NEW YORK (AP) — Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of forcible touching in a protracted criminal case. The Oscar-winning “Jerry Maguire” star was accused of violating three different women at various Manhattan nightspots in 2018 and 2019.
The single guilty plea came nearly three years after Gooding’s arrest in the case that saw several delays as his lawyers sought to get the charges reduced or dismissed. It had been scheduled to go to trial at least twice, with an April 2020 trial date scuttled as coronavirus cases surged in New York and the state shut down most court matters.
Gooding, 54, was arrested in June 2019 after a 29-year-old woman told police he squeezed her breast without her consent at Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge near Times Square. A few months later, he was charged in two additional cases as more women came forward to accuse him of abuse. The new charges alleged he pinched a server’s buttocks after making a sexually suggestive remark to her at TAO Downtown and forcibly touched a woman inappropriately at the LAVO New York nightclub, both in 2018.
Gooding pleaded guilty to the LAVO nightclub allegation. Gooding had previously pleaded not guilty to six misdemeanor counts and denied all allegations of wrongdoing. His lawyers have argued that overzealous prosecutors, caught up in the fervor of the #MeToo movement, are trying to turn “commonplace gestures” or misunderstandings into crimes.
The judge had ruled that if the Gooding case went to trial, prosecutors could have called two additional women to testify about their allegations that Gooding also violated them. Those women, whose claims did not result in criminal charges, were among 19 other accusers whom prosecutors were seeking to call as witnesses.
Along with the criminal case, Gooding is accused in a lawsuit of raping a woman in New York City in 2013. After a judge issued a default judgment in July because Gooding hadn’t responded to the lawsuit, the actor retained a lawyer and is fighting the allegations.