Prosecutors reject Cuba Gooding Jr.’s bid to dismiss NY groping charge

Cuba Gooding Jr., right, with his attorney Mark Heller, arrives at court in New York, June 26, 2019. (Photo: Richard Drew/ AP)

Cuba Gooding Jr.’s attempt to get a misdemeanor groping charge dismissed should be rejected because the actor’s legal team failed to establish a legally appropriate basis to do so, Manhattan prosecutors said in a brief filed Wednesday.

In the brief, prosecutors 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.”

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.

The motion “relies on unsubstantiated vague and conclusory reasoning,” she wrote. The focus of its argument in an attempt to “exonerate” Gooding without having to present the case to a jury at a trial. Gooding’s motion “should be denied summarily,” Long concluded.

The Oscar-winning actor is accused of grabbing and squeezing the breast of a 29-year-old woman during an evening of drinking at the Magic Hour Rooftop Bar and Lounge in midtown Manhattan on June 9. 

Gooding, 51, has pleaded not guilty and is free on his own recognizance. He has said “nothing happened” in the bar. 

Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. will turn himself in to police after an alleged groping incident at a New York City bar.

See it yourself: Here’s the Cuba Gooding Jr video: Does it show him groping accuser?

Gooding’s legal team filed a motion to dismiss the case, submitting affidavits from witnesses who say it didn’t happen and numerous online blog posts by the accuser that could suggest she has a “troubled mentality” that explains why she made a “false” allegation against Gooding.

At a hearing last month, Judge Keshia Espinal gave prosecutors in the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance until Wednesday to respond to the motion, and set a hearing for Aug. 14 to rule on whether to toss the charge or continue to a trial.

A clip from a surveillance video taken from the bar, which could be a key piece of evidence, appears to show Gooding and his girlfriend, Claudine De Niro, sitting together on a couch in the bar when a woman approaches and sits down next to them.

Cuba Gooding Jr. appears in criminal court on June 13, 2019, in New York to plead not guilty after a woman accused him of groping her at a city bar. (Photo: Steven Hirsch/ AP)

What happens next is not crystal clear, partly because someone else is blocking the view and partly because the picture is so blurry.

Mark Heller, one of Gooding’s lawyers, says the full tape, which he says is more than two hours long, shows that Gooding did not commit a crime.

He also submitted an affidavit from a retired police expert on sex-crime investigations declaring that the tape shows Gooding did not grope the accuser.

On Wednesday, prosecutors rejected the notion that an expert should make the call on what happened in the video. “A lay person is capable of watching video and determining what it shows,” they wrote.

Heller, in a statement emailed to USA TODAY, dismissed Long’s argument as “woefully weak, worthless and unresponsive” to his “compelling” motion.

“To prolong this matter any further would grossly subvert the Interests of Justice which demand that a criminal case be dismissed as soon as evidence is presented that no crime has been committed,” Heller argued.

The accuser in the case has not been identified. It is not clear if she has a lawyer to represent her.   

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