FLORIDA Jury acquits Tigger in molestation case
The Disney World worker was accused of fondling a girl while in costume.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- A Walt Disney World worker who was acquitted of charges he fondled a 13-year-old girl while dressed as Tigger says he wants to return to work, but not as a Disney character.
Wednesday's acquittal came less than an hour following a three-day trial during which the defense attorney for Michael Chartrand donned a Tigger costume in an effort to show jurors how difficult it is to maneuver and see in the outfit.
Outside court, Chartrand, a 36-year-old native of England who lost his fianc & eacute;e and had been suspended without pay after his arrest, said he'd like his job back, but that the experience "has ruined my dream to be a character."
Disney spokesman Bill Warren said, "We can have a conversation with him, but at this point we really don't have a comment."
Jurors found Chartrand not guilty of lewd and lascivious molestation, a felony; he had faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted. He was accused of fondling the girl while posing for a photo with her and her mother.
Earlier this week, Chartrand rejected a plea offer that would have given him probation.
Prosecutor Will Jay and members of the girl's family left court without commenting.
During closing arguments earlier Wednesday, defense attorney Jeffrey Kaufman -- who also moonlights as Tigger and Goofy at Walt Disney World -- first strapped on Tigger's tail and then put on a neck cloth, the enormous orange-and-black striped head, and two large orange mitts to show jurors how the costume limits peripheral vision and arm movements.
Jurors said the tactic had no effect on their decision. "There was no evidence to convict," juror Zach Kauffman said. "They couldn't even prove who was behind the Tigger mask."
Kaufman has contended that the girl's mother was merely after money and planned to sue Disney.
The mother also claimed Tigger touched her breast during the visit to Disney World last February, although no criminal charges followed her allegation.