Last week, Sheldon Stephens accused Kevin Clash, the voice of Sesame Street’s Elmo, having an underage relationship with him when Stephens was 16. A day and a $125,000 settlement later, Stephens recanted his claim. Now, he wants to retract the recantation, claiming that he was pressured into taking the settlement:
According to details of the settlement revealed by TMZ, Stephens, now believed to be 24, had to repeat the precise statement under the terms of settlement: “Stephens agrees that immediately upon execution of this Agreement, his counsel, Andreozzi & Associates, P.C., shall release the [following] statement … ‘He [Stephens] wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship.'”
A source told TMZ that Stephens cried throughout the final negotiations with Clash’s lawyers and repeatedly insisted he didn’t want to sign. The source also contends that even though Stephens ended up signing the settlement, he continues to insist Clash had sex with him when he was a minor. Stephens is also telling his lawyers that he will gladly forfeit the payment in order to clear his name.
However, Stephens has a history of blackmailing people. According to a BET article:
The man who allegedly exposed voice actor Kevin Clash to his Sesame Street bosses for sexual abuse has been exposed — an aspiring model with a history of arrests, including allegedly robbing a former boss of a $250,000 gold necklace at knifepoint in 2009, passing a bad check and reckless driving. In addition, his mother, Felicia Stephens, 48, was arrested in 2011 for attempted murder — allegedly stabbed her husband with scissors. She is free on bail pending trial in Pennsylvania.
I felt this would end up a convoluted mess, so I held off writing about it. However, the plot thickens. Another young man has accused Clash of abuse:
The accuser — who is now in his 30s — has filed a lawsuit against Clash … claiming the two met on a gay phone chat line back in 1993 … when the accuser was 15 years old and Clash was 32.
In the suit, the accuser reveals his name — Cecil Singleton. His attorney also provided TMZ with a photo.
Among the allegations, Singleton claims, “[Clash] trolled gay telephone chat line rooms to meet and have sex with underage boys.”
In the lawsuit, filed in federal court in NYC, Singleton claims Clash “groomed [the accuser] to gain his trust by, among other things, taking him to nice dinners and giving him money.”
Singleton claims while Clash was featured on “Sesame Street,” he was “preying on teenage boys to satisfy his depraved sexual interests.”
Later, Singleton’s attorney filed a new document changing the facts. Now, Singleton is supposedly 24-years-old and the alleged abuse happened in 2003 instead of 1993.
Coincidentally, Singleton is suing for $5 million.
As a result of all this,
Clash has resigned from Sesame Street. I cannot help but think that these accusations were meant out Clash as a gay man rather than being serious. While it is certainly possible for Clash to be a child abuser, with the conflicting stories from one accuser and a history of blackmail from the other, it is difficult to believe that Clash did anything wrong.
No, this seems more like a situation of people taking advantage of Clash being closeted, and using this as a means to extort it. It is, however, possible that these young men did begin relationships with Clash when they were still minors and never informed him about their actual ages. Missing from both claims is how long the relationships lasted. If these were short flings, it is possible they conned him.
However, it is possible that they are telling the truth. But let us assume they are not. This is the power of false accusations. Kevin Clash has now lost his job, lost the chances of ever being able to do the only job he may know how to do, and been publicly outed. He also has a daughter from a prior relationship, and I have seen over the course of the week different pundits musing about how weird Clash is and what his relationship with his daughter may be. So it is possible this could be used by the child’s mother to limit his contact with his daughter.
This is the power of false accusations. These are not harmless by any stretch of the imagination. This man’s life is effectively ruined, even if there is conclusive proof these young men lied. People will assume there was something to the accusations, and they will likely use Clash’s sexuality as an excuse for further ostracizing him.