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NYC 'Chokehold' Lawyer Quits Amid Rape Accusations

By Mark Wilson, Esq. on October 09, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

You'll recall that in July, Eric Garner, a man from Staten Island, was placed in a lethal chokehold by NYPD officers after he was arrested for the inherently dangerous felony of selling untaxed cigarettes. (That was sarcasm, by the way.) Garner's family filed a civil suit against the NYPD.

Well, things just took a turn. In another case of lawyers (allegedly) behaving badly, Sanford Rubenstein, the attorney representing Garner's family, was accused of rape earlier this week and has now said he will drop out of the case.

Sexual Assault Allegations

New York's WNBC-TV reported Tuesday that a 42-year-old woman filed a complaint claiming Rubenstein sexually assaulted her after last week's 60th birthday party for the Rev. Al Sharpton. That event also included such luminaries as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Today, WNBC reported that Rubenstein would leave the case. He denied committing the alleged crime, but left because he didn't want the sexual assault accusations to "distract from the Eric Garner case."

The victim's identity is still unknown, though her attorney, Kenneth Montgomery, released a statement indicating she is "a high ranking executive at on the of the country's largest corporations." Rubenstein admitted that he had sex with the victim, but claimed it was consensual, according to the New York Daily News.

Police Brutality

Rubenstein is a partner at Rubenstein Rynecki, a Brooklyn personal injury firm. He has extensive experience litigating against the NYPD in cases of excessive force and misconduct. For 20 years, he served as a legislator and county attorney in Rockland County, New York. He left the legislature to work with Sharpton on the 1997 police brutality case of Abner Louima. The Louima case resulted in at least two police officers going to prison and an $8.7 million settlement with New York City.

Garner died July 17 in what the medical examiner ruled a homicide, after police officers wrestled him to the ground and placed him in a chokehold. Garner had asthma and was in poor health. The family is suing the city for $75 million; there's no word yet on who will replace Rubenstein as their attorney.

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