NEW YORK (AP) — Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of forcible touching in a long-running criminal case accusing the Oscar-winning “Jerry Maguire” star of raping three different women in various Manhattan nightlife establishments in 2018 and 2019.
The single guilty plea came nearly three years after Gooding was arrested in the case which faced several delays as his lawyers sought to have the charges reduced or dismissed. He was due to stand trial at least twice, with an April 2020 trial date scuttled as coronavirus cases surged in New York and the state closed most court cases.
Gooding, 54, was arrested in June 2019 after a 29-year-old woman told police he squeezed her chest without her consent at the Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge near Times Square.
A few months later, he was charged in two more cases as more women came forward to accuse him of abuse. The new charges alleged he pinched a waiter’s butt after making a sexually suggestive remark to him at TAO Downtown and forcibly touched a woman inappropriately at New York City’s LAVO nightclub, both in 2018.
Gooding pleaded guilty to the LAVO nightclub allegation.
Gooding 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 “trivial 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 to their allegations that Gooding also raped them. The women, whose complaints did not result in criminal charges, were among 19 other accusers that 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 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.