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Sex abuse lawsuits against 'Elmo' voice actor dismissed

By Alan Duke, CNN
July 2, 2013 -- Updated 1445 GMT (2245 HKT)
Kevin Clash arrives at the 34th Kennedy Center Honors held at the Kennedy Center Hall of States on December 4, 2011 in Washington, DC.
Kevin Clash arrives at the 34th Kennedy Center Honors held at the Kennedy Center Hall of States on December 4, 2011 in Washington, DC.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kevin Clash "can go about the business of reclaiming his personal life," his lawyer says
  • Accusers' lawyer vows to "appeal the decision and continue the fight"
  • A judge ruled that the statute of limitations had run out
  • Each accuser, all adult men, said they were courted and seduced by Clash as underage teens

(CNN) -- Three lawsuits alleging sex abuse by Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who gave Sesame Street's Elmo his voice, were dismissed by a judge who ruled the accusers waited too long to sue.

Clash, who was suspended and later resigned from his Sesame Street after the first allegations surfaced in November, "can go about the business of reclaiming his personal life and his professional standing," his lawyer told CNN Monday.

The lawyer who filed the lawsuits vowed to "appeal the decision and continue the fight to be a voice for victims."

 A clerk with Manhattan District court confirmed that three lawsuits filed against Clash were dismissed on grounds that the statute of limitations had run out.

2012: Voice of Elmo leaves 'Sesame Street'
2012: Elmo puppeteer denies underage sex

Sesame Street had no immediate comment on the matter.

Each accuser, all adult men, said they were courted and seduced by Clash when they were underage teenagers.

Sheldon Stephens, now 24, was the first to the first to publicly claim he had a sexual relationship with Clash as a teen. Stephens called it an "adult consensual relationship" in November 2012, but filed a lawsuit in March 2013 alleging Clash threw a crystal meth sex party for him in 2004, when he was 16.

Clash, who had provided the high-pitched voice of the iconic furry red Elmo since 1984, acknowledged a relationship between "two consenting adults" when Stephens' story initially emerged, but he said it otherwise was a "false and defamatory allegation."

Stephens' suit, which was filed in Pennsylvania, is still pending.

"We have moved to dismiss," Berger said.

"I am a gay man," Clash, 52, said in a statement in November. "I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter."

Clash's attorney, Michael Berger, said Monday his client "is pleased by the judge's decision."

"As we have maintained all along, our goal has been to put these spurious claims behind him, so that Kevin can go about the business of reclaiming his personal life and his professional standing, which was recently recognized once again by the three Emmys he won last month," Berger said. "The judge's decision to dismiss and close the three lawsuits is an important step in that direction. Kevin is looking forward to a time in the near future when he can tell his story free of innuendo and false claims."

The accusers' lawyer, Jeff Herman, called it "the first battle."

"The statute of limitations is an arbitrary timeline that silences victims," Herman said. "We believe that the victims in this case are within the statute of limitations, but this ruling highlights the need for a window in New York to allow victims to have their day in court."

In November, Clash issued a written statement saying: "I am resigning from Sesame Workshop with a very heavy heart. I have loved every day of my 28 years working for this exceptional organization. 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."

Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, according to its website.

CNN's Carolyn Sung contributed to this report.

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