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At the Mississippi Valley Fair in Iowa, you'll never be able to guess who's behind the adorable, furry, blue-costumed Cookie Monster. A sex offender! James Lester Rogers, 25, was arrested for dressing up as the popular Sesame Street character.
Rogers was convicted for lascivious acts with a 7-year-old girl in 2005.
He was working at the fair in a Cookie Monster costume. Apparently, Rogers was arrested after he took off the costume head to greet a former parole officer, who then recognized him as being a convicted sex offender, reports KWQC-TV.
As a sex offender, Iowa law would prohibit Rogers from being in places like the Iowa fair, where children were present, according to KWQC-TV.
The company owner who hired Rogers for the Cookie Monster gig admitted to local reporters that he had not run a background check on his new employee, KWQC-TV reports. He said that it seemed that Rogers really needed a job, so he was quickly hired. It was the company owner's intention to send Rogers in a suit like the Cookie Monster costume to work events and birthday parties - likely aimed at children.
One can only hope that he wasn't aiming to use his Cookie Monster kid-friendly disguise for illicit purposes.
If something tragic had happened at one of the events, it's possible that the company owner could be liable for negligent hiring, especially given Rogers' criminal history.
Negligent hiring can result in liability if the company did not exercise reasonable care in making hiring decisions, which can put others in danger. For example, as a person who is providing entertainment to children's birthday parties may want to screen potential employees to make sure they aren't accidentally hiring pedophiles or child molesters.
Of course, not all those who don a costume in the visage of Cookie Monster are sex offenders like James Lester Rogers. But, parents should be aware of the possibilities that a not-so-friendly stranger is lurking behind the familiar costume and ask companies about their background check policies.