The actor is facing charges of touching one woman’s breast and another’s buttocks, and prosecutors said 12 others have come forward with allegations.
Fourteen women have come forward to accuse the actor Cuba Gooding Jr. of unwanted sexual advances and groping, dating back nearly two decades, prosecutors said on Tuesday.
Mr. Gooding, 51, was accused in an indictment unsealed on Tuesday of pinching a woman’s bottom at a Manhattan nightclub in 2018; he had previously been charged with groping a different woman at a rooftop bar near Times Square in June of this year.
And the Manhattan district attorney’s office wants permission from a judge to admit as witnesses a dozen other women with similar complaints about Mr. Gooding starting in 2001, even though he has not been charged in those instances.
A prosecutor on the case, Jenna Long, argued in papers filed with the court that these allegations show that Mr. Gooding has demonstrated a pattern of behavior.
“His prior acts demonstrate that his contacts with their intimate parts are intentional, not accidental, and that he is not mistaken about their lack of consent,” Ms. Long wrote.
Mr. Gooding’s lawyer, Mark J. Heller, immediately came out firing in court Tuesday, portraying Mr. Gooding as a victim himself. Mr. Heller called the cases “a distorted overreaction pandering to the current hypersensitive climate where innocent commonplace gestures are now misperceived and mischaracterized as offensive.” He drew a comparison between Mr. Gooding’s actions and those of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., whom several women have accused of behaving in a way that made them uncomfortable. (No charges have been filed in connection with Mr. Biden.)
Mr. Heller said that the second accuser had tried to get a settlement payment from Mr. Gooding after his first arrest, but that he “bravely chose not to be shaken down.” A spokesman for the district attorney’s office declined to comment on possible settlement negotiations.
Mr. Gooding was scheduled to stand trial last week in the groping case, but the new indictment led to a postponement. In that case a woman accused him of grabbing her breast at the Magic Hour Rooftop Bar at the Moxy NYC Times Square hotel on June 9. Mr. Gooding denies it, and in court papers has contended that his accuser “is predisposed to make false allegations against the defendant.”
Mr. Gooding, who was handcuffed behind his back as he was escorted into State Supreme Court in Manhattan, pleaded not guilty and was released without bail. As he walked away from the courthouse to a waiting S.U.V., fans shouted: “I love you, Cuba!” He smiled and waved.
The charges in the latest case, forcible touching and third-degree sexual abuse, are identical to the ones he previously faced. The maximum penalty for the top charge, forcible touching, is a year in jail.
The charges revealed on Tuesday stem from an episode at the Tao Downtown nightclub on Ninth Avenue on Oct. 24, 2018. Prosecutors said in a court filing that Mr. Gooding pinched a woman’s buttocks, and when she confronted him, claimed that he had pinched her back. Earlier in the night, prosecutors said, Mr. Gooding made a sexually suggestive remark to her.
Mr. Heller said he saw security footage of the encounter and that it showed no criminal conduct.
In court papers, prosecutors also described the recollections of the other 12 women who say Mr. Gooding touched intimate parts of their bodies without their consent. Those instances are mostly from five or more years ago and took place at bars in several cities from Dallas to Albuquerque to Los Angeles.
The court documents said that in around 2007, Mr. Gooding was at a movie-related event at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas when, a woman said, he called her and her friends to his table and tried to kiss her. She said she pushed him away to avoid the kiss but that he was able to lick her face and grab her backside. The next night, she said, Mr. Gooding forcibly kissed her, putting his tongue up against her closed lips.
In a 2011 episode, at a Los Angeles bar, a woman said she was walking to the restroom when Mr. Gooding grabbed her arm, the court filings said. She said he put his hand inside her blouse and squeezed her bare breast. The woman said he later grabbed her arm again when she passed by and someone told him to leave her alone.
Other accusations detailed in court documents involve Mr. Gooding’s reaching under a woman’s skirt and touching her vagina outside her underwear, biting two women on their shoulders, thrusting his pelvis against two women and licking a woman’s neck. As is customary in sexual misconduct cases, none of the 14 women were identified by name.
Many of the additional events may have occurred too long ago to be prosecuted, but one dates to just over a year ago. According to court filings, a woman said she was introduced to Mr. Gooding at the Shore Bar in Santa Monica, Calif., in August 2018, and that she attempted to discuss with him an appearance on her radio show. She said he leaned in closer to tell her something, then forcibly kissed her, grabbing her breast and behind and inserting his tongue into her mouth.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment further on the new group of allegations. A spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said no case related to the Santa Monica allegation had been presented to its sex crimes division.
Mr. Heller said in an interview on Tuesday that “it is not uncommon, when a celebrity is put into the criminal court system, that people come out of the woodwork with allegations that are all over the place and, for the most part, aren’t provable.” He said none of the accounts in the new court filing are accurate.
The relevance of the accounts from the other 12 women is sure to be a cause for argument between the prosecution and defense in Manhattan.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office is pursuing a similar strategy in the prosecution of Harvey Weinstein, who is charged with sexually assaulting three women and has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors have described him as a sexual predator and have asked a judge to allow three other women to testify about his “prior bad acts.” Allegations of sexual misconduct against the producer sparked the #MeToo movement, a global reckoning over sexual assault by powerful men.
Prosecutors in Montgomery County, Pa., also followed that strategy in the sexual assault trial of Bill Cosby, who was convicted and sentenced to prison. A judge in that case had allowed five additional women to testify. In his appeal of the conviction, Mr. Cosby has challenged the judge’s decision to admit their testimony.
Defense lawyers typically argue that admitting testimony from such witnesses is unfair, since those accusations have not been upheld by any jury, and could lead to their clients’ being judged by their character rather than on whether they actually broke the law. Judges must weigh whether to allow such evidence, and if so, how many witnesses should be permitted to testify without being unfair to Mr. Gooding.
Mr. Heller, his lawyer, is also asking Judge Curtis Farber to try the two cases separately so that Mr. Gooding can stand trial sooner rather than later. A separate trial might also make it tougher for prosecutors to portray him as a serial offender. The judge did not immediately rule on that request.
Mr. Gooding, a native of the Bronx, shot to fame with the lead role in the 1991 film “Boyz N The Hood,” and he won an Academy Award in 1997 for his supporting role as a football star in “Jerry Maguire.” In 2016, he played O.J. Simpson in the television series “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”
Source : nytimes