BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
A Miami man has become the fourth to accuse Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash of sex abuse when he was a teenager.
The alleged victim, now 33 and identified in New York court as “S.R.,” met Clash when the puppeteer vacationed in South Florida in 1995 or 1996, said his attorney, Jeff Herman of Aventura.
“He was on South Beach looking for a job when he met Kevin. He was going in and out of stores in South Beach. That’s when Kevin saw him,” Herman told The Miami Herald.
After Clash, now 52, returned home to New York, he stayed in touch with the teen by telephone. Soon, he invited the boy to visit him and bought him a plane ticket.
“He had previously been abused before,” Herman said of the teen.
“He was hesitant to go to New York, but Kevin convinced him he’d be a father figure to him. Kevin used the word ‘dad.’ Once there, it was a sexual thing.”
Four days later, the “homesick” teen returned to South Florida, Herman said.
Clash — the original voice of TV puppet Elmo — resigned from Sesame Street after a second man alleged abuse.
His New York attorney, Michael Berger, has again denied the puppeteer did anything wrong.
“The lawsuit is without merit and we will vigorously defend the case and Mr. Clash’s reputation,” Berger said in a statement Monday.
Herman described the latest accuser, originally from the Caribbean, as “a compliant victim.”
“A compliant victim participates in the sexual contact. They can’t consent because they are too young,” said Herman, who also represents three other alleged Clash victims.
Herman declined to identify the latest alleged victim, who still lives in Miami-Dade County and is seeking unspecified damages in his lawsuit.
Before he met Clash, the teen was sexually abused by a Miami-Dade County schoolteacher, said Herman, who is “evaluating” whether to sue in that case.
“Unfortunately, he’s had a lot of problems I see in other victims,” said Herman, who also represents alleged abuse victims who have sued the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts.
“He’s had addictions, antisocial behavior including trouble with the law. He’s been arrested for theft. His life was really a mess. Hopefully, this will be a stepping stone for him to take back the power to heal.”
Herman explained why the accuser never before told his story:
“The reason that he’s able to come forward now is that, I believe, there’s this collective empowerment,” Herman said. “They never feel anyone’s going to believe them. When they see other victims coming forward, they think. ‘Maybe they will believe me. Maybe it’s safe to come forward.’”
Here's the news release Herman's publicist distributed on Monday:
In late 1995 or early 1996, KEVIN CLASH was visiting Miami Beach, Florida. At the same time, JOHN DOE, age 16 or 17, was in Miami Beach looking for employment. KEVIN CLASH approached JOHN, complimented him on his appearance, and befriended JOHN.
· Following their initial meeting, KEVIN CLASH returned to his home in New York, but remained in frequent contact with JOHN via telephone. During their telephone calls KEVIN CLASH lured JOHN to visit him in New York with promises to pay for his plane ticket, be a “dad” to him in New York, and give him cash and a free place to stay. KEVIN CLASH’s offer appealed to JOHN who was contemplating running away from home.
· As arranged, JOHN flew from Miami to New York in early 1996 at KEVIN CLASH’s expense. JOHN stayed for approximately four days in KEVIN CLASH’s apartment. During his stay, KEVIN CLASH and JOHN had sexual contact on multiple occasions. These sexual acts included KEVIN CLASH penetrating JOHN’s anus with his penis. KEVIN CLASH told JOHN he had difficulty penetrating JOHN due to a medical condition. On other occasions, KEVIN CLASH had JOHN perform oral sex on him and put his fingers in JOHN’s anus.
The victim’s attorney, Jeff Herman, said: “According to our lawsuit, Kevin Clash knowingly paid to transport a minor across state lines for the purpose of satisfying his sexual interests."