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Assault charge against Charleston restaurateur Sam Mustafa likely to be dismissed

Sam Mustafa

Sam Mustafa (File/Grace Beahm/Staff) 

The third-degree assault charge against restaurateur Sam Mustafa is on track for dismissal because the alleged victim is apparently no longer interested in pursuing the case.

A Charleston prosecutor on Monday morning told Municipal Judge Joseph S. Mendelsohn that she had received an e-mail hours before from the woman who had accused Mustafa of assaulting her behind Halls Chophouse. According to the message, “She does not want to prosecute. She does not want to participate.”

Mustafa of Charleston Hospitality Group (Toast, Eli's Table, Tabbuli) was scheduled to appear in court on Monday for a jury trial, but the proceeding was initially slated for postponement because the victim was out of town.

“This could be a moot issue within the next few hours,” the prosecutor told the judge, adding that she planned to call the victim to confirm her intentions. “My interest is to dismiss by the end of the week.”

Andy Savage, Mustafa’s attorney, had previously expressed frustration with how long the case has lingered in court. Mustafa was arrested in May and charged with assaulting a woman in late February, days before he assumed leadership of the Greater Charleston Restaurant Association.

The police report documenting the incident says, “The offender grabbed her by her hair causing her to bend over while forcing her face to the ground. As he continued to do this, she was yelling ‘please stop, please stop.’ The offender then let go of her hair and pushed her chest causing her to fall backward and hit the back of her head on the ground.”

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It wasn’t the first time that Mustafa’s alleged interactions with a woman resulted in arrest: He was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct in 2011, following a party cruise on his boat, The Southern Lady. Prosecutors two years later dropped the charge, saying they could not prove the former employee’s claim that he had sexually assaulted her.

Savage contends that publicity surrounding the current assault charge has upended Mustafa’s professional life. According to Savage, his client has lost “40 percent of his business,” as well as contracts with Boeing and Mercedes, because the rape acquittal resurfaced in news reports.

Asked by Mendelsohn whether he had anything to say after the prosecutor’s update, Savage said, “She should read Miranda rights to (the victim),” implying the woman should face criminal investigation for bringing charges against Mustafa.

Mendelsohn, who moments earlier had been bantering with Savage about their grandchildren and Normandy Farms Bakery, said good-naturedly, “You had to take the last shot, huh?”

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

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