Mark McCrazy

Cuba Gooding Jr. will be tried on groping charge; bid to toss case denied

Cuba Gooding Jr.’s attempt to get a misdemeanor groping charge against him dismissed was denied by a New York judge who said he failed to present required “compelling reasons” to warrant it. A trial date was set for Sept. 3.]

The Oscar-winning actor, who has been charged with “forcible touching” stemming from an accusation from a woman who said he drunkenly grabbed her breast in a Manhattan bar in June, sought to persuade the judge through witness affidavits and a blurry video that he committed no crime.

Gooding’s lawyers, led by Mark Heller, argued that the “interests of justice” called for a dismissal of the charge without a trial. They insisted dismissal would not endanger the safety or welfare of Manhattan because no crime was committed. Instead, dismissal would promote confidence in the criminal justice system, they argued. 

“This court disagrees,” wrote Judge Phyllis Chu in an opinion released by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office Thursday. “The conflicting factual allegations between the criminal court information and the defendant’s motion should be resolved at trial.”

Quoting precedent cases, Chu rejected Gooding’s arguments that his is one of those “rare cases” where compelling factors clearly demonstrate that prosecution would be an injustice.

“The court finds the allegations in the accusatory instrument are sufficiently serious such that any hardship experienced by the defendant is not enough to satisfy either the purpose and effect of an authorized punishment for these charges,” she wrote. “Further, the court is unpersuaded by the defendant’s arguments regarding the safety and welfare of the community and the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system.”

Justin Henry, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, said a trial date has been set for Sept. 3. Prosecutors had no comment on the ruling. 

In response to the ruling, Heller, a flamboyant New York defense attorney, said Gooding “fully believes” in the judicial system and looks forward to exoneration.

In a statement posted on his website, he said Gooding’s exoneration will “only be facilitated by a jury trial” in light of the judge’s reasoning. He also said he’s starting a “#NotMeMovement” to mark his 50 years defending “innocent, falsely accused and unfairly prosecuted” defendants.

Gooding, 51, is accused of groping a 29-year-old woman who says the Oscar-winning actor grabbed her breast and squeezed it during an evening of drinking at the Magic Hour Rooftop Bar and Lounge in midtown Manhattan on June 9.

He has pleaded not guilty and is free on his own recognizance. If convicted, he could be jailed for up to a year. 

Gooding has argued that “nothing happened.” He says surveillance video from inside the bar is too unclear to show he touched the woman in the manner she claims, and witnesses, including his girlfriend who was sitting between him and the accuser, also reject that he groped her. 

In denying Gooding’s dismissal motion, the judge followed the arguments of the Manhattan prosecutors, who asserted in a brief last month that Goodings legal team failed to establish  legally appropriate basis to throw out the charge.

Assistant District Attorney Jenna Long wrote in her brief that Gooding’s motion “plainly fails” to meet exacting standards for dismissing cases before trial in “the interests of justice.” A jury should decide whether Gooding is guilty or not guilty, she argued.

Long also castigated the defense’s attempts to publicly question the accuser’s mental health by issuing “inflammatory comments used to embarrass and humiliate the complainant.”