Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash got some welcome news when a judge dismissed three sex abuse lawsuits against him because his accusers had waited too long to sue.
Clash’s attorney, Michael Berger, said Clash, who was suspended and later resigned from Sesame Street after the first allegations surfaced in November, “can go about the business of reclaiming his personal life and his professional standing.”
All three of the accusers, now adult men, alleged they were seduced by Clash when they were underage teenagers. The first claim came from Sheldon Stephens, now 24, who said he had an “adult consensual relationship” in November 2012, but filed a lawsuit in March 2013. He said Clash threw a “crystal meth” (methamphetamine) sex party for him in 2004, when he was 16.
Clash admitted that he had a relationship between “two consenting adults” when Stephens first came forward, but he said the rest of Stephens’ story was a “false and defamatory allegation.”
While Stephens’ suit, which was filed in Pennsylvania, is still pending, Clash’s lawyer said, “We have moved to dismiss.”
In November, Clash released a statement saying, “I am a gay man. I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter.”
Clash was married for 17 years to Genia Clash, with whom he has a daughter, Shannon, now 20.
Berger said yesterday that Clash is pleased by the judge’s decision.
“As we have maintained all along, our goal has been to put these spurious claims behind him, so that Kevin can go about the business of reclaiming his personal life and his professional standing, which was recently recognized once again by the three Emmys he won last month,” Berger said. “The judge’s decision to dismiss and close the three lawsuits is an important step in that direction. Kevin is looking forward to a time in the near future when he can tell his story free of innuendo and false claims.”
But Jeff Herman, the lawyer for the accusers, said the decision was “the first battle.”
“The statute of limitations is an arbitrary timeline that silences victims,” Herman said. “We believe that the victims in this case are within the statute of limitations, but this ruling highlights the need for a window in New York to allow victims to have their day in court.”
When he resigned from Sesame Street in November, Clash said in a statement, “I am resigning from Sesame Workshop with a very heavy heart. I have loved every day of my 28 years working for this exceptional organization. Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer. I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately.”