Elmo Loses Voice as Teen Sex Scandal Spreads | Courthouse News Service
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Elmo Loses Voice as Teen Sex Scandal Spreads

MANHATTAN (CN) - The puppeteer behind beloved "Sesame Street" character Elmo resigned Tuesday amid the second claim this month of underage sexual abuse.

Cecil Singleton says his sexual relationship with puppeteer Kevin Clash started in 2003 when he was just 15 years old.

"At all times defendant Kevin Clash was an unmarried adult male living a prominent public life centered around the entertainment of toddlers, while at the same time he was, in secret, preying on teenage boys to satisfy his depraved sexual interests," the complaint states. "Kevin Clash was born in 1960.

"Kevin Clash, the voice of Elmo, trolled gay telephone chat line rooms to meet and have sex with underage boys.

"When Cecil Singleton was just fifteen years old, he called a gay chat line seeking friends. Kevin Clash began communicating with Cecil Singleton in this gay chat room at that time. During these telephone calls, Kevin Clash persuaded, induced, coerced or enticed Cecil Singleton to meet him for sexual encounters. Kevin Clash groomed Cecil and gained his trust by, among other things, taking him to nice dinners and giving him money.

"On numerous occasions over a period of years, Kevin Clash engaged Cecil Singleton in sexual activity. This sexual activity began when Cecil Singleton was fifteen years old. Cecil was compliant in this sexual activity, unaware of the harm being caused."

Singleton says Clash could face criminal charges for his actions.

"Upon information and belief, Kevin Clash frequented this chat room with the intent of persuading, inducing, coercing or enticing underage boys to meet him for sexual encounters," the complaint states. "Consistent with this scheme, upon information and belief, Kevin Clash did meet multiple boys for sexual encounters after chatting with them on gay telephone sex lines."

Sesame Workshop announced Clash's resignation, after 28 years with the PBS program, Tuesday in a statement on its website after the complaint was filed.

"Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that none of us wants, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from 'Sesame Street,'" according to the statement. "This is a sad day for 'Sesame Street.'"

Clash had taken a leave of absence from the show last week when a 23-year-old man reportedly came forward with allegations that Clash had engaged in a sexual relationship with him seven years earlier when the alleged victim was 16 and Clash was 45.

That alleged victim, later identified in the media as Sheldon Stephens, told TMZ that Clash paid him $125,000 to settle his claims.

According to TMZ, the settlement contained a provision stating that "Stephens agrees that immediately upon execution of this agreement, his counsel, Andreozzi & Associates, P.C., shall release the [following] statement ... 'He [Stephens] wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship.'"

But TMZ said Stephens wants to recant that statement, even if it means returning the $125,000.

Singleton, the second alleged victim to come forward, says he suffered "psychological and emotional effects" from his interactions with Clash.

"As a fifteen year old child, Cecil Singleton was not emotionally or psychologically prepared for a sexual relationship with a grown man in his forties," the complaint states.

"Cecil Singleton did not become aware of his injuries, nor was he able to make a causal connection between his injuries and the sexual acts of Kevin Clash until 2012," the complaint states later.

Singleton is represented by Herman, Mermelstein & Horowitz in Miami, as well as Manhattan attorney David Azrin with Gallet, Dreyer & Berkey.

Herman Mermelstein representative Kayla Repan told Courthouse News that the complaint filed in the Southern District of New York contained errors with regard to the client's age. An amended complaint says that the alleged relationship between Singleton and Clash occurred in 2003, making Singleton 24 years old today.

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