No prison sentence for Cuba Gooding Jr. in New York forced touching case

NEW YORK — Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. resolved his forcible touching case in New York on Thursday with a guilty plea to a lesser charge and no jail time after complying with the terms of a conditional plea agreement reached in April .

Prosecutor Coleen Balbert said Gooding stayed out of trouble and underwent six months of alcohol counseling and behavior modification, allowing him to withdraw his misdemeanor plea and plead guilty to a violation of harassment.

Balbert said she had received “positive reports over the past six months” from Gooding’s therapist. The actor is continuing his treatment beyond the time required by his plea deal, Balbert said.

Gooding, 54, faces no further penalties and, by replacing his misdemeanor plea with a non-criminal offense plea, he will not have a criminal record. If Gooding failed to meet the terms of the agreement, he would have faced up to a year in prison.

Gooding pleaded guilty in April to a misdemeanor charge that he allegedly forcibly kissed a worker at a New York nightclub in 2018. It was just one of dozens of allegations of inappropriate behavior by the actor Oscar winner that have come to light in recent years.

Some of Gooding’s accusers criticized what they saw as light punishment for the ‘Jerry Maguire’ star and some are pursuing civil lawsuits against him.

Gooding “saw minimal repercussions” as his victims dealt with the consequences of his actions, the nightclub worker said in a victim impact statement Balbert read from the court filing.

Arrested in 2019, Gooding was among a slew of Hollywood heavyweights accused of wrongdoing in the #MeToo movement.

While Gooding was in court Thursday to wrap up his case, fellow Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey was on trial across the block in a civil lawsuit alleging he sexually assaulted actor Anthony Rapp.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, former studio boss Harvey Weinstein and ‘That 70’s Show’ star Danny Masterson are in the midst of separate rape trials. Weinstein was convicted of similar charges in New York in 2020 and is serving a 23-year prison sentence.

Gooding’s case took more than three years to unfold, prolonged by court delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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. This incident was not his guilty plea.

Months later, prosecutors charged Gooding with pinching a waiter’s butt after he made a sexually suggestive remark to him at TAO Downtown and the allegation to which he pleaded guilty – forcibly kissing a waitress at LAVO New. York in midtown Manhattan.

Both incidents allegedly took place in 2018.

Gooding admitted at a plea hearing in April that he had “kissed the waitress on her lips” without consent and, in explaining his actions during Thursday’s harassment plea, told Judge Curtis Farber: “I kissed a waitress, your honor”.

The waitress, in her victim impact statement, said Gooding forced her tongue into her mouth unexpectedly while serving drinks. She said she was aware of incidents involving Gooding and three other women at the club.

Gooding previously pleaded not guilty to six misdemeanor counts and denied all allegations of wrongdoing. His lawyers argued that overzealous prosecutors, caught up in the #MeToo fervor, were 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 said the judge later reversed that decision, leading them to seek a plea deal.

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.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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