NEW YORK — Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who provided the voice of Elmo on “Sesame Street,” is now facing underage sexual abuse allegations from a third man.
This time Clash is facing a lawsuit accusing him of sexual activity with a 16 year old boy in 2000.
The lawsuit seeking unspecified damages was filed in Manhattan federal court Tuesday by a Florida man, now 29, who remains anonymous.
He says that he met Clash in an online chat room when he was exploring modeling opportunities in New York.
The lawsuit says Clash had numerous Elmo dolls in his apartment when he met the teen for sex.
A spokeswoman says that Clash believes the lawsuit has “no merit.”
The accuser is the third man to make claims against Clash, who resigned from “Sesame Street” last week after another lawsuit was filed against him.
“I am resigning from Sesame Workshop with a very heavy heart,” Clash said in a written statement last Tuesday.
“I have loved every day of my 28 years of working for this exceptional organization,” the statement continued.
“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.”
The Sesame Workshop also issued a statement announcing Clash’s resignation, calling it “a sad say for Sesame Street.”
In the first lawsuit, Cecil Singleton, now 24, alleges that Clash “persuaded, induced, coerced or enticed” him to meet for sexual encounters when he was 15 years old.
Singleton claims that he began communicating with Clash when he called a gay chat line seeking friends in 2003.
Clash “groomed Cecil and gained his trust by, among other things, taking him to nice dinners and giving him money,” the suit says.
The two met “on numerous occasions over a period of years” and engaged in sexual activity, according to the lawsuit.
It seeks $5 million in damages from Clash, alleging that Singleton “suffered severe injuries, including but not limited to mental, psychological and emotional trauma.”
“Kevin Clash preyed on vulnerable teenage boys, like Cecil Singleton, to satisfy his depraved sexual interests,” attorney Jeff Herman said.
“By coming forward now, Cecil hopes to spare the lives of others like him and to begin his own healing process,” he added.
Herman said that seeing the first accuser, Sheldon Stephens, is what prompted Singleton to speak up.
Stephens, who is now 23, claimed that Clash had sex with him when he was 16 years old. He never filed a lawsuit against Clash.
Then, in a bizarre twist, Stephens recanted his allegations, issuing a statement through a lawyer saying he had “an adult consensual” relationship with Clash.
But he has reportedly flip-flopped again, saying he was pressured into issuing the statement, which allegedly came with a $150,000 payout.
When the first accusation emerged, Clash acknowledged a relationship between “two consenting adults” but said the man otherwise was making a “false and defamatory allegation.”
“I am a gay man,” Clash said in a statement. “I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter.”
At the time, Sesame Workshop announced that a thorough investigation found “the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated.”
Clash had been playing Elmo since 1984, winning Emmy Awards along the way. He was the third Muppeteer to take on the role.
Clash also was Sesame Street’s senior Muppet coordinator and Muppet captain. A documentary, “Being Elmo,” focused on his story.
In an interview previously posted on the website of NYC Dads, Clash spoke about how he worked to spend time with his daughter, who lives with his ex-wife outside Baltimore.