Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. pleads guilty to forcible kisser in New York nightclub

Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. appears at New York Criminal Court in Manhattan in New York

NEW YORK (AP) — Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. pleaded guilty Wednesday to forcibly kissing a worker at a New York nightclub in 2018, calling himself a “celebrity person” with no harm.

Gooding also publicly apologized for the first time to two other women who accused him of similar behavior in separate encounters. The confession was part of a plea deal that came nearly three years after the Oscar-winning “Jerry Maguire” star was arrested in the case, which was delayed several times as his lawyers sought to drop the charges or be dismissed. .

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“I apologize for making anyone feel inappropriately touched,” he said. “I am a celebrity figure. I come in contact with people. I never want them to feel slighted or uncomfortable in any way.”

Gooding, 54, pleaded guilty to infringing on three different women at various Manhattan night spots in 2018 and 2019, pleading guilty to just one of the charges. He told the judge that he “kissed the waitress on her lips” without consent at the LAVO New York club.

The deal also lets him avoid any potential for jail time if Gooding continues his “alcohol and behavior modification” counseling for six months. After that, he can withdraw the misdemeanor plea and instead plead guilty to the lesser violation of harassment.

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

A few months later, he was charged with two additional counts as more women came forward to accuse him of abuse. New charges allege that he pinched a server’s buttocks and forcibly touched a woman at LAVO in 2018 after making obscene remarks with her at TAO downtown.

Gooding had previously pleaded not guilty to six misdemeanors and denied all charges of wrongdoing. Their lawyers have argued that overzealous prosecutors, caught up in the fervor of the #MeToo movement, are trying to turn “normal gestures” or misogyny into crimes.

Judge Curtis Farber previously ruled that if the Gooding case went to trial, prosecutors could call two additional women to testify about their allegations that Gooding had also violated them. Prosecutors say the judge overturned that decision—a ruling that was included in their decision not to go to trial.

“We give credit and confidence to all survivors in this case,” said prosecutor Colleen Balbert. But under the circumstances, Wednesday’s result is “of a fair and just nature,” she said.

Along with the criminal case, Gooding has been charged with raping a woman in New York City in 2013. After a judge issued a default judgment in July because Gooding had not responded to the lawsuit, the actor retained a lawyer and is fighting the charges.