Charges dropped against Disney Cruise ‘youth host’ accused of fondling boy aboard ship

A Disney Cruise Line “youth host” who was accused of groping an 11-year-old boy aboard a ship is going free after the victim changed his version of the story.

Miami-Dade prosecutors on Monday dropped charges against Oliver Lovatt. He’d been jailed since his arrest in May. Lovatt’s trial on charges of lewd and lascivious battery had been scheduled to start on Monday.

Lovatt, 25, worked with children at the “Oceaneer Kids Lab” aboard the Disney Magic ship. The center offers “imaginative themed activities and games” for kids between the ages of 3 and 12, according to the cruise line’s website.

In April, according to police, the boy said Lovatt twice fondled him during games inside the youth center. After the second “incident,” the boy asked employees to call his mother. He told her what happened, and she reported it to ship security.

Footage from surveillance cameras, while not “conclusive on its own,” generally backed up the boy’s account, according to prosecutors. When interviewed by Miami-Dade police detectives, Lovatt “did not deny” a touch happened but suggested “any contact was accidental and would not admit any lewd intent,” according to a memo by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.

The boy and his family live outside of Florida.

The case fell apart, according to the memo released Monday, when the boy returned to Miami on Oct. 17 for a deposition with Lovatt’s defense lawyer.

During the deposition, the boy said the contact was less a grab than a “touch that lasted approximately one second” — and he couldn’t be sure it was intentional, according to a a memo by Assistant State Attorney Charlie Heinemann.

A review of the video showed the defendant “poked the victim” several times on the side on his waist. While that violated Disney employee policy, prosecutors determined they could not prove lewd and lascivious battery beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

On Friday, prosecutors offered Lovatt a plea deal to a charge of misdemeanor battery. He rejected the offer.

The boy’s parents decided that they did not want to go through the “difficult process” of traveling back to Miami and having the child testify, according to the memo. On Monday, the state announced it was dropping the case.

Lovatt lists himself as an actor, singer, dancer and choreographer from Manchester, England. According to his online profile, he trained at The Arden School of Theatre in Manchester. He was also an accomplished child actor in his hometown, according to a 2008 story in the Keighley News.

David Ovalle covers crime and courts in Miami. A native of San Diego, he graduated from the University of Southern California and joined the Herald in 2002 as a sports reporter.