Family names new lawyer in $75 million New York chokehold lawsuit

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A picture of Garner is seen on a newspaper at his memorial in Staten Island

A picture of Eric Garner is seen on a newspaper at his memorial in Staten Island, New York, July 21, 2014. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The family of a black New Yorker who died after a local police officer put the 43-year old man in a chokehold announced on Saturday it chose a new attorney for its planned $75 million wrongful death lawsuit, a spokesman for a civil rights organization said.

Speaking at a news conference with civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton in Harlem, Eric Garner's family said civil rights attorney Jonathan Moore will replace Sanford Rubenstein, said Jacky Johnson, a spokeswoman for Sharpton's National Action Network.

Rubenstein, a prominent attorney with close ties to Sharpton, earlier said he stepped aside earlier this week in the wake of a police investigation into a 42-year-old woman's allegation that he assaulted her sexually in his Manhattan apartment. He has denied any criminal wrongdoing.

Moore, who will now handle the Garner case, helped represent the five men in the high-profile Central Park Jogger case, who were jailed for lengthy terms on charges of raping and beating a runner in Central Park. The men were eventually exonerated, and they recently settled a wrongful conviction lawsuit with the city for $41 million.

Garner, a father of six, died in July after a police officer placed him in a chokehold while trying to arrest him for peddling loose cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk.

Bystanders' video of the incident was widely circulated on the Internet and spurred a national debate over how U.S. police treat minorities.

After the incident, Sharpton took up the Garner family's cause and Rubenstein became their lawyer.

The Garners filed a plan on Monday to sue the city, the police department and six named police officers for wrongful death, assault, battery and negligence, among other claims, seeking $75 million in damages, according to a filing by Rubenstein's firm with the city's comptroller on Monday.

Rubenstein, 70, has handled some of the most prominent civil-rights lawsuits against the city and its police department over the past two decades as the go-to attorney for Sharpton.

Calls to the offices of Sharpton and Moore on Saturday were not returned.

(Editing by Diane Craft, Frank McGurty and W Simon)