Cuba Gooding Jr. pleaded guilty Wednesday to forcibly kissing a worker at a New York nightclub in 2018 in a deal that is likely to keep him out of jail.
He can also withdraw the misdemeanor plea and plead guilty to a lesser violation of harassment if he continues counselling for six months.
Gooding also publicly apologized for the first time to two other women who accused him of similar behavior in separate encounters, calling himself a “celebrity figure” who meant no harm.
“I apologize for making anybody ever feel inappropriately touched,” he said. “I am a celebrity figure. I come into contact with people. I never want them to feel slighted or uncomfortable in any way.”
Gooding Jr admitted that he “kissed the waitress on her lips” without consent at the LAVO nightclub.
Gooding was arrested in June 2019 after a 29-year-old woman told police he fondled her without her consent at Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge near Times Square.
The accuser in that encounter, Kelsey Harbert, was allowed to speak in court on Wednesday, recounting how, out of nowhere, Gooding grabbed her breast “as if I was a piece of meat for dinner that night.”
Harbert, now 31, told the court she thought Gooding was getting off easy, while his accusers continue to suffer. “I feel very sad and feel very lost for what I can do,” she said.
Judge Curtis Farber earlier had ruled if the Gooding case went to trial, prosecutors could have called two additional women to testify about their allegations that Gooding also violated them.
“We credit and believe all the survivors in this case,” said prosecutor Coleen Balbert. But under the circumstances, Wednesday’s outcome “is a fair and equitable disposition,” she added.
Gloria Allred, an attorney representing three of Gooding’s accusers, said in a statement that they would press ahead with civil litigation to hold him accountable.
“Justice was significantly delayed in this case for many reasons, and I do not feel that justice was achieved today with the entry of this plea, although I do understand why under the circumstances that the prosecution offered a plea,” she said.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: SKY NEWS