A federal judge in New York City has dismissed three lawsuits against Kevin Clash—the longtime voice of Sesame Street character Elmo—that claimed he engaged in sex with minors. The judge ruled that the plaintiffs waited too long to file the actions, reports the Associated Press and NBC News.
In his 28-page decision, Federal Judge Kevin Koeltl said a plaintiff has six years after the cause of action or three years after they turn 21 to file claims, and none of the three lawsuits were filed within those time frames. The three men allege that when they were minors, Clash "induced them to engage in sexual activity."
In their claims against Clash, who resigned from "Sesame Street" in November after 28 years, the plaintiffs said they had not realized they were victimized until they learned about each other last year, "and realized they were manipulated and it was an ongoing practice."
At least two additional lawsuits are still pending, according to several reports.
Clash abruptly resigned from Sesame Street last November after the first two accusers came forward. Clash had worked on the iconic television show since 1981 as a writer, puppeteer and executive producer. Clash had won 23 daytime Emmy awards and one prime-time Emmy. Two weeks ago, he won three Daytime Emmy Awards for his work on Sesame Street, bringing the grand total to 26 Daytime Emmy Awards.
Clash was first accused last November by 24-year-old Sheldon Stephens, who claimed that he was only 16-years-old when the sexual relationship began. Stephens recanted his allegations and then announced that the claims were indeed true and he was pressured into a financial settlement. Stephens has told his "lawyers he will gladly forfeit the $125,000 to restore his name," reports TMZ. Several of the lawsuits filed since then claimed that Clash seduced the young men when they were only 15- or 16-years-old.
Last month, the plaintiff who filed one of the lawsuits was attacked in an anti-gay hate crime in Brooklyn.
The federal judge's ruling could be appealed. At least for now, Clash has prevailed in court and is free from those claims.
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