I'm sure we all figured that the drama for longtime Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash would fade away after he turned in his resignation with Sesame Workshop, but unfortunately it seems like his troubles are only getting worse. After already facing claims of underage sexual activity from two different men, a third accuser has come forward to sue Clash, saying that he and Clash engaged in sexual activity when the accuser was 16 in 2000.
This increasingly sordid situation with Kevin Clash is reminding me quite a bit of John Travolta's massage therapist scandal. As in, it kind of seems like people are crawling out of the woodwork to jump on the litigation train -- but at the same time, I'm not confident Clash is completely innocent of any bad behavior.
The recap of events to date: Clash's original accuser, a man named Sheldon Stephens, claimed he was 16 when Clash had sex with him, but recanted his story after reportedly receiving a $125,000 settlement from Clash. Stephens then said he was pressured into the settlement, and renewed his claims. (Can you say holding out for more cash? I knew you could!)
Last week, 24-year-old Cecil Singleton said that he and Clash had inappropriate contact when Singleton was 15, and filed a lawsuit for more than $5 million in damages.
Today, the same lawyer who is representing Singleton has a new client, an as-yet unidentified accuser, now 29, who says that he met Clash on a gay chat service about 13 years ago before getting together at Clash's apartment. Clash then reportedly plied him with alcohol before engaging in sexual contact that included "oral sex and digital penetration of [John Doe's] anus."
For an extra classy added touch, John Doe's lawyer says his client (the third accuser) (I know, this is getting confusing) has been writing a book describing his experience with Clash, and that pages from the book will be available at a press conference today to announce the lawsuit.
Now, I have no earthly idea what's true and what isn't in this whole mess. It certainly sounds shady as hell at this point -- when people flip-flop on settlements and lawyers start taking on multiple anonymous clients, it starts feeling a lot less about justice and a lot more about money.
But just like the John Travolta craziness, it's hard to not believe there's a kernel of truth in these stories. Maybe it's just that Clash liked younger men and engaged in perfectly legal but possibly ill-advised relationships with them. Maybe it's something more. At any rate, I'm glad he chose to step away from Sesame Street, because it may be a while before all of this is over ... and no one wants Elmo to be collateral damage.
Are you surprised to hear there's a third accuser against Kevin Clash? Do you think any of these lawsuits have merit?
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