Cuba Gooding Jr pleads not guilty to groping woman's breasts at bar
New York - Movie star Cuba Gooding Jr was charged Thursday with groping a woman's breasts at a Midtown bar [in Manhattan, New York] and tried deflecting the spotlight as he bolted out of a courthouse.
"It's been a long day," he told reporters after facing a judge and gaining his release.
"Get well Big Papi," he added, a reference to retired Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, who was recently shot and injured in the Dominican Republic.
Gooding, 51, was charged with one count of forcible touching and one count of sexual abuse in the third degree after flying back from California and surrendering to New York Police Department [NYPD] sex crimes detectives.
The "Jerry Maguire" star waved to reporters as he entered the police grilling around 2 pm [1800 GMT] and had a slight smile on his face as he was led away in handcuffs to appear in Manhattan Criminal Court.
His lawyer Mark Heller entered a plea of not guilty on Gooding's behalf and asked the judge to move the case along "expeditiously."
"The people will investigate, speak with the witnesses. I don't know how long it will take," Judge Herbert Moses said, setting a return date for June 26.
The judge released Gooding without bail.
Speaking to The New York Daily News just minutes before the voluntary surrender, Heller said Gooding was adamant he did nothing wrong.
"Nobody is happy to be in this position, but I can tell you he's feeling extremely confident and has great trust in the legal system. He has no concern he'll ever be convicted. It's just a terrible ordeal," Heller said.
Heller said surveillance video taken inside the Magic Hour bar shows no assault of the 29-year-old alleged victim.
"I have to tell you, I've viewed almost two hours of video, and it does not reveal one scintilla of criminal conduct, not even something ambiguous that could be misinterpreted," Heller said.
"They have extensive video. We've reviewed it all. It shows this woman almost stalking him, following him around," he said.
Police sources previously told The News that the complaining club-goer told investigators she immediately started yelling at the "Radio" star after being groped and then left the rooftop bar to call 911.
Heller said Gooding was at the venue with Claudine De Niro, the former wife of Robert De Niro's son, who is Gooding's "girlfriend at this point."
He claimed police have not asked De Niro for an eyewitness statement.
"They never even extended the professionalism to question her," he said. "I just don't get it, to be frank."
After Gooding was charged, Heller said he was "shocked and horrified" and planned to ask for a speedy prosecution because he doesn't believe the alleged victim will show up to testify.
"I am completely confident that he will be totally exonerated, and I would not be at all surprised if at the conclusion of Mr. Gooding's proceedings, a criminal charge is launched against the lady who is alleging that she was abused - and that she's charged with perjury," he said.
He said Gooding "is very perplexed because the people he usually sees when he goes to these parties and these different events are always very kind," and simply want to take a photo with him.
"He reciprocates in kindness, as he was in this particular case," Heller said.
"We even see one incident where she's basically rebuffed, and (Gooding) said, 'You know, please leave us alone, let us have our privacy,'" he said.
Asked about a second woman who stepped forward this week to say Gooding groped her buttocks more than a decade ago at a Midtown restaurant, Heller said his client had no recollection of the alleged incident.
The woman claims the assault happened in March 2008 at Butter Restaurant, which is owned by chef and Food Network star and judge Alex Guarnaschelli, police sources told The Daily News.
New York has a five-year statute of limitations such assaults, so the woman's claim is too old to even consider filing charges, officials said.
"I trust the system, and I'm going to let the process speak for itself," Gooding said in a video released to TMZ showing him greeting fans Tuesday night while boarding a flight to New York.
"There's a tape that shows what really happened. You have to have faith in what people say."