In their July 2003 marital settlement agreement, Clash was ordered to make $2,000 monthly child support payments and tuition payments for their daughter, as well as alimony payments of $7,500 a month until Dec. 31 of this year unless Loving-Clash remarried or either party died.

Records don't indicate why the couple divorced. Clash's former wife did not return messages seeking comment. A woman who answered the phone at Clash's parents' home declined to talk about him.

First accusation

On Nov. 12 the celebrity news website reportedthat a man later identified as Sheldon Stevens, 23, claimed a sexual relationship with Clash when Stevens was 16. Clash rejected the allegation but acknowledged having an adult relationship with him. He also disclosed his sexual orientation for the first time.

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

Stevens soon retracted his claim, calling his relationship with Clash adult and consensual. A call to his lawyers, Andreozzi & Associates of Harrisburg, Pa., was not returned.

But the allegations pushed Singleton to step forward — partly, he said, to defend the criticism Stevens was fielding. Singleton, a college student who grew up in Harlem and still lives in New York City, alleged in his complaint that he was 15 when he met Clash through a local gay telephone chat line. Singleton said it was called "City Chat." The line allowed callers to create an introduction people could listen to and decide whether to press 3 to chat live with someone or press 2 to leave a message, Singleton said.

During the 2003 chat line conversations, Singleton's lawsuit alleges, Clash "persuaded, induced, coerced or enticed" him to meet for sexual encounters.

The first hourlong conversation led to Clash's inviting Singleton to dinner on the Upper West Side, Singleton said in the interview. Singleton said Clash paid for his cab.

"It was nothing aggressive or nothing inappropriate about it," Singleton said. "He was nice."

The relationship became sexual, Singleton's lawsuit claims. It acknowledges that Singleton was compliant in the sexual activity, but claims he was unaware of the harm being caused.

Clash never told Singleton he was the voice of Elmo but said he was a divorced, traveling school official, Singleton said in the interview. They met for a few weeks until, Singleton said, he ended the relationship because he wasn't comfortable with their age gap. But through the chat line, Singleton said, they reconnected when he was 17 and again when he was 19 or 20.

His lawsuit alleges they engaged in sexual activity on numerous occasions "over a period of years." It also claimed Clash "groomed" him with nice dinners and money and "coerced or enticed" him to meet for sexual encounters.

The attorney

Singleton's lawsuit was filed by Herman; Singleton says a friend pointed him to the attorney whose Miami-based law firm focuses solely on sexual-abuse litigation.

Since 1997, when Herman successfully represented a 5-year-old autistic boy abused by a convicted pedophile, the Miami lawyer said it has been his goal to listen to sexual-abuse victims and give them a voice.

"I strongly believe that victims do not heal until they make a full disclosure," he said.

The father of four has more than 150 open sexual-abuse cases at his five-lawyer firm and has filed more than 100 cases against the Archdiocese of Miami. One prominent case involved sexual-abuse allegations against the Rev. Neil Doherty; his client won a $100 million civil verdict in November 2011. Doherty is named in more than two dozen civil suits and is in jail awaiting trial on a criminal charge of sexual assault on a minor, according to records in Broward County, Fla.

Unlike many other lawyers, Herman said, he prefers to put his clients on the stand, even small children, because he believes it empowers them.

"Jeff is the best," said Michael Dolce, a West Palm Beach, Fla., attorney who has battled the Catholic Church in Florida to eliminate time limits for filing criminal and civil cases in sex crimes involving children. "He has a proven track record and knows exactly what he's doing in this area of law. He understands what survivors go through. He understands liability issues."