New York Lawyer, Charged With Rape, Found Dead

"It's bizarre, unfortunate," Steve Coleman, an Atlanta police officer, was saying about New York attorney Andrew Gardner.

Gardner, 39, was a litigation partner at Fried Frank. He had been an undergrad at Harvard and had gone to NYU for law school. He lived in Armonk with his wife and three kids. And he was found dead, a presumed suicide, on Monday.

This summer, Gardner traveled to Atlanta for a conference, authorities said. He checked into the Westin Buckhead Atlanta. On August 17, a Thursday, he went to Dantanna's, an upscale chophouse there. At the bar, according to the Atlanta police, he met a 27-year-old woman, a teacher, and several of her friends. They ate dinner and socialized at the bar for a few hours. Then he invited her back to his hotel room, to hear some music, she told police. Inside the room, she claimed, Gardner "became aggressive, took off her shirt, grabbed her by the arms preventing her from leaving, threw her on the bed and raped her," according to authorities.

After the alleged incident, the woman fled Gardner's hotel room in bare feet and raced down to the hotel lobby to report the attack, authorities say. She then went to a local hospital where a rape exam was performed. Around 4:00 a.m., Atlanta police visited Gardner's hotel room. He told police the sex was consensual. Inside the room, they found the woman's shoes, cell phone, and purse. Gardner was arrested and charged with three felony counts: rape, aggravated sodomy, and false imprisonment.

Gardner denied the allegations. He pleaded not guilty. He was released on $225,000 bail.

Back in New York last month, with criminal charges looming, Gardner attempted to commit suicide by slashing his wrists. On Monday, his body was found at Butler Sanctuary in Bedford, New York, a nature preserve known for hawk watching. There were no marks on his body, no bruises. A medical examiner is conducting an autopsy.

A spokesman for the Gardner family, Bernard Nussbaum, the attorney and former White House counsel to Bill Clinton, issued a statement to Westchester's Journal News: "Mr. Gardner did not commit the crime of rape or any other crime. He was never indicted nor, we believe, would he have ever been indicted. His death is a great tragedy to his family and friends. He was a wonderful human being. He will be missed."

Geoffrey Gray