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Former voice of Elmo, Kevin Clash, hit with 5th sex abuse suit

CNN News Wire | 4/2/2013, 5 p.m.

LOS ANGELES, calif. -- A fifth man has filed a lawsuit alleging sex abuse by Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who gave Sesame Street's Elmo his voice.

The allegations that Kevin Kiadii, 25, made against Clash, 52, are similar to those made by four other men who said they were courted and seduced by Clash when they were underage teenagers.

The lawyer defending Clash called the other suits "meritless and barred by the statute of limitations," but he did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment on the newest filing.

"Mr. Clash continues to deny any wrongdoing, and we intend to defend this case forcefully," attorney Michael Berger said when the fourth suit was filed.

Clash was suspended from Sesame Street and eventually resigned after the first allegations surfaced in November.

Kiadii's suit, filed in a federal court in New York, said he was 16 when Clash contacted him on a gay chat telephone line and invited him to his Manhattan apartment in 2004.

The suit said Clash sent a luxury car service to pick the teen up in Brooklyn and drive him to Clash's apartment. Clash "gave Kiadii alcohol and groomed him with attention and affection," it said.

Clash and Kiadii engaged in sexual contact, which was "Kiadii's first sexual experience with an adult male," the suit said.

The lawsuit, which was written by the same lawyer handling the other four complaints, said Kiaddi "did not become aware that he had suffered adverse psychological and emotional effects from Kevin Clash's sexual acts and conduct until 2012."

Sheldon Stephens, now 24, filed a lawsuit in March alleging Clash threw a crystal meth sex party for him in 2004, when he was 16.

Stephens was the fourth man to sue Clash, but he was the first to publicly claim he had a sexual relationship with him as a teen. Stephens called it an "adult consensual relationship" in November, 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 emerged, but he said it otherwise was a "false and defamatory allegation."

"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."

Three other men soon emerged with federal lawsuits, filed in November and December, accusing Clash of befriending them as teenagers then engaging in sex with them. They are all represented by Florida lawyer Jeff Herman, who also filed Kiadii's lawsuit on Monday.

Clash's lawyer has asked a judge to dismiss the three other suits based on his argument that the men waited too long to sue. The federal statute of limitations on such civil cases is six years, while their allegations involve relationships that ended more than 10 years ago, Berger said in a court filing last month.

Each lawsuit contends that the men only realized in the last year or so that they suffered psychological and emotional damage from their encounters with Clash.