Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. will turn himself in to police after an alleged groping incident at a New York City bar.
Sought for three days for questioning on a sexual-misconduct allegation, Cuba Gooding Jr. voluntarily surrendered Thursday to New York police, was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor count of “forcible touching” involving an accusation he groped a woman’s breast in a New York bar on Sunday.
Det. Martin Brown, a spokesman for the NYPD, told USA TODAY Gooding was charged by the Special Victims unit after he turned himself in and was questioned at a police precinct.
Gooding is expected to be arraigned shortly.
Mark Heller, one of Gooding’s attorneys who arranged for Gooding to turn himself in to the sex-crime detectives, told USA TODAY he expected Gooding to be arrested and charged with “forcible touching,” commonly known as groping.
But Heller insisted prosecutors should decline to prosecute Gooding for lack of evidence of wrongdoing.
“I have viewed the footage (of video surveillance) of the entire evening and did not see one scintilla of criminal culpability on the part of Cuba Gooding,” Heller said.
News videos posted on Twitter showed Heller defending Gooding as innocent. “I am completely confident that he will be totally exonerated,” Heller said.
The plan for Gooding to surrender was up in the air earlier on Thursday after Heller watched the surveillance video from the bar and hesitated, unable to contact the Manhattan District Attorney’s office to discuss whether a prosecution was possible or warranted.
But Gooding alluded to a video tape when he declared himself innocent of the accusation late Tuesday, as he was preparing to board a flight from Los Angeles to New York. He was stopped by a paparazzo who asked him if he was guilty of the accusation.
“No, absolutely not,” Gooding said, smiling affably.
In the video of the interview posted by TMZ, Gooding said he was at the bar, met people, took pictures with fans but rejected any suggestion he touched someone inappropriately on purpose or by accident.
“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.”
The Oscar-winning actor was accused of drunkenly groping a woman’s breast while partying and drinking with her at the Magic Hour Rooftop Bar and Lounge in midtown Manhattan on Sunday night.
At least one video posted online (and later deleted) by someone who was in the bar showed Gooding was there that night, holding a microphone and raucously singing with others. It did not show him groping anyone.
Police had been seeking to talk to Gooding, 51, since early Monday to question him about the allegation of “forcible touching” at the bar. Heller said the misdemeanor charge could lead to a potential jail sentence of one year.
The accuser, 29, called police hours after the alleged encounter in the early hours of Monday. So far, she has not been identified, nor has anyone claiming to be the accuser spoken to the media.
Heller told USA TODAY his legal team negotiated an arrangement to allow Gooding to turn himself in to police on Thursday, but that was before he viewed the surveillance video from the bar.
Gooding, who won an Oscar for best supporting actor for 1996’s “Jerry Maguire,” more recently received plaudits for playing O.J. Simpson on FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson.”
Prior to the current era of widespread #MeToo wariness, which gained force in the fall of 2017, Gooding was criticized for his hard-partying and his behavior towards women.
In March 2017, he was slammed on social media when he lifted up the dress of Golden Globe winner Sarah Paulson when he appeared on stage at Los Angeles PaleyFest with his co-stars of “American Horror Story.”
Academy award-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr. is starring in the London revival of musical “Chicago” taking on the role of lawyer Billy Flynn. ROUGH CUT (no reporter narration).
Video provided by Reuters
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