Kevin Clash, the actor who created the voice and persona of Elmo on Sesame Street, resigned from the children's show today in the wake of a new allegation that he had a sexual relationship with an underage boy.
A federal lawsuit was filed this morning in New York, said Jeff Herman, the attorney for the second accuser, who he identified as Cecil Singleton. It was not yet known how much money Singleton sought in the suit.
It was the second accusation of underage sex made public in the past two weeks against Clash. The first accuser, an unidentified 23-year-old man, later recanted his claim.
Herman said Singleton chose to speak out now in order to "spare the lives of others like him and to begin his own healing process."
"According to our lawsuit, Kevin Clash preyed on vulnerable teenage
boys, like Cecil Singleton, to satisfy his depraved sexual interests,"
Sesame Street: The Voices Behind the Puppets
Singleton, now in his 30s, claimed he met Clash in a gay chat line in the early 1990s and had his first sexual encounter with him when he was 15 years old, according to details of the complaint posted on Herman's website.
During those alleged phone interactions, Clash allegedly "persuaded, induced, coerced or enticed" the teenager to meet him for sexual encounters, gaining his trust by taking him to fancy dinners and giving him money.
Clash did not acknowledge the new allegation, but said he was resigning due to "personal matters."
"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," he said in a statement.
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind the popular children's show, said it was a "sad day for Sesame Street."
"Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that none of us wants, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from Sesame Street," Sesame Workshop said in a statement.
Clash previously acknowledged he had a relationship with the first accuser, calling it "a personal and private matter" between "two consenting adults."
The allegation, which was later recanted, was first brought to the attention of Sesame Workshop by the accuser, though it was not made public until earlier this month.
Sesame Workshop said it took the allegation "very seriously" and had taken "immediate action," but after an investigation, which included interviews with Clash and his accuser, found the claims to be "unsubstantiated."
One day after the allegations were made public, the unidentified man recanted the allegation.
"He wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship," said a statement issued by the unidentified man's representative, Andreozzi & Associates. "He will have no further comment on the matter."
Clash, who is divorced and has one daughter, began using a falsetto voice in 1984 to bring life to the furry red monster. This year, Clash took home his 21st Emmy and the fourth in a row for "best performer in a children's series" as Elmo.
Clash spoke to ABC News "Nightline" last year about his passion for puppets while promoting the documentary "Being Elmo."
"I have Peter Pan syndrome, we call it," Clash said.
After learning how to sew around age 9 or 10, Clash ended up making 80 puppets. At first he was teased for his passion, but the taunts faded after he became more and more famous, he said.
"'You sleep with your puppets, you play with dolls,' you know," Clash said of being teased as a kid. "Then I did my first local television show and everybody thought 'that's cool,' so that went away."