Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. will turn himself in to police after an alleged groping incident at a New York City bar.
Cuba Gooding Jr’s lawyer says more than two hours of video surveillance from inside a New York bar shows the woman who has accused Gooding of drunkenly groping her breast was “stalking” Gooding and his girlfriend all night.
Mark Heller, a New York lawyer on the team defending the Oscar-winning actor on a misdemeanor charge of “forcible touching,” says the two video snippets posted by TMZ and trumpeted as visual proof that Gooding put his “hand on (the) accuser” is nothing of the sort.
Heller said he is collecting affidavits from witnesses who were in the Magic Hour Rooftop Bar and Lounge on Sunday night, including Gooding’s girlfriend, Claudine De Niro.
He said he will file a motion next week seeking dismissal of the groping charge in “the interests of justice.”
Gooding, 51, surrendered to New York Police sex-crimes detectives on Thursday, was arrested and arraigned, pleaded not guilty and was released with a next court date set for June 26.
But Heller told USA TODAY he is “100 percent confident” the charge will be dismissed and quickly. He says police should instead investigate the accuser, a 29-year-old woman who has not been identified, for making a “perjurious complaint.”
“I want to see them make an example out of this lady,” Heller said. “A handful of women making false claims, it severely hurts other legitimate (claims).”
The accuser has not spoken publicly to the media about what she says happened to her, and it is not clear whether she has an attorney or a representative to speak for her.
Bits of the surveillance video, now playing on CNN and other media, are blurry and puzzling. TMZ had to insert big arrows identifying who was who but it’s still not crystal clear that anyone is being groped or who is doing the groping.
In fact, the scene also includes an unknown man (not Gooding) who approaches the three figures believed to be Gooding, De Niro and the accuser, and starts grinding his crotch in their faces.
Heller said Gooding’s legal team watched the entire video and he still maintains he saw nothing inappropriate on the part of Gooding.
“We watched the entire two and half hours of video and it shows Cuba being stalked by this lady – she’s following him around (the bar),” Heller said. “He’s sitting with Claudine in a private conversation, she doesn’t know them but she sits herself down almost on top of Claudine and interjects herself where she doesn’t belong.”
Since the video snippets aired under TMZ’s “titillating” headline, Heller said, he’s been fielding calls from witnesses in the bar that night who said they didn’t see “an act of sexual abuse or forcible grabbing and squeezing, which is what the allegations are,” Heller said.
“We got a call from a retired sex-crime division detective who looked at the video and said there was no basis to arrest Cuba Gooding for anything,” Heller said.
What does Claudine De Niro have to say about the alleged groping? Soon to be divorced from Robert De Niro’s son, she is reported to be a travel consultant and real-estate broker for luxury properties. So far she has not spoken publicly but she will give an affidavit about what she saw for the defense, Heller said.
Heller said De Niro has not been interviewed by police investigators and neither have some of the witnesses who were in the bar that night nor bar security officials.
“Claudine was sitting right next him during the entire event, and they don’t even do due diligence to interview her before bringing a charge on a bogus complaint,” he said.
Cuba Gooding Jr. has been arrested and charged with forcible touching after a woman accused the actor of groping her at a New York City night spot. Gooding turned himself in to police Thursday. (June 13)
So far, New York sex-crimes detectives and prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office have declined to respond to Heller’s claims. Police detectives have been mum about the case except to say Monday that they were investigating an allegation of “forcible touching.” But they would not confirm then that Gooding was the accused.
According to the complaint filed at Gooding’s arraignment Thursday, the language of the statute he allegedly violated reads: “The defendant intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, forcibly touched the sexual and other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading and abusing such person, and for the purpose of gratifying the defendant’s sexual desire; the defendant subjected another person to sexual contact without the latter’s consent.”
Detectives had been seeking to question Gooding about the allegation since early Monday after the accuser called police. Gooding did not speak publicly until Tuesday evening when he was preparing to board a flight from LAX to New York and was interviewed by TMZ.
He said he was not guilty and that there was no groping.
“I trust the system, let the process speak for itself,” Gooding said as he walked into the terminal, interrupted by a fan seeking a picture. “There’s a tape that shows what really happened.”
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