Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. was arrested Thursday for allegedly groping a woman at a Manhattan bar on Sunday. The actor pleaded not guilty to one misdemeanor account of forcible touching and was released without bail.
Attorney Mark J. Heller, representing Mr. Gooding, told reporters that his client is “completely confident” and “will be totally exonerated,” according to The New York Post.
“There is not a scintilla of criminal culpability that can be attributed to Cuba Gooding Jr.,” Heller said, adding that he was “shocked and horrified” about the prosecution of Gooding even after police were provided surveillance footage of the alleged incident.
On Tuesday, Gooding told TMZ that the surveillance video from the bar would exonerate him; it will show “what really happened, and that’s the most important thing,” he said.
The surveillance video in question was obtained by TMZ. At around 10:15 p.m. the accuser (whose face has been blurred to keep her anonymity) sits down next to Gooding and his girlfriend Claudine De Niro at the Magic Hour Rooftop Lounge New York City. “Almost immediately you see Gooding reach over Claudine and place his hand on the woman’s left thigh,” the outlet reported (video, below). “A few seconds later his hand moves up to her breast, and the accuser puts her hand on his. What happens next is open to interpretation — she either pushes his hand back toward him, or he pulls her hand to his mouth and kisses it.”
Then an unidentified man walks over and talks to Gooding, De Niro, and the accuser; the group soon talks seemingly without any argument.
“However, about 30 minutes later … Cuba and Claudine were downstairs lounging on a couch and making out. A man, who we’re told works security for the bar, was standing next to the couch when the accuser approached him and started arguing,” TMZ noted. “We’ve blurred her face to protect her identity, but she appears to say, ‘Yes, he did.’ She repeated that after the security guard shook his head. It’s unclear if Cuba heard their conversation, but he got up, stumbled and then walked right past the accuser and left.”
In 2017, Gooding responded to accusations of sexual misconduct after he lifted the skirt of actress Sarah Paulson, a friend and “American Horror Story” colleague of the actor’s, at a promotional event with a live audience.
“I love the lady that is Sarah Paulson,” Gooding responded, according to HuffPost. “We have a banter like brother and sister, which is how the spirit of that whole panel was.”
“Yet that image was taken out to represent some kind of sexual misconduct, and that wasn’t my intent,” he continued. “The first person, when I heard about the fervor, I called Sarah, I said, ‘I love you, I see you as my sister,’ and she said, ‘I feel the same way about you.’ And so I let it go.”
The Oscar winner described the mishap as a “‘teachable moment’ for his sons, who are in college, about how images can be misinterpreted on the internet,” noted HuffPost.