10:05am PT by Eriq Gardner
Elmo Puppeteer Kevin Clash Escapes Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
Kevin Clash, the longtime voice of Sesame Street puppet Elmo, has prevailed in court against three lawsuits that claimed he engaged in sex with minors.
Last November, the 52-year-old puppeteer resigned from Sesame Workshop as accusers came forward to make their allegations. But in a ruling on Monday, a judge in New York says that the claims were filed too late.
Clash was sued several times.
Among his accusers was an anonymous John Doe who claimed that Clash paid to fly him from Miami to New York to be sexually abused in the mid-'90s; Cecil Singleton, who says he met Clash on a gay telephone chat line in 2003; and Kevin Kiadii, who says his affair with Clash happened in 2004.
Clash's attorneys moved to have the lawsuits dismissed as outside the statute of limitations under 18 U.S.C. § 2255(b), which provides that a lawsuit has to be filed within six years of the event or three years after a plaintiff turns 21.
Attorneys for the accusers argued that a rule be applied which allows for actions to come until the plaintiff has "discovered" his cause of action.
But U.S. District Judge John Koeltl focused on Congress' intent when making the sex-with-a-minor law.
"Congress provided an exception to the six year prohibition for plaintiffs under a legal disability and provided that such minors would have an additional three years to bring a claim after they turned eighteen," writes the judge. "This exception, combined with Congress’s failure to adopt a discovery rule in the face of statutes with explicit discovery rules and state sexual abuse statutes providing for application of a discovery rule, indicate that Congress did not provide for a discovery rule under Section 2255, and none should be implied."
As a result, the claims made by the accusers are time-barred, and the judge has ordered the clerk to enter judgment and close all pending motions.
The ruling could be appealed, but at the moment, Clash is free from those claims. Two weeks ago, he won three Daytime Emmy Awards for his work on Sesame Street.