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Elmo Accuser No. 4

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.

Fourth Accuser Emerges in Elmo Sex Scandal

Victoria Will / AP Photo

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.

Elmo Accuser No. 2

‘Sick To My Stomach’

Cecil Singleton didn’t know how famous Kevin Clash was when they met, he says, over a gay phone-chat line. Here he tells Maria Elena Fernandez about the details of the relationship.

On Nov. 20, another firestorm hit Clash—a second 24-year-old college student, Cecil Singleton, came forward claiming that he and Clash had had sexual relations when he was 15. Singleton said he was watching the TV show Parenthood when his local station teased a story about a sexual-abuse allegation against Clash.

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Cecil Singleton (Photo Courtesy of Cecil Singleton)

“It was like, bam!” Singleton told The Daily Beast. “It just hit me. I Googled it and it really blew me away. It made me kind of sick to my stomach. I immediately felt that it was probably necessary for me to come forward. It felt like it was the right thing to do.”

This time, there was no retraction, and Clash quickly resigned from Sesame Street.

In a statement, Clash said: “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.”

Meanwhile, Singleton hired an attorney, Jeff Herman, and attempted to press criminal charges against Clash, but learned he was a few months past the statute of limitations. On Nov. 20, Singleton filed a civil lawsuit in federal court claiming Clash coerced him into sexual activity when he was a sophomore in high school.

“At the time, I didn’t know that Sheldon Stephens had gotten paid or any of that,” Singleton said. “When I heard it on the news, I felt intuitively that he was telling the truth. I felt I had a strong responsibility considering my lack of judgment and how inappropriate my relationship was. I had to come forward, even if I wasn’t taken seriously, even if no one believed me.”

Singleton, who grew up in upper Harlem and had just spent two years in foster care when he first met Clash, said he met the puppeteer not at a fancy industry party, but on a gay phone-chat line. Singleton called in March 2004 and created his introduction profile. Clash pushed a button, he said, indicating he wanted to speak to him.

Elmo Accuser No. 3

‘He Wanted To Be My First’

The third accuser of Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash has remained anonymous, but that hasn’t stopped him from telling his side of the story in court documents.

It only got worse for Clash. On Nov. 27, a 28-year-old Florida man sued Clash for having sex with him in 2000, when he was 16. Like Singleton, “D.O.” said he met Clash on a gay chat line called Power Chat. 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.

Kevin Clash

Puppeteer Kevin Clash poses for a portrait with Elmo. (Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images)

At the time, D.O. was staying with friends in New Jersey while working on a modeling gig in Manhattan, according to his lawyer, Jeff Herman, who is also representing Singleton. 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.

“Both Cecil and [D.O.] allege that Mr. Clash courted them when, in fact, what he was doing was grooming them,” Herman said. “He was getting to the point where they felt compliant when, in fact, there’s no such thing with a minor. Interestingly, in 2009, [D.O.] started writing a memoir about his life and relationships, and he wrote about what happened to him with Kevin Clash in detail.”

In pages of the unpublished manuscript, which Herman distributed to the media, D.O. refers to Clash as “The Tickler” and writes that Clash initially told him he was a successful businessman, but that he later learned he was in the entertainment business. D.O. describes their relationship as a game between “father and son.”

“On our first night, I did not lose my virginity; however, I learned what it felt like to have a man kiss you and take your breath away,” according to the manuscript. “I could tell by the slight smile on his face that he wanted to be my first. ‘We will take things slow, just let me taste you,’ he requested.”

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.

“They were together for about a year, and then after that year, periodically from time to time,” Herman said. “The reason he’s remaining anonymous is that he’s moved on with his life and has a job and he does not want to be re-victimized. But he stands behind these other victims.”

Elmo Accuser No. 1

‘I Am Not A Bad Person’

The first man to accuse Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash tells Maria Elena Fernandez how the relationship began. Read the the other accusers’ accounts here, and here.

Over the course of three extensive interviews, Sheldon Stephens maintained that he had no intention of going public when he approached Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization that produces Sesame Street, about his relationship with Clash in June.

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Sheldon Stephens (Photo Courtesy of Sheldon Stephens)

(When The Daily Beast first contacted Stephens, a woman who said she handled his publicity asked if he would be compensated for speaking out. After he learned he would not, Stephens agreed to be interviewed anyway, because he wanted to set the record straight “that I am not a bad person.”)

