Costumed Spider-Man on Trial for Times Square Spat

While the stakes are serious, the proceedings have a touch of the surreal

The episode isn't among Spider-Man's biggest hits: the superhero vs. the snow-wielding mom.

One of the costumed characters who roam Times Square went on trial Tuesday in New York over allegations that he hit a passer-by who didn't tip him for posing for a photo with her children in February 2013.

Victoria Goreaciuc says Philip Williams cursed at her and later punched her in the face after she confronted him and flung a handful of snow at him. Williams' lawyer says he just defended himself after a cold, hard chunk hit his head, and the attorney has raised a question that seems to beg superpowers of intuition: Can anyone be sure Williams was the masked figure who allegedly insulted Goreaciuc?

While the stakes are serious — a potential criminal record and up to 90 days in jail for Williams if he's convicted of harassment and other charges — the proceedings have a touch of the surreal. The evidence includes a Spider-Man suit, and the questions include whether a costumed Batman had also been on the scene. Even Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Anthony Ferrara couldn't resist a seeming cartoon allusion as he described police apprehending Williams, 36.

"They chased down Spider-Man — apparently, he could not get away," the judge said during a pretrial hearing.

The misdemeanor case is among several recent prosecutions of costumed figures who try to make a living by charming tourists in Times Square, generally without authorization from characters' owners. In the last two years, a man dressed as the Cookie Monster was charged with shoving a 2-year-old, a person garbed as Super Mario and a man in a Woody costume were each accused of groping at least one woman, and an Elmo figure pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after unleashing an anti-Semitic tirade.

Goreaciuc, a New York-area information technology worker, was celebrating her son's seventh birthday when the family encountered a Spider-Man character who urged a photo, she testified. He broached a tip, she said she had no cash and he swore at her, she said.

The family went shopping for about an hour, but her two children kept asking about Spider-Man's remark, and Goreaciuc decided to tell police. Back outside in Times Square, she saw a Spider-Man and approached him — but soon realized she had the wrong one.

She spotted another Spidey, asked him why he'd cursed at her in front of her children, scooped some loose snow off the ground "and threw it in his direction" as she walked on, she said. He hit her in the temple, knocking her to the ground, and took off, she said.

She alerted police and followed them to a parking garage where officers had stopped Phillips, shirtless but in Spider-Man tights. Goreaciuc said his height, build and voice matched the Spider-Man she sought.

Williams' lawyer, Rachel Black, argued that it was unclear which Spider-Man figure had allegedly made the offensive comment. Regardless, "it's actually not a crime to be a jerk," she said.

She said Goreaciuc was the "initial aggressor in a confrontation with a confused and bewildered Mr. Williams," and he simpy "reacted in self-defense."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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