Judge dismisses three lawsuits against Clash

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Three lawsuits filed against former Sesame Street puppeteer Kevin Clash were dismissed by a federal judge who ruled July 1 that the statute of limitations had run out.

U.S. District Court for Southern New York Judge John G. Koeltl dismissed lawsuits filed by Cecil Singleton, Kevin Kiadii and “John Doe,” each claiming that they had sexual relationships with Clash when they were teenagers.

Clash has been named in five lawsuits — four filed in New York and one in Pennsylvania. The plaintiff in one of the New York suits withdrew his complaint in April.

The men, all adults now, said they became aware of the injuries sustained by their consensual sexual relationships with Clash only after they reached adulthood.

Federal criminal statutes that deal with coercion, enticement and transportation of minors for sex provide a statute of limitations for civil lawsuits. Under a strict reading of the rules, the plaintiffs have six years from the time of the act to seek damages in civil courts. The laws also provide a three-year statute of limitations for any plaintiff who has a  disability, which is not defined in the code. These plaintiffs have three years from the end of the disability to seek damages.

Even under the most favorable interpretations of the law, Clash’s attorney’s argued, the window during which the plaintiffs could have sought legal remedies expired between 2001 and 2010. Each of the plaintiffs claimed that their status as minors at the time of their first encounters with Clash qualified as a disability; but, under that interpretation, Clash’s attorneys said the three-year statute of limitations in each of the cases would have expired between 2000 and 2009, three years after each plaintiff turned 18.

But Koeltl ruled that the clock on the statute of limitations started at the time of the relationships. As a result, the actions brought in each the lawsuits were “time barred.”

“Based on the factual allegations in the complaints, the plaintiffs were aware of sufficient facts immediately following their victimization by the defendant to state claims under [the section],” Koeltl wrote. “They were aware of the facts that, while minors, the defendant had engaged in sexual activities with them in violation of one or more federal statutes. The dates on which the plaintiffs connected their psychological injuries to their victimizations are irrelevant to the dates on which their claims accrued under [the section].”

Barring an appeal, the judge’s ruling leaves only the Pennsylvania lawsuit still active against Clash. Plaintiff Sheldon Stephens was the first young man to publicly accuse Clash of improprieties. The judge in his case recently granted an extension so that Stephens could take more time to prepare an argument responding to the motion dismiss filed by Clash’s attorneys, who cited the statute of limitations.

The fifth lawsuit was dropped in April by a man identified in court records as “D.O.” Clash’s legal team said at the time D.O.’s decision was not the result of an out-of-court settlement.

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