Cuba Gooding Jr. accusers can testify at sex assault trial, judge rules
NEW YORK — Three women who claim Cuba Gooding Jr. sexually abused them — including one upset she never got her day in court when Gooding resolved criminal charges without trial or jail — can testify at a federal civil trial next week to support a woman’s claim that the actor raped her in 2013, a judge ruled Friday.
Judge Paul A. Crotty said the allegations by the women were relevant for a jury deciding if the Oscar-winning “Jerry Maguire” star raped a woman in a Manhattan hotel room after they met at a bar. He also ruled in a separate order that the plaintiff, identified only as Jane Doe in the lawsuit seeking $6 million in damages, must reveal her name at trial.
He said the claims by the three women who can testify “are sufficiently similar” to the claims at stake in the trial because “all involve sudden sexual assaults or attempted sexual assaults” connected to Gooding and stemmed from the presence of the women and Gooding in social settings such as festivals, bars, nightclubs and restaurants.
Lawyers for Gooding, a #MeToo defendant in multiple courts, have said Gooding had consensual sex with the woman who accused him of rape after they met in the VIP lounge of a Greenwich Village restaurant and she joined him at a nearby hotel bar, agreeing to proceed to his hotel room so the actor could change his clothing. The lawyers did not respond to an email request for comment Friday.
The three women include Kelsey Harbert, who said in tears after Gooding pleaded guilty last year that never getting her day in court was “more disappointing than words can say.”
Harbert told police Gooding fondled her without her consent at Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge near Times Square in 2019.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, as Harbert has done.
The judge disallowed the testimony of a fourth woman on the grounds that her proposed testimony that Gooding groped her breast without her consent in 2011 was so similar to Harbert’s expected testimony that it would be “needlessly cumulative” and would increase the chance of improper bias. The trial is scheduled to start Tuesday.
Gooding, a star in films including “Boyz n the Hood” and “Radio,” was permitted to plead guilty in April 2022 to a misdemeanor, admitting that he forcibly kissed a worker at a New York nightclub in 2018.
After staying out of trouble and completing six months of alcohol and behavioral counseling, Gooding was permitted to withdraw his guilty plea and instead pleaded guilty to a non-criminal harassment violation, eliminating his criminal record and preventing further penalties.
The deal was criticized by some of at least 30 women who prosecutors say have made sexual misconduct allegations against him, many citing encounters at New York City nightspots that resulted in groping, unwanted kissing and other inappropriate behavior.
Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents the plaintiff, declined to comment except to say that her client will be going forward with the trial on Tuesday.
Prospects for a settlement, which sometimes occur in civil cases on the eve of trial, seemed dim at a pretrial conference Thursday as trial attorneys were in such sharp disagreement that the judge warned in ruling Friday that “counsel will act with the utmost courtesy and professionalism towards one another and the Court going forward.”
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