Famous characters like Cookie Monster and Spiderman roaming Times Square have had a rough patch of PR the last few years. Facing arrests and copyright infringement claims, many have had to change their approach to what some locals consider the most notorious tourist trap in New York City. Part of that struggle comes from within the ranks, as rouge characters get caught on camera and sully the group’s reputation.
One such Cookie Monster impersonator was arrested Sunday when he took the need to grab a tourist’s attention one step too far. Ranulfo Perez, 48, allegedly groped a 16-year-old girl after pulling her into a hug that ended in the beloved glutton from Sesame Street fondling her breasts. An NYPD spokesperson told Gothamist that the arrested Cookie Monster was charged with second-degree harassment and forcible touching in a manner injurious to a child less than 17.
Cookie Monster’s arrest is far from the first time that the crew of costume-donning Times Square workers have fallen into trouble with the law. In November, several of them appeared at the New York City Council — some as the characters that they play for work — to protest against regulation of what they call an art form protected under the First Amendment, reported The New York Times.
The argument that the cartoon-disguised workers don’t need any further regulation does, however, have a hefty rebuttal from lawmakers. Not only is Cookie Monster’s arrest not the first character-on-customer assault of its kind, it’s not even the first time that someone dressed as Cookie Monster has been the perpetrator.
Osvaldo Quiroz-Lopez, 33, was accused of shoving a 2-year-old boy in 2013 after his mother refused to tip him for a photo that they had taken with the character. Quiroz-Lopez maintained his innocence, however, and the case was eventually dismissed, reported The New York Post.
Cookie Monster isn’t even the only Sesame Street character that’s faced arrest for odd antics in Times Square. One Elmo in particular has been taken into custody several times for screaming anti-semitic slurs at those passing by — including bluntly proclaiming, “I HATE JEWS!” That man, coincidentally named Adam Sandler, wanted to make sure that his racist diatribe was not confused with the unwanted sexual contact happening in Times Square, reported Gothamist.
“I had people yelling slurs at me, calling me a pedophile, saying I couldn’t be trusted around children. That… had some effect on my business.”
Do you think one bad Cookie Monster getting arrested spoils the bunch?
[Image via Alejandro Mallea, Flickr]