Three sexual abuse lawsuits against former Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash will not proceed after the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a district judge's July 2013 ruling that the cases fell outside the statute of limitations for civil action.
In 2012, Kevin Clash was accused of abusing multiple men when they were minors; Clash resigned from Sesame Street that November, after working on the show for nearly 30 years.
"Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer," Clash said at the time. "I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately."
Four of Clash's alleged victims pursued legal action, including Sheldon Stephens, the first to come forward against him; two who said they met Clash on a gay sex phone line when they were 15 and 16, respectively; and a man who said Clash paid for him to fly from Miami to New York City for sex in the mid-'90s.
The latter three brought forward lawsuits in New York, where the cases were dismissed by a district judge in July 2013 because of the statute of limitations.
The statute requires "a filing within six years of the alleged crime or three years after the plaintiffs turned 18," CNN reported. The appellate court that upheld the district court ruling said "the plaintiffs' complaints failed to provide any reason why the plaintiffs were unable to discover their injuries prior to 2012."
"The statute of limitations is an arbitrary timeline that silences victims," the plaintiffs' attorney Jeff Herman said last year.
But Herman, currently representing Michael Egan in his lawsuit accusing the director Bryan Singer of sexual assault, told People on Wednesday the "case against Clash on behalf of Sheldon Stephens is pending."
Stephens said he met Clash when he was 16 and the Elmo creator was in his forties. The relationship started off friendly, Stephens told the Daily Beast after going public with his allegations, until Clash allegedly began introducing the teenager to sex and drugs. Clash has said the relationship was between "two consenting adults."
Herman's firm did not respond to a further inquiry about the status of Stephens' lawsuit, which was filed in Pennsylvania.
Jessica Testa is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Jessica Testa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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