Jeff Herman, nationally recognized attorney for victims of sexual abuse, discusses mounting claims against former voice of Elmo, Kevin Clash. Herman tells the Baltimore Sun his goal is “to listen to sex abuse victims and give them a voice.”
Read an excerpt from Baltimore Sun article below:
“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.”
Herman said taking on institutions has earned him reams of hate mail but also prepared him for the criticism from some who believe he and his clients are opportunists.
People don’t want to believe institutions they love — “whether it’s Elmo or the Catholic Church” — are responsible for abuse, Herman said. “I just think I’m protecting kids.”
After taking Singleton’s case, Herman became involved with two more clients whose names he won’t disclose and whose suits against Clash were filed under initials.
Plaintiff “D.O.,” a Florida resident, claims in a lawsuit that he was 16 when he traveled to the New York area in 2000 for modeling opportunities and met Clash on a gay chat line. The lawsuit said Clash identified himself as “Craig,” who was 30.
“D.O.” alleges that Clash gave him alcohol and “groomed him” before the pair engaged in sexual contact, according to the suit. Over the next year, it said, Clash kept in contact and engaged in a sexual relationship with “D.O.” after he had moved to New York and had turned 18.
In another lawsuit, plaintiff “S.M.,” also a Florida resident, alleges that he was 16 or 17 and in Miami Beach, Fla., in late 1995 or early 1996 looking for a job when Clash approached him and complimented him on his looks. Having been molested by a teacher at 15, the teen was nervous but said Clash put him at ease, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit stated that Clash returned to New York, kept contact over the phone, promised to be a “dad” to the teen and pay for a plane ticket for a visit. He flew him from Miami to New York in 1996, according to court records. The teen stayed at Clash’s apartment for about four days; the lawsuit described multiple occasions of sexual contact.
The age of consent in New York is 17; it’s 18 in Florida.
“The pattern that these clients are alleging, all vulnerable teen boys looking for a father figure in their life,” Herman said. “Kevin presents himself as a comforting loving man to them which turns into a sexual relationship.”
Herman points out that his clients are not without fault. Singleton, he said, sought sex with older men as a teen. “So are his damages going to be like a little kid sexually abused by a teacher?” Herman said. “No. But there are damages.”
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