Their presence is enjoyed by tourists and children alike. For kids, they’d love to believe that their favorite characters from television and video games were real. They’d love even more to get a photo with their heroes.
But who are the men underneath the costumes? Damon Torres, 34, was dressed as Super Mario, of Nintendo fame. He is one of many Marios, Luigis, Elmos, and other costumed characters that troll the sidewalks of touristy areas and accept tips in exchange for photos, usually with excited children.
This time there were no excited children involved. There was simply an excited alleged pervert in a Mario costume and a 58-year-old victim. She claims that Torres, as Mario, cornered her and copped a feel of her inner thigh. She also reported previous uncomfortable interactions with Mario, reports the Daily News.
Torres was arraigned on charges of harassment, forcible touching, and marijuana possession.
He isn't the only costumed character to cross our paths lately either. Who can forget "Rape Camp Elmo," also known as Adam Sandler (not the actor), who dresses up as Elmo and rants anti-Semitic propaganda in the presence of children? His previous source of income was running a live-stream porn site out of Cambodia called "Welcome to Rape Camp."
Besides these two, the NYPD has reported a general uptick in complaints about costumed characters' conduct, reports the New York Post. Unfortunately, there is little that can be done about them until they actually commit a crime. Police have made efforts to silence them, including Rape Camp Elmo, by issuing disorderly conduct summons, but those are usually dismissed.
And they should be. Despite a few bad apples, and the risk that a true sicko is underneath a Sesame Street costume, the right to free speech and expression prevents the NYPD from rounding up video game characters and imprisoning them unless they have committed a crime. Until then, parents should probably just avoid anyone dressed as Big Bird.
- Discuss Your Case With a New York Criminal Defense Attorney (FindLaw)
- N.J. man dressed as Super Mario arrested on Times Square groping charge (Associated Press)
- Another Decade, Another Chicago Panhandling Lawsuit (FindLaw's Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog)
- Is There a First Amendment Right to Beg for Change? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)