Actor Cuba Gooding Jr pleads guilty to forcible touching

NEW YORK (AP) — Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. pleaded guilty Wednesday to forcibly kissing a New York nightclub employee in 2018 as part of a deal that could keep him out of jail.

Gooding also publicly apologized for the first time to two other women who accused him of similar behavior in separate encounters, calling himself a “famous person” who meant no harm.

His confession was part of a plea deal that came nearly three years after the Oscar-winning ‘Jerry Maguire’ star was arrested in the case that faced several delays as his lawyers sought a reduction or dismissal of charges. loads.

“I apologize for making anyone feel inappropriately touched,” he said. “I’m a celebrity. I connect with people. I never want them to feel offended or uncomfortable in any way.

Gooding, 54, accused of raping three different women at various Manhattan nightspots in 2018 and 2019, pleaded guilty to only one of the allegations. He told the judge he “kissed the waitress on her lips” without consent at the LAVO club in New York.

The deal allows Gooding to avoid any possibility of jail time if he continues to counsel “alcohol and behavior modification” for six months. After that, he can withdraw the misdemeanor plea and plead guilty instead to a lesser harassment violation.

Gooding was arrested in June 2019 after a 29-year-old woman told police he fondled her without her consent at the Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge near Times Square.

The accuser of that encounter, Kelsey Harbert, was cleared to speak in court on Wednesday, recounting how, out of nowhere, Gooding grabbed her breast ‘like I was a piece of meat for dinner that night’ .

Herbert, now 31, told the court she believed Gooding got away with it easily, while her accusers continued to suffer.

“I feel very sad and I feel very lost for what I can do,” she said.

Months after his arrest, Gooding was charged in two additional cases as more women came forward to accuse him of abuse. The new charges alleged he pinched a waiter’s butt after making a sexually suggestive remark to her at TAO Downtown and forcibly touching the woman at LAVO, both in 2018.

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Gooding previously pleaded not guilty to six misdemeanor counts and denied all allegations of wrongdoing. His lawyers have argued that overzealous prosecutors, caught up in the fervor of the #MeToo movement, are trying to turn “trivial gestures” or misunderstandings into crimes.

Judge Curtis Farber previously ruled that if the Gooding case went to trial, prosecutors could have called two additional women to testify about their allegations that Gooding also raped them. Prosecutors say the judge has since reversed that decision – a decision that took into account their decision not to go to trial.

“We credit and believe all of the survivors in this case,” prosecutor Coleen Balbert said. But under the circumstances, Wednesday’s result “is a fair and just decision,” she added.

Along with the criminal case, Gooding is accused in a lawsuit of raping a woman in New York in 2013. After a judge granted a default judgment in July because Gooding failed to respond to the lawsuit, the actor has hired a lawyer and is fighting the allegations.

Gloria Allred, an attorney representing three of Gooding’s accusers, said in a statement that they would pursue civil lawsuits to hold him accountable.

“Justice has been significantly delayed in this case for many reasons, and I do not believe justice has been served today with the entry of this plea, although I understand why, in the circumstances, the prosecution has offered a plea,” she said.

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