For about a year prior to e-mailing the organization, Stephens—a 24-year-old from Harrisburg, Pa.—said his mind had been going to “dark places” remembering events that he had been advised by a relative to suppress. He said he’d sometimes visit his toddler nieces to relax, but instead he’d be bombarded with images of Elmo—on the TV, in Sesame Street toys and on DVDs.

“It was, like, an overwhelming thing,” said Stephens, who is finishing a bachelor’s degree at Harrisburg University of Science & Technology. “It started to become, like, wow, maybe something is telling me to do something. If I turned on the TV, if I opened a book or a magazine, or even Netflix, there it was. And it just wouldn’t shut up in my head.” (He had two jobs until the scandal broke; he lost them.)

Stephens’s narrative goes like this: When he was 16, he met Clash at an entertainment-industry charity mixer. The handsome green-eyed teenager, who had been modeling and acting since he was a boy in Florida, struck up a conversation with Clash, who would have been 43 or 44 at the time. Clash offered to stay in touch and introduce him to prominent industry representatives. Clash didn’t tell him that he worked for Sesame Street, but during their first phone conversation shortly afterward, he told Stephens to look him up on Google to find out who he was.

Over a period of six or seven months, Stephens said, he and Clash communicated by telephone, email, and video chats. Clash asked him for photographs and said he would send them to his contacts.

“Because I grew up with six brothers and sisters, I grew up a little faster,” Stephens said. “I was more independent. I started working when I was 14. I just knew that in life you have to know certain people and you have to put yourself out there to elevate yourself and open up other doors. For me, I was thinking, This could be a great thing. This could be the doorway to possibly making my dreams kind of come true.”

SEX SCANDAL

Elmo’s Lovers Open Up

Maria Elena Fernandez interviews two of Kevin Clash’s accusers and the attorney of the third to piece together the events that led to the beloved puppeteer stepping down last month.

Three years after divorcing his college sweetheart, Kevin Clash—who until recently was known as the voice of Sesame Street’s Elmo—described that painful period in his life.

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Getty Images; Courtesy of Sheldon Stephens; Courtesy of Cecil Singleton

“Often it is harder to find the courage to face a personal difficulty than it is to understand and accept a large-scale tragedy,” the Emmy-winning puppeteer wrote in his 2006 memoir, My Life as a Red Furry Animal. “We love each other deeply, but after 17 years, it was not enough to sustain our marriage.”

What Clash neglected to mention was the main reason his marriage didn’t last. But following breathtaking accusations last month that he engaged in sex with male minors, Clash decided to publicly admit that he is gay. A friend of the family says Clash struggled with his sexuality for years until he and his wife, Alice Eugenia Loving, finally decided they were better off as friends. No one in his inner circle believes there’s any truth to the allegations, the friend added.

Clash’s privacy about his sexual orientation ended on Nov. 12, when the gossip website TMZ broke the news that a college student from Pennsylvania was claiming that he had a sexual relationship with Clash, 52, that began when he was 16.

“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. On the same day, Clash, who has a 20-year-old-daughter, also admitted he had been involved with the student, but said the relationship began after he was an adult.

The next day, the student retracted his accusation, but before Clash could be redeemed it all came crashing down: Two other men came forward and sued Clash in federal court for having sex with them when they were teenagers.

As the accusers faced a barrage of criticism, scrutiny, and anti-gay attacks online, Clash resigned from the job he held and cherished for 28 years and had wanted since he was a little boy. The story may not be over, either. Jeff Herman, who represents the two men suing Clash, told The Daily Beast he is vetting other men who have reached out to him with the same claims.

Sheldon Stephens

Accuser #1

‘I Am Not A Bad Person’

‘I Am Not A Bad Person’

Sheldon Stevens was the first man to accuse Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash. He tells Maria Elena Fernandez how the relationship began.

Cecil Singleton

Accuser #2

‘Sick To My Stomach’

‘Sick To My Stomach’

Cecil Singleton didn’t know how famous Kevin Clash was when they met, he says, over a gay phone-chat line. Here he tells Maria Elena Fernandez about the details of the relationship.

'D.O.'

Accuser #3

‘He Wanted To Be My First’

‘He Wanted To Be My First’

The third accuser of Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash has remained anonymous, but that hasn’t stopped him from telling his side of the story in court documents.