Elmo puppeteer accused of underage sexual relationship

The puppeteer who performs as Elmo on "Sesame Street" says he did have a relationship with a man who says he was 16 at the time the relationship began.

But Kevin Clash says the relationship was between "two consenting adults" -- and that he is "deeply saddened" that the accuser is "trying to characterize it as something other than what it was."

Sex with a person under 17 is a felony in New York if the perpetrator is at least 21. Clash is now 52 years old. The accuser was 23 by the time he made the allegations this past June.

Sesame Workshop says its own investigation found the allegation to be unsubstantiated. But it has suspended Clash, saying he had exercised "poor judgment" and had violated company policy regarding Internet usage.

A person close to the show says other puppeteers are prepared to fill in for Clash during his absence, and that Elmo "will still be a part of the shows."

Clash is normally behind the scenes as Elmo's voice and animator. But he was the subject of a documentary last year. He also serves as the show's senior Muppet coordinator.