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Oscar-winning 'Jerry Maguire' star Cuba Gooding Jr. faces start of civil trial in rape case

Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. appears in court on 22 January 2020, in New York
Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. appears in court on 22 January 2020, in New York Copyright Alec Tabak/AP
Copyright Alec Tabak/AP
By David MouriquandAP
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Cuba Gooding Jr. faces federal lawsuit that accuses him of rape.

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Oscar-winning American actor Cuba Gooding Jr. faces the start of a civil trial today on accusations that he raped a woman in a New York City hotel a decade ago.

Gooding Jr. contends that the encounter was consensual after the two met at a nearby restaurant.

The trial was scheduled to begin with jury selection in Manhattan federal court as the Jerry Maguire star confronts allegations that he met the woman in Manhattan and persuaded her to come up to his hotel room. 

The woman, who has proceeded anonymously but has been told she must reveal her name at trial, said in her lawsuit that Gooding Jr. raped her. However, his lawyers insist that it was consensual sex and that she bragged to others that she had sex with a celebrity.

The lawsuit seeks $6 million (approx. €5.6 million) in damages. It was filed against a man who authorities say has been accused of committing sexual misconduct against more than 30 other women, including groping, unwanted kissing and other inappropriate behaviour.

Last week, Judge Paul A. Crotty ruled that he will let three women testify that they also were subjected to sudden sexual assaults or attempted sexual assaults after meeting Gooding Jr. in social settings. 

One of the women planning to testify at the trial is Kelsey Harbert, who told police that Gooding Jr. fondled her without her consent at Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge near Times Square in 2019.

Harbert said last year after Gooding Jr. pleaded guilty in New York state court to a charge that spared him from jail or a criminal history that never getting her day in court was “more disappointing than words can say.”

Gooding Jr., a star in films including Boyz n the Hood and Radio, was permitted to plead guilty in April 2022 to a misdemeanour, admitting that he forcibly kissed a worker at a New York nightclub in 2018.

By staying out of trouble and completing six months of alcohol and behavioural counselling, the actor was permitted to withdraw his guilty plea and plead guilty to a non-criminal harassment violation, eliminating his criminal record and preventing further penalties.

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