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Sanford Rubenstein won't face rape charges, DA Vance decides

Sanford Rubenstein left, stands behind his lawyer Ben

Sanford Rubenstein left, stands behind his lawyer Ben Brafman during their news conference at Brafman's law office, on Jan. 5, 2015 . Photo Credit: Newsday / John Riley

The Manhattan district attorney announced Monday he will not pursue rape charges that were lodged against prominent personal injury lawyer Sanford Rubenstein by a top aide to his one-time patron, activist Rev. Al Sharpton.

The allegations by an executive at Sharpton's National Action Network against the lawyer, who has sued on behalf of police violence victims such as Abner Louima and Eric Garner, made tabloid headlines late last year, but prosecutors said they couldn't be proved.

The woman, who has not been publicly identified, claimed that Rubenstein, 70, assaulted her at his Manhattan apartment after a night of drinking at Sharpton's 60th birthday bash in October. Rubenstein claimed the sex was consensual.

District Attorney Cyrus Vance's office noted the complaint came 36 hours later and could not be corroborated despite a "thorough" investigation that included interviews with 48 witnesses and reviews of video surveillance at Rubenstein's apartment building.

"Neither the provable facts nor the applicable law support a prosecution," said a spokeswoman for Vance, citing among problems the "degree of the complainant's recollection of what happened."

Kenneth Montgomery, the woman's lawyer, said she was "upset" at Vance's decision but the outcome was predictable given Vance's history of declining to file charges, including the high-profile case in 2011 when a hotel maid accused French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn of rape.

"When they've got a powerful suspect, they're going to do everything in the world to punt the case," said Montgomery, who added that he believed there was enough evidence to present to a grand jury indicating that Rubenstein slipped a marijuana cookie to his client.

Montgomery said he filed a civil suit against Rubenstein in Brooklyn immediately after learning there would be no prosecution.

Rubenstein, in a news conference, said he was "pleased" he had been "fully cleared," and his defense lawyer, Ben Brafman, warned that he would file a countersuit for defamation if the woman pursues a civil suit.

"The woman in question was not drunk, she was not drugged and she was not raped," Brafman said. "Rape is undoubtedly a serious offense. To falsely accuse someone of rape is however equally offensive."

After the allegations surfaced against Rubenstein last fall, Sharpton severed ties with him, accusing him of being "disrespectful" toward his organization. Garner's family, whom Sharpton advised, hired Montgomery to replace Rubenstein as their lawyer.

Brafman Monday called on Sharpton to apologize, but Sharpton said he had no plans to do so because he never accused Rubenstein of committing a crime.

"I don't think anyone doing business with an organization they respect will party with a member of the board of directors," he said. "That's my opinion. I think it's presumptuous for someone to call on me to apologize for my opinion."

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