Woman alleges rape in civil suit against Market Street Saloon owner

A woman has filed a civil lawsuit against Market Street Saloon owner Sam Mustafa (pictured).

Market Street Saloon owner Sam Mustafa is being sued by a former employee who accused him of raping her aboard his party boat in June 2011.

The same woman earlier sought criminal charges against the 43-year-old businessman, but prosecutors dismissed the case in January, citing witness credibility issues.

In a personal injury lawsuit filed this week, the woman accuses Mustafa of fondling her aboard a Jet Ski and then sexually assaulting her in a cabin aboard his 44-foot boat, The Southern Lady, on June 26, 2011.

The suit alleges Mustafa is guilty of assault, battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and defamation. She has accused him of making defamatory statements about her to undermine her reputation and credibility, the lawsuit states.

Mustafa referred questions to his attorney, Andy Savage, who said the allegations are a baseless attempt to cash in on Mustafa’s success.

“When this first came up we suspected it was a money-grab because we knew even before he was arrested she had contacted the law firm that brought this suit,” Savage said. “So we’re not surprised by this. We knew from the very beginning this was her intent.”

Savage said he welcomes the opportunity to take her deposition and pledged that Mustafa would file a counter-suit of his own.

The woman could not be reached for comment Thursday and her attorney, Philip Hammond, did not return a message left at his office.

Throughout the criminal case, Mustafa strongly denied raping the woman and bemoaned the effect her allegations have had on his business and reputation.

In addition to Market Street Saloon, he owns Toast of Charleston, Eli’s Table, Whisk Bakery, Tabbuli and The Wreckfish.

Savage has said the criminal case was rife with holes and inconsistencies, and a private investigator obtained evidence indicating that the victim hoped to cash in on the allegations. Another player in the case offered to make a key witness go away before trial in exchange for a $2,500 bribe, he has said.

The lawsuit states that the episode has caused the woman mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life, leaving her with “substantial medical expenses.” The suit seeks unspecified damages.

The case began when the woman showed up to attend a party cruise aboard Mustafa’s boat to reward employees. Mustafa has said she was not invited.

The woman, then 20, told Charleston police the attack occurred in a downstairs cabin. She accused Mustafa of throwing her on a bed, pulling off her bikini bottom and raping her, police said.

The woman sent her boyfriend a text message following the alleged attack, and the boyfriend alerted police. She initially denied the rape when police arrived at Charleston City Marina but later provided police with a statement that Mustafa had taken advantage of her.

Mustafa has said he thought the call to police was a misunderstanding, and that he was stunned when police charged him weeks later with first-degree criminal sexual conduct. “I couldn’t understand how this could happen to me,” he said in January.

A hospital rape exam produced photographs that showed bruising and redness, but Savage has said private investigator Laurie Langford found evidence the woman had those injuries before the alleged attack occurred.

No one on the boat heard the woman screaming for help, as she claimed, including a sober woman who was outside the door to the thinly walled cabin, Savage has said. Witnesses described seeing the accuser follow Mustafa into the cabin and later leave showing no signs of distress, Langford told The Post and Courier.

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson has said witness credibility problems left the case unable to proceed to trial. “Stories continued to change and certain claims could not be corroborated, or were refuted,” she said.

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.