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'Celebrity Figure' Gooding Gets Plea Deal in Fondling Cases

Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. pleaded guilty to forcibly kissing a worker at a New York nightclub in 2018 in a deal that is likely to keep him out of prison. Gooding publicly apologized for the first time to two other women who accused him of similar behavior in separate encounters, calling himself a “celebrity figure” who meant no harm, reports the Associated Press. His admissions were part of a plea deal that came nearly three years after the Oscar-winning “Jerry Maguire” star was arrested. "I apologize for making anybody ever feel inappropriately touched,” he said. “I am a celebrity figure. I come into contact with people. I never want them to feel slighted or uncomfortable in any way.”


Gooding, 54, accused of violating three different women at Manhattan night spots in 2018 and 2019, pleaded guilty to just one of the allegations. He told the judge he “kissed the waitress on her lips” without consent at the LAVO New York club. The deal lets Gooding avoid any possibility of prison time if he continues “alcohol and behavior modification” counseling for six months. After that, he can withdraw the misdemeanor plea and instead plead guilty to a lesser violation of harassment. Gooding was arrested in 2019 after a 29-year-old woman told police he fondled her without her consent at Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge near Times Square. The accuser, Kelsey Harbert, was allowed to speak in court on Wednesday, recounting how Gooding grabbed her breast “as if I was a piece of meat for dinner that night.” Harbert, now 31, told the court she thought Gooding was getting off easy, while his accusers continue to suffer.

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