After the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State sex abuse scandal, it seems more important than ever to thoroughly investigate allegations of sex abuse against children and minors. However, the recent accusation against the voice of beloved Sesame Street character Elmo has shown that not every accusation is true, and that it is important to also keep in mind the rights of the accused when investigating allegations of sexual assault or rape of minors.
Allegations of a Sex Crime
On Monday, news broke that 52-year-old Kevin Clash, Elmo puppeteer for nearly 30 years, was accused of having a sexual relationship with a young man beginning when the "victim" was only 16 years old. Shortly after the story hit the press, the media was abuzz with questions about whether more victims would soon come forward, much as they did in the Sandusky case.
However, Clash protested his innocence, maintaining that, while he did have a sexual relationship with his 23-year-old accuser, the relationship was adult and consensual. In a statement released to ABC News, Clash said, "I had a relationship with the accuser. It was between two consenting adults, and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than what it was." Clash asked for a leave of absence from his position at Sesame Street Workshop while he attempted to deal with the allegations, which were brought to the company's attention in June.
When the accuser reported the alleged abuse this summer, Sesame Street Workshop investigated, determining that Clash violated the company's internet usage policy and exercised "poor judgement" in emails. He was disciplined for the violation of internet policy, but Sesame Street Workshop found the claims of an underage relationship to be"unsubstantiated." Charges were never filed.
Though Sesame Street Workshop became aware of the accusation in June, the story did not reach media outlets until Monday. Only a day after the story made headlines, Clash's unidentified accuser recanted his story, admitting that his relationship with Clash did not begin until he was an adult, vindicating Clash and substantiating the accused man's protestations of innocence.
For Kevin Clash, the unfounded accusation brought public and professional scrutiny. Although his accuser has recanted his story, Clash's private life has been exposed to the public, and some wonder if the initial suspicion and the revelation that "Elmo" is voiced by a gay man will hamper sales of Elmo toys and products this holiday season.
What To Do if You're Accused
Being accused of sex with minors is a serious allegation. Even when a person is a victim of a false accusation, he or she is subject to intense suspicion and thorough investigation. Even false allegations can have a profound impact on one's personal and professional life. It is important to hire an attorney as soon as possible to protect one's rights during an investigation.
To find a sex crime defense lawyer in Oklahoma, please visit our criminal defense website at Phillips & Associates.