Cuba Gooding Jr. Pleads Not Guilty to Third Set of Groping Charges

MANHATTAN (CN) – Returning to Manhattan Supreme Court for the second time this month to face mounting allegations of criminal sexual conduct in nightclubs, actor Cuba Gooding Jr. once again pleaded not guilty Thursday afternoon to a new indictment brought by the Manhattan district attorney.

Cuba Gooding Jr. leaves criminal court in New York on June 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

Gooding, 51, was first charged with groping a woman on June 9, 2019, at Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge near Times Square. Prosecutors say the Oscar-winning “Jerry Maguire” star placed his hand on a 29-year-old woman’s breast and squeezed it without her consent.

A second indictment brought two weeks ago added two counts arising from allegations that Gooding pinched another woman’s butt at the Chelsea nightclub Tao Downtown on Oct. 24, 2018.

The updated indictment against the actor involves three counts of forcible touching and three counts sexual abuse in the third degree.

Gooding turned himself in at the District Attorney’s office Thursday morning.

Thursday’s 4-page superseding indictment adds two new counts from a third accuser who claims Gooding groped her on Sept. 9, 2018, at Lavo, an Italian restaurant and nightclub near Trump Tower. Assistant District Attorney Jenna Long said Thursday that the new accuser is not one of the 12 additional women willing to testify against the actor mentioned at the previous arraignment two weeks prior.

Lacking specific details, the indictment alleges that Gooding “intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, forcibly touched the sexual and other intimate parts of an individual known to the grand jury for the purpose of degrading and abusing such person, and for the purpose of gratifying the defendant’s sexual desire.”

Gooding’s defense attorney Mark Jay Heller said Thursday that prosecutors’ scant details were insufficient to bring the updated indictment and accused prosecutors of attempting to taint the jury pool.

Heller, who represented the “Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz in Brooklyn Criminal Court in 1977, said the video evidence shows no groping, grabbing or inappropriate conduct.

“As a practicing attorney of over 50 years, I can affirm that what is revealed is absolutely noncriminal conduct and totally exculpatory as to the charges set forth in the indictment,” Heller said.

Heller told reporters outside the courthouse that he believes the case against Gooding to be malicious prosecution.

“We are confident that as soon as this case is dismissed, we will hold the city of New York and the accusers accountable for their conduct,” Heller said.

Heller said that the defense is planning to a file a motion to dismiss.

Manhattan prosecutors meanwhile accused Gooding’s defense lawyers of attempting to taint the jury pool by leaking TAO nightclub surveillance footage to the celebrity gossip site TMZ.

Assistant District Attorney Jenna Long claimed in court Thursday that the leaked footage was trimmed to start just after one of the alleged groping incidents occurred.

Justice Curtis Farber set the next court appearance in the case for Jan. 22, 2020.

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