department spokesman confirmed that Rubenstein was being investigated but would not comment further. The Daily News of New York first reported the investigation.

Sharpton's civil rights group, the National Action Network, hosted the birthday party Wednesday at The Four Seasons Restaurant. Aretha Franklin, Spike Lee, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio were among the guests.

The media-savvy Rubenstein represents the family of Eric Garner, who died after being placed in a chokehold during an arrest in July. The case sparked protests and calls for change within the police department. He also represented the family of Sean Bell, killed in 2008 in a hail of police bullets. The city eventually settled with Bell's family for $7.5 million.

Rubenstein is a member of the National Action Network and has often stood arm-in-arm with Sharpton at protests. On Monday, Sharpton met with Garner's family and said he would discuss the Garner investigation at a rally Saturday.

Sharpton issued a statement Sunday saying he was aware of the allegations.

"National Action Network and Rev. Al Sharpton has not been notified or advised by any official investigating authorities," the statement read. "The allegations as reported occurred at a private residence after a NAN event and had nothing to do with NAN nor Rev. Al Sharpton, therefore we have no comment at this time."

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance declined to answer a question about Rubenstein. De Blasio said the allegations were troubling.

"But let's be clear: There is an investigation going on, and, to the best of my understanding, there are not formal charges yet. We have to treat everyone equally. We first have to see where the justice goes with this, and then, of course, there will be due process," he said. "I don't think there's a lot we can conclude until the investigation runs its course."

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Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.