Cuba Gooding Jr. pleaded guilty to one count of “forcible touching” on Wednesday. As part of his please deal, Gooding, 54, admitted to a judge that he “kissed the waitress on the lips” without consent at New York City nightclub LAVO in 2018.
It was not an isolated event. Gooding “had been accused by more than 20 women of groping or forcibly kissing them in encounters that dated back more than two decades,” the New York Times reports.
The agreement means the actor will not serve time. Additionally, if he attends six more months of “alcohol and behavior modification” counseling—which he has been doing since 2019—he can withdraw the misdemeanor plea and instead plead guilty to a lesser violation of harassment, according to the Associated Press.
If Gooding does not comply, he can be charged with the misdemeanor and be hit with up to a year in jail.
“I apologize for making anybody ever feel inappropriately touched,” Gooding told the courtroom. “I am a celebrity figure. I come into contact with people. I never want them to feel slighted or uncomfortable in any way.”
In 2019, Gooding turned himself in to the New York City Police Department after a woman told police that a “highly intoxicated” Gooding touched her breast without consent at Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge in midtown Manhattan.
Months later, he was charged in two more cases, both of which happened in 2018—the waitress at LAVO, and for allegedly pinching a woman’s buttocks at TAO downtown.
Without the plea, Gooding would have had to go to trial for criminal charges from the three women. In addition, the District Attorney’s office told the judge it had 19 witnesses who had made sexually related allegations against Gooding.
Kelsey Harbert, the woman from the Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge in 2019, told the courtroom, “I’m very disappointed that we are here today discussing a plea deal,” according to the Times.
Gooding has a separate ongoing sexual assault civil lawsuit. In 2020, he was accused of twice raping a woman in his New York City hotel room in 2013. He has denied it.
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