Actress Cuba Gooding Jr., who was accused by more than 20 women of groping or forcibly kissing them in confrontations dating back more than two decades, pleaded guilty in Manhattan on Wednesday to a charge of forced touch.
The count, a misdemeanor, was charged with forcibly kissing a woman at a Manhattan nightclub in 2018.
The Manhattan attorney general’s office said that under the terms of the petition, Gooding must continue for another six months in the alcohol and behavior modification treatment he has been undergoing since 2019, and must not have new arrests.
If he meets the terms of the petition, the office said, he can then withdraw the petition and plead a lesser charge of harassment, a violation, with a prison sentence for the time he served. The office also said, the minutes of the petition will not be stamped.
If Mr Gooding does not comply with the terms of his deal, the guilty plea will remain in effect and he could face up to a year in prison.
At a hearing Wednesday in the state Supreme Court, Judge Curtis Farber asked Mr. Gooding whether the charge he pleaded was true.
“Yes, your honor,” said Mr. Gooding. “I kissed the waitress on the lips.”
“I apologize for making anyone feel inappropriately touched,” Mr Gooding said in court, adding that he was a “celebrity” and did not want people he met to be “offended”.
Mr. Gooding faced criminal trial for unwanted sexual touching of three women in Manhattan restaurants and clubs in 2018 and 2019. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office asked a judge to admit 19 other women she said had come forward as witnesses. Mr. Gooding is accused of such behaviour.
The attorney general’s office wrote in a court filing in October 2019 that “Mr Gooding’s previous actions demonstrate that his contacts with her intimate members were intentional rather than accidental, and that he is not at fault for their disapproval.”
The judge initially sentenced two additional defendants can testify against Mr. Gooding at trial, which would have allowed prosecutors to argue in court that Mr. Gooding had demonstrated similar behavior for years.
But associate attorney general Colin Balbert revealed in court on Wednesday that Judge Farber later overturned that ruling, meaning that the testimony of additional defendants could not be presented at trial, something that has not been previously published.
Asked about any subsequent ruling by the judge, court spokesperson, Lucien Chalvin, said, “Pending any criminal case, there are always discussions about what may or may not be brought forward.” Mr. Chalvin said Judge Farber’s subsequent ruling would still allow the attorney general’s office to call the additional defendants to refute any defense testimony at trial.
It was Mr. Gooding Originally charged Regarding a get-together on the night of June 9, 2019, during a party at the Magic Hour Rooftop Bar, an expensive lounge at the Moxy Hotel NYC Times Square in Manhattan. The defendant said Mr. Gooding put his hand on her chest without her consent and squeezed it, according to a criminal complaint.
He was later charged women’s ass pinching At a Manhattan nightclub in October 2018 and with an additional incident at Lavo, an Italian restaurant on East 58th Street, in September 2018 – the episode he pleaded guilty.
In court, Mr Gooding’s lawyer, Frank Rothman, said his client was also willing to apologize to the two women in the other two incidents.
One of the accused – the woman involved in the 2019 hotel incident – addressed the court on Wednesday.
“I’m not going to lie,” said the woman, who identified herself as Kelsey Harbert. “I am very disappointed that we are here today discussing the plea bargain.”
Ms Harbert said she wanted to talk about what happened to her and also to explore some of the broader issues, which drew an objection from Mr Rothman, who said she should not “make a statement to the rest of society”.
Ms Harbert, saying she would limit her comments to her own experience, told the court she was “extremely excited” to see Mr Gooding and then meet him while she was out one night with friends. She said her excitement turned to panic when she felt his hand on her chest.
“I was afraid,” she said. “My body was under someone else’s control without my consent.”
Ms Harbert said it was “extremely devastating” for her that Mr Gooding had the opportunity to “move forward” after six months, when she had experienced continuing feelings of shock and abuse as a result of her contact with him.
After Ms Harbert completed her statement, the defense attorney, Mr. Rothman, spoke again, saying he had seen video footage of the events at the hotel. “What she said happened here in the last 20 minutes is very much a product of her imagination,” Mr. Rothman said.
After the trial, Mr. Rothman said in a phone interview, “This case should have been resolved years ago.” He said he met the new attorney general, Alvin L. Bragg, after taking office in January, who “took a more serious and in-depth look at the pros and cons of the claim”.
“We have reached an agreement that all parties can live with,” Mr. Rothman said. “It is fair and appropriate under all circumstances.”
Mr. Gooding, a native of the Bronx, achieved his first major success as he starred in the 1991 film “Boys N HoodHe won an Academy Award in 1997 for his supporting role in Jerry Maguire. He played OJ Simpson in the 2016 TV series “The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story.”
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