By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to pinching a woman's buttocks in a nightclub last October, four months after he was charged with groping a woman in a separate incident.
Manhattan prosecutors said Gooding pinched the woman at Manhattan's Tao nightclub after making a sexually suggestive remark to her earlier in the evening, and denied it when she confronted him.
Gooding was accused in June of touching a woman's breasts at the Magic Hour Rooftop Bar in Manhattan, a charge he has denied. Both alleged incidents are part of the same criminal case.
He is charged with one count of forcible touching and one count of sexual abuse, which are misdemeanors, in connection with each alleged incident.
Gooding, 51, won a best supporting actor Oscar in 1997 for the film "Jerry Maguire" and is known for roles in movies including "A Few Good Men" and "The Butler" and in the television miniseries "The People v. O.J. Simpson."
Prosecutors said at a hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court on Tuesday that they hope to establish a pattern of behavior at Gooding's trial using testimony from 12 additional women who have said they were subjected to unwanted touching and advances by the actor in bars and clubs. No criminal charges have been brought in connection with those women.
Mark Heller, Gooding's attorney, told reporters outside the courthouse on Tuesday that he would seek to have the two alleged groping incidents tried separately. Heller expressed confidence that his client would not be convicted, and said prosecutors had brought the new indictment because they were not ready to go to trial with their original case.
Gooding had been scheduled to go to trial on the original charges on Thursday, but the additional charges mean the trial will be delayed. No new trial date has been set.
Gooding, who is divorced, is one of dozens of men in politics, entertainment, sports and the business world who have been accused of sexual misconduct since allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein triggered the #MeToo movement.
Weinstein is scheduled to stand trial in New York in January on charges of rape and assault involving two women. He has denied any non-consensual sex.
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Steve Orlofsky and Will Dunham)