Another man comes forward with allegations against ex-Elmo puppeteer
'Sesame Street' muppet Elmo and puppeteer Kevin Clash poses for a portrait in the Fender Music Lodge during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival to promote the film 'Being Elmo' in Park City, Utah. (AP / Victoria Will)
The Associated Press
Published Monday, December 10, 2012 6:43PM EST
MIAMI -- Another man on Monday sued the former Elmo puppeteer who resigned amid sex abuse allegations, claiming the voice actor befriended him in Miami and promised to be a father figure before flying the teen to New York to have sex with him.
The alleged victim is now the fourth to accuse Kevin Clash, who resigned from "Sesame Street" last month after 28 years. The three legal actions filed so far have been civil cases seeking financial compensation.
But the incident with the latest victim, referred to only as S.M., could involve criminal charges because the lawsuit claims Clash transported him across state lines for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.
Attorney Jeff Herman said he encouraged his client to report the incident to authorities but it's unclear if the now-33-year-old alleged victim has done so.
Sexual abuse allegations against Clash triggered a media frenzy last month. He quickly denied the first claim, which was recanted the next day. But Clash then resigned after a 24-year-old college student, Cecil Singleton, sued him for $5 million, saying the actor engaged in sexual behaviour with him when he was 15.
Singleton claims the voice actor met him in New York a dozen years ago after trolling gay telephone chat lines and seeking underage boys for sex.
In the latest case, the plaintiff said Clash approached him on Miami Beach, complimented his appearance and struck up a friendship. Clash returned home to New York, but stayed in touch with the teen, promising to be a dad to him. The youth, who was 16 or 17 at the time, had been molested by a teacher and was considering running away from home, according to the lawsuit.
"These are all vulnerable boys. None of them had father figures in their lives and they were looking for that father figure," said Herman, who represents three of the alleged victims.
The lawsuit says Clash paid for a plane ticket from Florida to New York in 1996 and arranged for a car service to pick up the teen and bring him to his upscale apartment, where he gave him cash and showered him with "attention and affection" and ultimately engaged in numerous sexual acts.
Herman said he is poring over receipts and other documents to see if the car service was paid for by Clash's employers at Sesame Street.
Clash's attorney Michael Berger said in a statement that "the lawsuit is without merit and we will vigorously defend the case and Mr. Clash's reputation."
Sesame Street publicist Ellen Lewis said "we're confident in the actions that we took," but declined further comment, saying it was an issue between litigants.
Herman said the alleged victims didn't come forward sooner because they were afraid, but have found courage as others have spoken up.
He said they are compliant victims who participated in the sexual acts, but didn't consent because it's illegal for a minor to do so.
"Because they participated in the sex they feel like they're doing something wrong ... they're ashamed, they're embarrassed, not something they really want to talk about," he said.
Herman said he's been contacted by several other possible victims and is vetting their cases.