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Lawyer quits NYPD chokehold death case after being accused of rape

NEW YORK -- An attorney accused of raping a woman will no longer represent the family of a man who died after being placed in a police chokehold.

Sanford Rubenstein's partner, Scott Rynecki, told CBS New York Wednesday night that "Sanford Rubenstein has stepped down from the Eric Garner case as to not impede or distract from the Garner family seeking justice."

Rynecki told CBS New York that he and his team of lawyers have taken over the case.

A source told CBS New York the woman alleges Rubenstein had sex with her when she was too intoxicated to give consent. Rubenstein told police through his attorney that that the sex with the woman was consensual.

The brash, publicity-hungry attorney, who's known for winning huge settlements in police brutality cases, hasn't been arrested or charged and denies any criminal conduct. His withdrawal from the chokehold case allows the Garner family to push forward for accountability and its day in court, said Rynecki.

Garner's family has filed a notice of claim to sue the city and the police department for $75 million.

A spokesman for city Comptroller Scott Stringer said Tuesday that the family's notice of claim was under review. The city's Law Department said it will review the claim thoroughly.

Commissioner Bill Bratton: Video of NYPD chokehold is "disturbing"

Garner, who was unarmed, was stopped by police on Staten Island on July 17 on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

A video shot by an onlooker shows Garner telling the officers to leave him alone and refusing to be handcuffed.

An officer responded by putting Garner in a chokehold, which is banned under police policy. Garner, who had asthma, is heard gasping, "I can't breathe." He was pronounced dead later at a hospital.

The city medical examiner found that the police chokehold contributed to Garner's death. Police have promised to retrain officers on the use of force. A grand jury will determine whether criminal charges are filed.

Garner's death has sparked protests including an Aug. 23 march on Staten Island that drew thousands of people demanding justice.

The notice of claim was filed by Rubenstein's firm.

Rubenstein's accuser said the attack on her happened when she went back to his Manhattan apartment following a 60th birthday party last week for the Rev. Al Sharpton.

CBS New York reports that Sharpton said this week that the woman who filed the complaint is a top official within the National Action Network and that the accusations put him in a difficult position, given his relationship with both parties.

"Sandy and I have become friends, but the young lady who made the accusation is a top official," Sharpton said. "Sandy has no official capacity with NAN. She does and I respect her and she's been very helpful to us, so we're like between this situation."

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