Cuba Gooding Jr. accusers ‘surprised and disappointed’ by resolution of actor’s NYC sex crime case, says lawyer Gloria Allred

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NEW YORK — Women who accused Cuba Gooding Jr. of sexual assault were “surprised and disappointed” that he was allowed to avoid prison by pleading guilty to reduced charges of forcible touching, the womens’ lawyer Gloria Allred said Thursday.

Gooding, 54, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of forcible touching for kissing a waitress without her consent at a bar in 2018.

Prosecutors had also charged him with groping a stranger’s breast at a Midtown nightclub and pinching another woman’s buttocks. Gooding admitted to and apologized for those incidents, but he did not have to plead guilty to them.

More than 30 women have accused the Oscar-winning actor of sexual assault. A federal civil suit accuses him of violently raping a woman he had just met in 2013 at the Mercer Hotel.

Allred represents an unnamed woman in the $6 million suit against the actor, and two more women who she says met with the DA’s office about testifying at Gooding’s trial.

Allred said it was a huge blow to the women when Judge Curtis Farber reversed a previous ruling that would have allowed two of them to testify.

“After individuals do make that investment emotionally, there’s a lot of fear about powerful celebrities and what could happen,” Allred told The New York Daily News.

Given the difficulty in deciding to testify against a celebrity, Allred said, having judges and prosecutors go for a plea deal in a case is “surprising and disappointing to them. I try to always have a positive point of view, but it doesn’t necessarily cushion the surprise and the disappointment and the shock.”

Marissa Hoechstetter, a key transition adviser to Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, criticized him for meeting with the actor’s lawyers. The meeting, revealed in court by Gooding lawyer Frank Rothman, suggests there are still two systems of justice in Manhattan that benefit wealthy sex offenders, Hoechstetter said.

“Survivors don’t want platitudes of, ‘We commend the survivors who’ve come forward,’ from the DA’s office — and then hearing his attorney say, you know, ‘I had a special meeting with Alvin, who took a hard look at the case,’” she said.

Bragg’s office pushed back on the notion that his office will grant high-profile offenders a free pass.

“We have already begun transforming the work of the Sex Crimes Unit, and remain committed to supporting survivors of sexual violence. The office is actively recruiting a new Chief of the Sex Crimes Unit to lead a survivor-centered, trauma-informed team rooted in best practices,” said a Bragg spokesperson.

Hoechstetter said she understood that prosecutors might have had no choice but to negotiate the deal they did with Gooding after Farber ruled against allowing the women to testify, as well as statutes of limitation laws that apply to Gooding’s case.

But she said Bragg lacked an excuse for giving an ear to legal power players.

“That was a problem under Vance. It was flaunted, frankly, by these criminal defense attorneys, in case after case — and it was something that Alvin specifically campaigned against,” said Hoechstetter.

“That to me is a culture of defense attorneys who believe that they still have the same kind of access and privilege that they had under Vance.”