Ringgold shown at an event with Queen Latifah
A meeting with a woman who purported to have connections with casting directors nearly brought actor Sean Ringgold’s solid career to a screeching halt.
In September, prosecutors in Hudson County, New Jersey, asked that rape and assault charges against the actor, who had a starring role on the popular soap opera “One Life to Live” for six years, be dropped. It all stemmed from that initial meeting with the woman who later became an accuser.
Ringgold, a former bodyguard for Tom Cruise’s daughter Suri who’s also filmed commercials for brands such as KIA and Dr. Scholl’s says his ordeal started on June 25, 2013, when he met a woman –who is referred to as Ms. Williamson in court papers– at an Olive Garden restaurant in Secaucus, New Jersey to discuss business.
He said it was not a date as reported by gossip websites like Radar Online. Ringgold says he decided to meet with the woman because she promised him a role on the television show “Sons of Anarchy.”He said that he even saved the text messages in which she made these claims. “A lot of times, it is nothing more than a recommendation, then I go and audition and I get the part. It’s who you know that gets you in the door. It’s what you know that’s gonna keep you there,” he said.
Before that fateful meeting, Ringgold said he spoke to the woman who claimed she worked as a publicist and that she was a published author over the phone. The two maintained phone communications for about a year. The pair first made contact with each other over Facebook, he said. As the face-to-face meeting transpired, Ringgold says he asked the woman for her resume to evaluate her background. When she could not produce one, he quickly saw that the woman was merely a fan and not a business woman, he said.
Although he says he was disappointed that he had lost about an hour and a half of his time, he said he remained cordial and offered her a ride home. When he got to the destination, he found himself in front of the Red Roof Inn Hotel. Then the woman said something real odd, he recalled.
“She said ‘Oh yes, me and my mother are displaced.’ I swear to God, that’s when my heart dropped like ‘oh no.’ She [started] begging me, ‘can you please come up and meet my mom?’ And I’m like ‘I’m not getting out of my car. I’m sorry,’ ” Ringgold said.
He said it was two or three days later, when he got a call that would turn his world upside down. “All of sudden, I get a call from a detective saying there’s a warrant out for my arrest because I sexually assaulted someone,” he said. “And the reason they call it rape because they say I pulled down her pants and I penetrated her with my fingers. I just wanna ask you, what benefit do I get out of doing something like that? Ruining my professional career? Why?”
At that point, Ringgold said he had not spoken to the woman since he dropped her off in front of the hotel. He was charged with rape, fingerprinted and processed in a Hudson County Jail and waited three and half hours until a friend posted 10 percent of the $1,000 bail amount before he could leave. All of this was done in spite of the woman’s refusal to submit a rape kit, he said.
So began a 15-month ordeal that he called “emotionally challenging” for him and his mother, who developed high blood pressure; Ringgold himself started going to counseling, he said.
The Dismissal Memorandum provided by Ringgold’s publicist, reads in part, “On November 20, 2013, this matter was presented to the Grand Jury for Consideration. The Grand Jury returned an indictment against Sean Ringgold for two Criminal Sexual Contacts and Sexual Assaults.”
The Memorandum also stated, “On July 28, 2014, Mr. Ringgold filed a motion to Dismiss the Indictment for prosecutorial misconduct. Specifically the motion alleged that the conflicting statements given by the victim were withheld from the Grand Jury and that evidence demonstrating substantial credibility issues [were] also withheld leading to a Grand Jury being misled about evidence in the case…”
After a Grand Jury heard testimony from the victim again on September 9 and questioned her inconsistent statements, they returned a “no bill” and dismissed all charges against Ringgold.
“Once the situation happened and I had to start dealing with all of those false accusations online, you get disappointed in humanity, you get to see how people can jump to conclusions and judge you after knowing you for 10 or 15 years,” he said. “All of a sudden, the phone calls stops, and the dinner stops.”
“The DA knew they never had a case from day one,” Rinngold said. Yet, he continued, “for over a year, I was in and out of court, threatened with jail time and all these bullshit deals. And I said you know what ‘If I don’t have my name. I don’t have anything. I said you know I’m going to trial.’”
Ringgold said as soon as his side put pre-trial motions forward, “they knew they could not go any further.”
The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office in New Jersey didn’t respond to an inquiry seeking comment.
Looking back on the situation, some naysayers may wonder how Ringgold could’ve been so naive as to attend a business meeting at a restaurant without the company of his agent or manager.
He insisted that the idea that he could possibly be bamboozled was the furthest thing from his mind and that actors don’t always need an agent to close a deal.
“Agents have their limitations, I’ve booked three movies and two prime time shows outside of using my agent,” he said. “I’ve never been set-up, so I never thought this woman could go to the cops and do this to me with nothing.”
He said he paid over $60,000 in legal fees, leading to financial strains.
Ringgold, who’s 36, and a Queens native, said he didn’t work during the period covering the legal proceedings. His resume includes an appearances in movies like “The Smurfs” and “Notorious.”
“How do I go from booking 10 – 12 jobs a year to booking only one job a year?” he lamented. “Thank God I shot my commercials before the allegations came out; through the grace of God, they are still playing and providing me with money.”
Ringgold says he’s happy to be vindicated and credits it to his faith and the work of his lawyer, Alan L. Zegas.
“From the outset the charges were suspect,” Zegas said, in a press release. “Representations and postings of the alleged victim over the internet about herself, including her educational background and even her picture, were false.”
Ringgold said: “The only reason I was wrongfully accused is because I had some money and resources. Other people are in jail right now because of things they have not done. It exposed me to the Prison Industrial Complex. It exposed me to how unfair the system is and my heart bleeds for people who are less fortunate. I try not to complain too much because I’m blessed. I’m free.”
“Her online identities on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin are still active and the DA has done nothing,” he added. “So she can do this to someone else and put someone else through hell. If they don’t have the financial resources, they’re going to get a record. They’re going to go to prison. They’re going to be ruined.”
He thanked his family and his fans for their continued support; he also credited ESPN commentator Jay Harris and his new publicist, Ronnie Sykes, for standing by his side.
Ringgold is currently filming and starring in a movie based on a story by Carl Weber with the ironic name: “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”