Third man accuses Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash of alleged underage sexual relationship
A third man claims he was involved in a sexual relationship with Kevin Clash, the puppeteer and voice of Elmo, when he was a teenager and has filed what marks the second lawsuit submitted during the past month.
An attorney for Clash told The Wall Street Journal: "I've looked at the complaint and it's totally meritless and barred by the statute of limitations, adding that "we intend to defend Mr. Clash and his reputation vigorously."
Earlier this month, Clash, 52, took a leave of absence from his job at "Sesame Street," which features Elmo, to deal with allegations of underage misconduct involving a 16-year-old boy. The accuser, now 23, later recanted, echoing the puppeteer's stance that the two were involved when he was of legal age and that the relationship was consensual.
But a week later, a second accuser, Cecil Singleton, filed a $5 million sexual abuse lawsuit against Clash, saying they had a relationship when he was 15. Clash then resigned from "Sesame Street," saying he would resolve his personal matters privately.
In the new lawsuit, filed at New York federal court on Tuesday and posted by E! Online, the third man, who was born in 1984 and calls himself John, says that when he was 16, Clash had contacted him on a gay chat line. The man says he had joined it to "meet friends who were also gay" and stated to fellow participants that his intention was non-sexual.
Clash, he says, claimed he was 30 years old and that his name was Craig. The two later spoke on the phone and John, who was living in New Jersey at the time, visited the puppeteer at his New York apartment, where he says Clash gave him "alcohol and groomed him," after which they had sex. He says they continued a sexual relationship and that he moved to New York after he graduated from high school.
He adds that despite seeing "numerous Elmo dolls and photographs of Elmo with famous people such as Beyonce and Tyra Banks," he only found out two years later, at age 18, that Clash was in fact the voice of the puppet after researching him online.
John claims that at age 16, he was "not emotionally or psychologically prepared for a sexual relationship with a grown man in his 40s" and calls himself "a compliant victim." He claims that up until 2012, he "did not become aware that he had suffered adverse psychological and emotional effects" from the alleged relationship and "could not reasonably have been expected to know that he had been injured" by it.
He is demanding a jury trial and is suing for an undisclosed amount of damages and fees.
Following the publication of the first man's accusation, the puppeteer, who has a young adult daughter with his ex-wife, came out publicly as a gay man, the New York Times reported.
"I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter," the outlet quoted him as saying.
A Sesame Workshop executive told the New York Times that Clash had helped find other puppeteers to play Elmo in his absence and that his resignation will likely not affect production of "Sesame Street."
The actor has portrayed the furry red character Elmo, who has also been featured in films and on other shows and also spurred the popular "Tickle Me Elmo" doll, since 1984. He won eight individual Daytime Emmys for the role.
Clash has also provided the voice of Baby Sinclair from the 1990s series "Dinosaurs," Splinter from the original "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movies and several characters, including a Fiery and Ambrosias the sheepdog, in the 1987 cult film "Labyrinth."