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Entertainment & Arts

Cuba Gooding Jr.’s attorney says groping accuser was ‘stalking’ the actor

Actor Cuba Gooding Jr., center, is lead by police officers from the New York Police Department’s spe
Actor Cuba Gooding Jr is led by police officers from the New York Police Department’s special victims division on Thursday.
(Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

An attorney for Cuba Gooding Jr. is refuting conclusions some have drawn from a surveillance video showing the actor touching a woman who has accused him of groping her.

The snippet, obtained and published by TMZ on Thursday, appears to show the actor at Manhattan’s Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge putting his hand on or near the woman’s leg and breast while they sat with Gooding’s girlfriend, Claudine De Niro, between them.

But his longtime attorney, Mark J. Heller, dismissed the website’s claims that Gooding touched the woman’s thigh and breast.

“He’s not alleged to have touched a leg,” Heller told The Times over the phone on Friday. “He was sitting with Claudine privately and this woman was literally stalking them, following them from place to place to place. Cuba is very, very polite, he would never rebuff a fan, but this woman literally sat almost on top of Claudine.”

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The veteran attorney said that Gooding is alleged to have forcibly squeezed the woman’s breast, something Heller did not see happen in the surveillance video. The recording was among the hours of footage he reviewed before the Oscar winner surrendered at a New York Police Dept. precinct on Thursday.

“There is not a scintilla of criminal conduct revealed on that tape,” Heller said.

The “People v. O.J. Simpson” star pleaded not guilty on Thursday to misdemeanor charges, including one count of forcible touching and one count of sexual abuse in the third degree, according to the complaint filed by the Manhattan district attorney.

Cuba Gooding Jr. didn’t grope anyone — he’s just ‘frisky,’ his lawyer says »

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At the time, Heller told reporters at the police station and The Times that the hours of video they reviewed did not show any inappropriate conduct or anything that could be interpreted as such.

However, hours later, TMZ published the surveillance video said to be shot inside the Manhattan nightclub on Sunday. It is unclear how the gossip site obtained the footage.

The “Jerry Maguire” star was arraigned Thursday before Judge Herbert Moses, who released him without bail. Attorney Peter Toumbekis served as Gooding’s defense counsel in court. On Wednesday, the actor said he would be turning himself in because he’s innocent and because he trusts the system.

Prosecutors said that Gooding placed his hand on the woman’s breast and squeezed and that she did not consent to it. The woman told police she believed he was drunk at the time.

According to the complaint, Gooding “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.”

The 51-year-old actor has long been dogged by accusations of hard partying and questionable behavior. In 2012, the “American Horror Story” star was accused of shoving a female bartender in New Orleans, but the woman later decided not to press charges. On Thursday, a report was published alleging that he had groped a woman in 2008.

Heller dismissed the recent reports because he did not believe they exhibited a pattern of misbehavior. However, in an interview before Gooding’s surrender, he told The Times that sometimes Gooding is “frisky but he’s not inappropriate.”

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Gooding is due back in court on June 26.

Follow me: @NardineSaad


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