A man charged with shooting a security guard at the Waldorf-Astoria was under the thumb of a scheming associate who fed him cocaine and put him up to trying to rob a jewelry store at the iconic hotel, a social worker involved in his defense said Friday.
Rafael Rabinovich-Arda was merely "a follower'' manipulated by a "puppet master'' at the time of the brazen November 2008 holdup attempt, Legal Aid Society social worker James Graves told a judge during a status update on the case. The purported ringleader wasn't identified.
"It's really unlikely that a fragile, dependent young man is capable of masterminding a theft of this proportion,'' said Graves, who described Rabinovich-Arda as a lonely, depressed youth who grew up in three countries _ Brazil, Israel and the United States -- and began using drugs at about 13. He is an Israeli citizen.
But Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Scott Leet said Rabinovich-Arda took enough initiative to get a gun for the crime.
Rabinovich-Arda shot open a jewelry case and then apparently accidentally wounded guard Gregory J. Boyle in the chest as hotel guests scrambled for cover, prosecutors say. Boyle, a retired New York Police Department detective, survived.
"People's lives were put at stake,'' Leet said.
Rabinovich-Arda, 21, has pleaded not guilty to charges including assault. He's due back in court Jan. 26.
The Art Deco hotel, on Park Avenue, has served for decades as a symbol of luxury. It appeared in the 1945 Ginger Rogers film "Weekend at the Waldorf.''