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NEW YORK – Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. faces the start of a civil trial Tuesday on accusations that he raped a woman in a New York City hotel a decade ago, an encounter that he contends 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 Oscar-winning “Jerry Maguire” star confronts allegations that he met the woman in Manhattan, persuaded her to join him at a hotel, and convinced her to stop at his room so he could change clothing.
The woman, who has proceeded anonymously but has been told she must reveal her name at trial, said in her lawsuit that Gooding raped her in his room. His lawyers, though, insist that it was consensual sex and that she bragged afterward to others that she had sex with a celebrity.
The lawsuit seeks $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 behavior.
Late 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 in social settings such as festivals, bars, nightclubs and restaurants.
One of the women planning to testify at the trial is Kelsey Harbert, who told police Gooding fondled her without her consent at Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge near Times Square in 2019.
Harbert said last year after Gooding 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.”
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they grant permission, as Harbert has done.
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.
By staying out of trouble and completing six months of alcohol and behavioral counseling, Gooding 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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