Had Florida law enforcement immediately been informed of the potential life felony and found probable cause, Hellebrand said the suspect would have been arrested, regardless of a victim’s grandmother’s wishes.
But the rules are different in the Bahamas.
The suspect was removed from the ship and taken to an airport, where Disney arranged for his passage back to India, his home country. The company said it paid his expenses, honoring a standard contract provision to cover transportation costs of employees returned to their home nations.
Federal law generally requires cruise lines to report certain crimes to the FBI “as soon as possible.” Sexual contact with a minor, even touching of breasts through clothes, is one of those crimes. But there are exceptions to the law when neither the suspect nor victim is a U.S. citizen, or when the ship is in state waters. It appears both exceptions applied in this case.
There are also often overlapping jurisdictional issues in cruise crimes, depending on the nationalities of the parties involved, the location of the ship, the ports its departs from and arrives at, and the country whose flag it sails under.
The Disney Dream is flagged in the Bahamas, so that county can assert jurisdiction even when the ship is in an American port, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. But so can federal and state or local authorities – again, depending on the circumstances.
Regardless of the law, DCL said last week its policy is to report all crimes as soon as possible to various authorities, including port police.
When DCL did notify Port Canaveral police of the crime, on Aug. 6, chief Hellebrand said the department assigned a detective to meet the ship when it returned on Friday Aug. 10, assuming the victim and suspect would be made available.
But Disney Cruise Line and Bahamian authorities had other plans.
“We would want to investigate that crime because it occurred here, regardless of whether somebody else took over that investigation,” Hellebrand said.
Asked if he would have given the suspect a ride to the airport and put him on a plane to India, the chief replied, “No. We would not have.”