TARPON SPRINGS — A 50-year-old Palm Harbor man has been sentenced to five years' probation and mandatory alcohol counseling after admitting he groped a teenager and mistreated others who were working at a haunted house last Halloween.
Richard Shore Carter pleaded guilty to three felony charges of child abuse and two misdemeanor charges of battery. But adjudication was withheld, meaning he will not have a criminal record from the charges if he completes the terms of his probation.
Carter's attorney, Denis de Vlaming, said the sentence was a fair one, because the incident stemmed more from alcohol abuse "rather than any deviant behavior."
"It didn't seem as if this would ever have happened if he had not drank too much alcohol," de Vlaming added. He said Carter has begun his alcohol counseling program.
The teenagers were volunteers acting as cast members at the haunted attraction, which included three downtown buildings, police said.
The company that operated the haunted house, ScareCo., could not be reached Thursday. But an official from the firm previously said that his staff takes steps to ensure everyone's safety.
Police said Carter entered the haunted house as part of a group. In one case, he was accused of reaching through an opening in an actor's costume and touching her inappropriately. In another, Tarpon Springs police said he grabbed an actor "and shook his head for (approximately) five to seven seconds." He was accused of striking another actor in the stomach.