Costumed character charged with sex abuse in NYC

Disney Character "Woody" (left) from the movie Toy Story. 

MANHATTAN, N.Y. – Times Square passersby discovered that they didn’t have a friend in "Woody" when a man dressed as the child-friendly Toy Story character started displaying inappropriate sexual behavior, reports CBS New York.

Jose Vasquez, 44, was arrested and charged with multiple counts of sex abuse and forcible touching while in costume as the popular Pixar character. The New York Post reports that the arrest took place on Thursday, January 9.

Vasquez is due in court Jan. 21. His bond was set at $1,500.

 Advocates for stronger regulations of costumed characters are speaking out, like Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins.

“This is the latest in a long series of disturbing incidents that reinforce our belief that these costume characters must be licensed and regulated,” Tompkins said in a statement. He suggested characters wear badges with license numbers for easy identification.

Vasquez joins a list of recent children’s characters behaving badly in Times Square. A man dressed as Cookie Monster was charged with shoving a two-year-old boy last April; two months earlier, a 35-year-old in a Spider-man costume was accused of punching a woman in the face; and, in December 2012, Dan Sandler was convicted of inappropriately touching young girls and shouting anti-Semitic rants while dressed as Elmo.

In April 2013, New York City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. introduced legislation that seeks to legislate or ban costumed characters, who are legally recognized as street performers and protected under the First Amendment.