Costumed character found not guilty in "Tigger" trial
Posted Wednesday, August 4, 2004 7:49 PM | Contributed by Jeff
A jury tonight found Michael C. Chartrand not guilty of molesting a 13-year-old girl when he was dressed as the Tigger character at Walt Disney World. Chartand was found not guilty of misdemeanor battery and lewd and lascivious molestation, a felony charge. He faced 15 years in prison if convicted.
I'd really like to see some of the "evidence." I've been on a jury before and even when it's a slam dunk, you still have to spend an hour or two going through the evidence and get passed reasonable doubt. I can't believe the prosecutor actually thought they could win.
That was quick! Wonder if this guy gets his job back? It would seem he should, but I could see this being a PR problem for the park. I'll bet he becomes a "behind the scenes" employee! I feel bad for the guy. They posted that photo all over Orlando news. I'll be there this December and I'm sure I'll spend a few minutes watching Tigger to make sure no funny stuff happens!
Some states have frivilous lawsuit protection, but I believe that just entitles you to a full refund of all legal fees (at the cost of those who files the frivilous suit), but I'm not sure if this would apply, if this was a criminal case, etc.
There is always slander. But this is hard to prove. They have to prove that not only what was said was false, but that those saying it KNEW it was false. Also he would have to prove monetary damages which might be a lot IF he was fired? I do not think too many slander cases are ever brought (strictly opinion) due to the tough threshhold. If these people told somebody that they were just trying to get some money, which is doubtful, then there would be a case.
Only that Jewell guy in the Olympic case has been screwed worse that I can think of!
Sadly i dont think he will have any chance for any civil lawsuit against the alleged victim as it is hard to sue someone in a case like this when it is a criminal prosecution. And you can rarely sue a government entity for going after someone in a criminal manner unless you can prove the state did grossly wrong like manufacturing evidence.
As for him getting his job back that will have alot to do regarding how his union contract is written and what latitude disney has in firing someone. While he wasnt convicted of a crime the threshold in firing a employee for alleged wrongdoing is likely to be less strigent than beyond a reasonable doubt which is required in a criminal trial.
A few months ago I volunteered to adorn an Elmo costume for three hours at a festival. Let me tell you, it's freakin impossible to see anything in those costumes, let alone touch/feel anything with giant furry gloves on. Obviously she (the mother, probably questioning the picture when she got it developed, not the 13-year-old girl) was out for money.
It is good to see that good still happens in the courtroom. I hope that the accused was suspended WITH pay and that he gets his job (or a better job) back effective immediately. I wonder if Disney helped cover the cost of his defense?
He was suspended without pay, Disney did not assist with his defense and according to the article in the Chicago Tribune, the Disney spokesperson "would not comment on the trial or Chartrand's future with the company."
I would hope Disney does the right thing here....If not, I would think this guy could play his cards correctly through the media and get the job back. I would have to think the public sympathy is on his side.
Since it was a criminal case, Disney couldn't really do anything. If he was in fact guilty, how would it look if Disney's lawyers were out defending him. Instead of the actions of one person, it would look like they condoned the actions of groping underage people by the whole company.
Disney probably should have suspended him with pay or put him into a different position during the case. It wasn't fair of them to let him go without the case. Now that it is over, he should definitely get his job back if he wants it -- but for the amount of money they get paid, I really don't think he'll want it back. I wouldn't.
As I recall from my long ago media law classes, accusation of sexual deviancy is "libel per se", so damages do not have to be proven. Also, the defense carries a larger share of the burden of proof. They must show that their statements were true. This guy could have some legal recourse.
IF he was being sued CIVILLY, then he could proceed with a countersuit for defamation, etc. Suing the state when you are charged with a crime that has made it past the grand jury indictment, NOT likely to be successful there unless you can show that the prosecution was malicious in its intent (i.e., the prosecutor's office had reason to believe/know that the crime in question was NOT committed by the defendant).
OMG, I watch WAY too many legal shows, and read too much Grisham, LOL....:)