Pugh makes rare, lonely appearance in downtown Detroit
Detroit — Former City Council President Charles Pugh, embroiled in a tawdry sex lawsuit, made a rare public appearance in federal court Wednesday, two years after resigning in disgrace and fleeing the city.
Pugh attended a court hearing in downtown Detroit ahead of an Oct. 13 jury trial that will air sordid allegations about Pugh’s private life.
“It is what it is,” Pugh, 44, told The Detroit News about the allegations during a brief break. “I’ll just say I don’t have a lot to say.”
He is being sued by a former Detroit high school student who alleges that Pugh, once one of the most powerful politicians in Detroit, offered cash for sex. The allegations preceded Pugh's resignation in 2013 and flight from Detroit, where he rose to fame as a television broadcaster and politician.
Pugh, whose resignation and brief disappearance transfixed the public, made a quiet return Wednesday.
He wasn’t trailed by packs of reporters or surrounded by the video cameras that chronicled his public life and 60-pound weight loss, which Pugh promoted on his YouTube channel.
Instead, a still-thin Pugh, wearing a gray suit, brown leather shoes, glasses and a day’s worth of stubble, strolled a 7th-floor hallway inside federal court by himself.
“I’ve been back a few times to see family and friends,” Pugh said when asked about returning to Detroit. “It’s interesting to see all of the progress happening in the city — the (M-1) Rail Line and the (hockey) arena.”
Inside U.S. District Judge David Lawson’s courtroom, Pugh wasn’t the only once-powerful public figure sitting in the gallery.
Pugh was in the first row. Two rows back sat former DPS emergency managers Robert Bobb and Roy Roberts, who were appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to oversee the troubled school district’s finances.
Bobb and Roberts are also being sued by the teen, who didn’t sit in the courtroom. Instead, he sat alone in the private jury room, far from Pugh and the former emergency managers.
The teen, identified only as "K.S.," sued Pugh and Detroit Public Schools in June 2014, claiming his civil rights were violated.
The teen reportedly met Pugh in September 2012 when Pugh volunteered for a mentoring program at Frederick Douglass Academy. The student was then 17.
The complaint alleges Pugh "was given unprecedented access and control over male students at the school without any form of supervision, monitoring or control" by DPS. The suit also alleges that when the teen began participating in the Charles Pugh Leadership Forum at the school, Pugh "began to provide extra attention" and began to "groom him in preparation for making sexual advances."
In court filings, Pugh has denied the allegations. He also has denied offering to perform oral sex on the teen in exchange for money.
"(I) did not have unsupervised access to students and was never alone with students," Pugh wrote.
School district lawyers, meanwhile, have tried to dismiss the lawsuit. They have said the former student encouraged Pugh to send explicit text messages offering cash and gifts for explicit homemade videos and sex acts.
"Plaintiff's own text messages reveal that plaintiff actively invited and encouraged Pugh's text messaging," school district lawyer Theophilus Clemons wrote in a filing.
Clemons included text messages from the teen to Pugh to prove his point.
"I really need that money," the teen texted June 1, 2013. "I want an xbox 360 wit (sic) two controllers ...Im making the vid when I get home im serious ..."
After one apparent transaction, the teen texted Pugh: "My vid was worth the game."