12.10.12

Fourth Accuser Emerges in Elmo Sex Scandal

A fourth man emerged Monday to claim that he had sex with 'Sesame Street' puppeteer Kevin Clash as a teenager in the mid-’90’s. Maria Elena Fernandez reports.

A fourth man to claim that he had sex with Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash when he was a teenager —and the third to sue him—filed a claim in U.S. District Court today alleging that he had sex with Clash when he was a teenager.

According to the complaint, Clash and the man, who filed the lawsuit using only his initials, “S.M.” met in late 1995 or early 1996 in Miami Beach. S.M. was 16 or 17 at the time, was walking in and out of stores in Miami Beach looking for a job when Clash saw him and approached him, said attorney Jeff Herman who represents the accuser. Clash “complimented him on his appearance and befriended” him, the complaint states.

After Clash went home to New York City, he remained in contact with the teen and “lured [him] to visit him in New York with promises to pay for his plane ticket, be a ‘dad’ to him in New York and give him cash and a free place to stay.” At the time, the teenager, who had been molested by a high school teacher when he was 15, confided in Clash and explained he was having difficulties at home and school and was considering running away from home, the lawsuit states.

In early 1996, John Doe flew from Miami to New York at Clash’s expense, the lawsuit alleges. A driver picked him up at the airport and took him to Clash’s apartment, the complaint states. According to the complaint, “during his stay, Kevin Clash and [S.M.] had sexual contact on multiple occasions” including “sodomy and oral sex.” Herman said S.M. stayed in Clash’s apartment for four days.

During the visit, Clash told S.M. that he was the voice of Elmo on Sesame Street, the lawsuit states. After S.M. returned to Miami, Clash called him a few times but “he wasn’t interested. He went up there looking for this father figure and ended up being in a sexual situation so he got out of that,” Herman said.  They never saw each other again.

“He has had a lot of issues in his life following this,” Herman said. “He was vulnerable before this happened. He’s been abused once before this happened and he ended up having a life full of issues that, unfortunately, I see in a lot of victims—addictions, antisocial behavior, getting into trouble with the law. He’s trying to put it back together still.”

S.M. never told anyone about what happened with Clash because “he always felt ashamed and embarrassed.” Herman, who represents the other two men who have sued Clash, said he is vetting other men who have come forward claiming similar allegations.

“There's this collective empowerment that victims draw from each other,” he said. “They always feel if I come forward, no one's going to believe me and I'm going to be attacked, which, of course, we did see with victim No. 1 and victim No. 2. The more that come out, they start drawing strength from each other and they're a little safer. [S.M.’s] afraid to use his name still because he doesn't feel it's completely safe. But this is a big step for him.”

Clash’s publicist did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment from The Daily Beast. His attorney Michael Berger told The Daily Beast last week that he would “vigorously” fight all the claims against Clash, who resigned from his 28-year post as Elmo on Nov. 20.

Herman also represents the other two men who filed federal lawsuits last month alleging that Clash met them on a gay phone-chat line and engaged in sexual acts with them while they were both 16 and still in high school. Cecil Singleton, 24, told The Daily Beast in an interview published last week that he met Clash when he was 15 on the chat line but he didn’t know that Clash was the voice behind the Sesame Street character until years later.

The first night they spoke on the telephone, Singleton said, Clash invited him to dinner at a restaurant near his house. Although Clash had claimed to be 36 on the phone, he admitted he was 43 when Singleton confessed he was only 15, Singleton said. But Clash maintained he was a school-district official for most of their on-and-off relationship over the years until Singleton discovered who he really was.

“I confronted him in person with the information,” said Singleton, who was 19 or 20 at the time. “He gave me very roundabout answers. It was evident on his face that this was something he never intended for me to find out. I think I saw him one more time after that, and if I can attribute it to anything, it was him being uncomfortable that I knew his identity."

Singleton said he and Clash engaged in sexual behavior but not intercourse until after he was 18. Over the years, the two lost touch twice but reconnected on the chat line, Singleton said. The criminal-psychology college student now says that he will drop his $5 million lawsuit if Clash admits what happened between them.

“People are pegging me as a gold digger and it doesn’t sit well with me,” he said. “What I wanted was the truth to come out. If Kevin would acknowledge what happened, own up and tell the truth, I will drop the lawsuit. I’m not comparing my situation to a child being molested. Seduction and molestation are two different things but when it’s a child, it’s still abuse.”

The other man who filed a suit on Nov. 27 has chosen to remain unidentified and filed his claim using only his initials. D.O. Like Singleton, “D.O.” said he met Clash on a gay chat line called “Power Chat” when he was staying in New Jersey for a modeling gig and did not know he worked at Sesame Street. According to the lawsuit, Clash claimed he was a 30-year-old man named Craig, and after two days of phone conversations, invited D.O. to visit him in his apartment. When D.O. arrived at the apartment, the suit says, Clash offered him alcohol and the two engaged in sexual contact, “including oral sex and digital penetration of [D.O.’s] anus.” D.O. was a virgin at the time, according to the lawsuit.

Even after the teen went back to his home state, Clash continued to call “incessantly,” trying to arrange meetings for sexual encounters, the complaint states. They kept in contact, and after D.O. graduated from high school he moved to New York City, where the complaint states he and Clash resumed their relationship and began having sexual intercourse. He was 18 at the time, the complaint says, and he soon discovered who Clash was.

The beginning of the end of Clash’s 28-year career as the Elmo puppeteer who carried the character to international success came last month when TMZ broke a story that a 24-year-old college student was claiming he had sex with Clash when he was 16. Sheldon Stephens, of Harrisburg, Pa., e-mailed Sesame Workshop about his claims in June and twice met with lawyers representing the nonprofit organization. Clash admitted having a relationship with Stephens but said that it began when he was 18.

On Nov. 12, TMZ broke the story of the allegations, which forced Clash to admit publicly he is gay. A day later, another TMZ story broke claiming Stephens had settled with Clash for $125,000 and was now admitting that he was 18 when he met Clash at an entertainment-industry mixer.

Stephens told The Daily Beast that he only recanted because his lawyer, Ben Andreozzi, pressured him to settle and the terms of the contract included him recanting his original claims.

“I told my lawyer that I didn’t feel right with this because I’d be lying, and he told me it was the only option we have because the information got leaked,” Stephens said. “They wanted to kill the media stories. He told me not to talk to my parents or anyone. I was just listening to him.”

Stephens told The Daily Beast that he was a virgin the first time he had sexual intercourse with Clash and that sometimes they took poppers when they were together and one time did crystal meth.

After learning from other people that he may not have been the only teenager involved with Clash, Stephens said he decided to contact Sesame Workshop. “It was information they needed to know, because he was hanging out with a lot of young boys and that’s crazy. And I was literally going crazy inside my head because I couldn’t tell anyone. I knew what was behind that thing, Elmo.”