Registered sex offender hired as Easter Bunny at Pennsylvania mall
(WTAE.COM) LATROBE, Pa. – A man who worked as a mall Easter Bunny is a registered sex offender, authorities say.
Michael Paul Jacobs of Jeanette spent three days dressed in an Easter Bunny costume, posing for photos with children in Westmoreland Mall.
When Pennsylvania State Police discovered that Jacobs is listed on the Megan’s Law offender website as a sexually violent predator, he was fired.
“Because I’m on (the) Megan’s Law (list), everybody looks at me different, and this is where I have trouble getting a job. I didn’t touch any kids or anything like that,” Jacobs said.
“My case … revolved around having consensual sex when I was a teenager myself, with another teenager,” Jacobs said.
Under Pennsylvania law, an adult having sex with a minor is not considered consensual.
Jacobs was convicted in two different cases of having sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 19. The first case was in December 2010 and the second was in June 2011.
Jacobs says he didn’t misrepresent that when he applied for the Easter Bunny job.
“They didn’t ask for my background on the application that I filled out. It didn’t say anything about a criminal background,” Jacobs said. Jacobs noted that the terms of his parole does allow him to have supervised contact with children.
“Cherry Hill Photo Enterprise Inc. provides the Easter photo experience at Westmoreland Mall, and as such is responsible for the hiring of all staff. it is regrettable that one of their local employees failed to follow their stringent background screening procedures,” said Sean Phillips, regional marketing director for Westmoreland Mal,l in an email to Pittsburgh’s Action News 4.
Phillips said Cherry Hill Photo leases space to take Easter photos in the mall.
“I think it’s messed up that people judge me for me just being on that (Megan’s Law) site, basically,” Jacobs said.
After interviewing Jacobs, Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 learned that the Westmoreland County district attorney’s office had begun to prosecute him in 2011 for a third case of alleged sex with a child in April of 2011. However the case did not go to trial because the victim died in a car crash.
Westmoreland County Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Calisti said the alleged victim in that case was under the age of 13.
Because of the girl’s death, the charges against Jacobs were withdrawn. The case involving the second 15-year-old occurred two months later.
Despite his conviction in the 2011 case involving the 15-year-old, Jacobs says he is innocent and took the blame for another person. He said he intends to seek to clear his name, but is unable to afford an attorney to pursue legal action.
“I don’t feel that anybody that has a sex offender conviction should be around small kids at all, especially in a mall,” said Renee Root, a parent who shops at Westmoreland Mall.
Cherry Hill Photo released this statement:
“It has been determined that an individual portraying the Easter Bunny costumed character for 12 hours at the Mall had a prior criminal record.
An employee of Cherry Hill Photo who does the local hiring of the Mall Easter Bunny staff violated strict company guidelines and permitted a person to portray the Easter Bunny at the mall without first sending in the appropriate information to the corporate office for approval. This corporate approval of all new hires is required by Cherry Hill Photo in order to ascertain the suitability of an employee which includes a comprehensive background report.
The person playing the Easter Bunny was immediately terminated and the local manager who does the hiring was suspended pending the completion of our investigation.
No incidents of any inappropriate behavior were reported and Cherry Hill is cooperating with authorities while conducting its own internal investigation.
Cherry Hill Photo recognizes the importance of obtaining background checks and its stringent hiring guidelines have been in place for over 20 years.”