Cuba Gooding Jr. Hears His Fate in Forcible Touching Case

Accusers miffed actor won't be getting jail time, thanks to his compliance with plea agreement
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 14, 2022 6:51 AM CDT
Gooding Jr. Accusers Miffed at 'Misstep' of Plea Deal
Kelsey Harbert, center, accuser of Cuba Gooding Jr., and joined by lawyer Gloria Allred, left, speaks at a press conference outside Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday in New York.   (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

As the forcible touching case against Cuba Gooding Jr. faded to black Thursday with no jail time for the movie star, some of the dozens of women who've accused him of groping, unwanted kissing, and other inappropriate behavior criticized the outcome as a slap on the wrist—and a slap in the face. The Oscar-winning actor turned #MeToo defendant avoided prison time by complying with the terms of a conditional plea agreement that saw him plead guilty to charges involving just one of what prosecutors have said were allegations from at least 30 women, many at New York City nightspots.

Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Coleen Balbert told a judge Thursday that since the deal was reached in April, Gooding has stayed out of trouble and completed six months of alcohol and behavioral counseling, per the AP. That enabled the 54-year-old actor to withdraw his misdemeanor guilty plea—for forcibly kissing a waitress at a Manhattan nightclub in 2018—and instead plead guilty to a noncriminal harassment violation. That means no additional penalties and no criminal record for Gooding, the star of films such as Jerry Maguire, Boyz N the Hood, and Radio.

"This plea deal feels like a misstep," said Kelsey Harbert, a neuroscience student whose allegation that Gooding groped her at a nightclub led to his 2019 arrest. Her allegation wasn't part of his guilty plea. "After three long years of trying to hold Mr. Gooding accountable for touching my breast without my consent, having my day in court taken away from me is more disappointing than words can say," said Harbert, who was tearful at times as she spoke in court. Gooding was arrested in June 2019 after Harbert told police he fondled her without her consent at Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge near Times Square.

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A few months later, prosecutors charged Gooding with both pinching a server's buttocks after making a sexually suggestive remark to her at TAO Downtown and the allegation to which he pleaded guilty—forcibly kissing a waitress at LAVO New York, both in 2018. Harbert's lawyer, Gloria Allred, called the plea deal "an insult" to Gooding’s accusers. Gooding started counseling in September 2019 and will continue with treatment beyond the time required by his plea agreement, Balbert said. If Gooding had failed to comply with the terms of the deal, he would have faced up to one year in jail. Along with the criminal case, Gooding is a defendant in civil lawsuits, including one alleging he raped a woman in New York City in 2013. (More Cuba Gooding Jr. stories.)

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