Tuesday 16 July 2019

Cuba Gooding Jr’s request to dismiss groping case denied

The actor denies claims he grabbed a woman’s breast at a Manhattan bar.

Cuba Gooding Jr leaves court in New York (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Cuba Gooding Jr leaves court in New York (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

By Michael R Sisak, Associated Press

A judge has rejected Hollywood star Cuba Gooding Jr’s bid to throw out a groping case against him.

Judge Keisha Espinal said she would not rule on the actor’s request to dismiss the misdemeanour case until August 14.

Ms Espinal dashed Gooding’s hopes of swiftly scotching two-week-old claims that he grabbed a woman’s breast at a Manhattan bar, which he denies.

The Oscar-winning Jerry Maguire star’s upcoming film projects could be in jeopardy if the case drags on and he has to ferry between his Hollywood home and a Manhattan court for hearings and a trial, defence lawyer Mark Heller argued.

Mr Heller told Ms Espinal during the 10-minute hearing: “Mr Gooding’s life is put on hold. It’s on a pause button. It’s urgent that this matter be dismissed as quickly as possible.”

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Gooding’s lawyer Mark Heller talks to the media outside court (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Swarmed by cameras outside the courthouse, Gooding smiled and nodded when asked whether he thought the case would ultimately be dismissed. He did not comment on the proceedings.

Ms Espinal ordered him to return for the August hearing.

Gooding, 51, is accused of placing his hand on a 29-year-old woman’s breast and squeezing it without her consent at Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge near Times Square on June 9. The woman told police she believed Gooding was intoxicated.

Gooding was arrested four days later after turning himself in to police. He pleaded not guilty to forcible touching and sexual abuse charges and was released after around six hours in custody.

He faces up to a year in jail if convicted.

Gooding entered the courtroom in dark sunglasses and a charcoal suit and stood between his lawyers in front of Ms Espinal’s bench for the brief hearing.

Assistant District Attorney Jenna Long provided Ms Espinal with a two-paragraph deposition in which the accuser affirmed the truth of the details in Gooding’s criminal complaint. The judge gave prosecutors until July 17 to file a written response to the defence’s dismissal motion.

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Gooding Jr denies the claims against him (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The defence provided Ms Espinal with a copy of security video from the bar on the night of the alleged episode — footage he contends will exonerate Gooding.

A former New York City police sex crimes detective whom Mr Heller hired to analyse the video concluded it does not show Gooding putting his hand on the accuser’s breast.

The footage, which was obtained and published by TMZ the day of Gooding’s arrest, shows the star putting his hand on or near a woman’s leg and breast as they sit on a couch with his girlfriend between them.

Gooding is then seen pulling the woman’s hand to his lips, as if to kiss it, and leaning towards her before another man steps up and talks with them.

In his motion, Mr Heller also took aim at the accuser’s credibility, saying blog posts she has written portray a woman with a “troubled mentality”.

Mr Heller contends the woman, who has not been identified by prosecutors, wanted revenge after feeling rejected and rebuffed by Gooding and his girlfriend, who asked her to leave them alone after spotting her following them around.

“There are compelling reasons that are screaming out for the dismissal of this case at the earliest stage possible,” Mr Heller told Ms Espinal.

PA Media

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