Third man files lawsuit against Elmo puppeteer

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 27 2012 1:20 p.m. MST

Elmo and puppeteer Kevin Clash of the film "Being Elmo" pose for a portrait in the Fender Music Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival in January 2011 in Park City. Clash, who has worked with Elmo since the '80s, resigned from Sesame Workshop on Nov. 20 after sex allegations were brought against him.

Victoria Will, AP

Kevin Clash, Elmo's puppeteer since the '80s, resigned from Sesame Workshop last week after controversy related to sex allegations that were brought against him. Clash operated and voiced Elmo for 28 years before the conflict began a week earlier.

Clash took a leave of absence from work on Sesame Street after the allegations were first made public on Nov. 13 and resigned last week after another young man, 24-year-old Cecil Singleton, accused him of underage sexual relations, according to Fox News.

"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," Clash said in a statement released along with his resignation. "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."

On Monday, a third man, now 29 and going by the alias of "John Doe," has filed a lawsuit against Clash, saying they had a sexual relationship starting when he was 16 and continuing after he turned 18 and graduated from high school.

"A spokeswoman for the puppeteer said, 'Mr. Clash believes this lawsuit has no merit,'" according to a New York Daily article.

The first alleged victim, Sheldon Stephens, now 24, accused Clash of starting a sexual relationship with him when he was 16, according to an ABC news article. Allegations for the underage relationship were brought to the attention of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization that produces Sesame Street, in June.

After an investigation, which Sesame Workshop took "very seriously," the company found the claims to be "unsubstantiated," according to the ABC report. The day after the allegations were made public, Stephens recanted the allegation.

"He wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult, consensual relationship," said the statement issued by Stephen's representative, Andreozzi & Associates, according to a New York times report.

Both Clash and Sesame Workshop made formal statements expressing relief after the recanting; however, within days Stephens had claimed he wanted to go back on the recanting, saying that he was pressured to do so and told he would receive a settlement of $125,000, according to the Huffington Post.

Clash has maintained throughout the ordeal that the sexual relationship took place after Stephens had turned 18 and that it was always consensual.

"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 said in a statement issued to ABC News. "I had a relationship with the accuser. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than what it was."

Sesame Workshop is working to find a new voice and hand for Elmo, while substitutes currently take Clash's spot on the show.

"Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of Sesame Street to engage, educate and inspire children around the world, as it has for 40 years," Sesame Workshop said in a statement after the allegations became public.

Mandy Morgan is an enterprise intern for the Deseret News, reporting on values in the media. She is a true-blue Aggie, studying Journalism and Political Science at Utah State University, and hails from Highland, Utah.

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