DPS to pay $350,000 to teen suing Pugh

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit Public Schools has agreed to pay a former student $350,000 to settle a lawsuit he brought against the district and former City Council President Charles Pugh in a salacious sexual harassment case.

The tentative settlement came just hours into the second day of the trial and just moments before 10 jurors watched a videotaped deposition from Pugh, who testified that he sent sexually aggressive texts to the teen and gave him money in exchange for an explicit video.

The settlement leaves Pugh as the last defendant in the high-profile case. DPS and several defendants were dismissed Wednesday, including former emergency managers Robert Bobb and Roy Roberts and DPS school officials Berry Greer and Monique McMurtry.

The amount of the settlement was included in court documents obtained by The News on Wednesday. The settlement must be paid out by Nov. 1, 2016, according to the agreement.

The district and its employees admit no liability in the case, according to the settlement.

School district lawyers sought to have the lawsuit dismissed before trial. They have argued the activity between Pugh and the student was “text messaging between two adults” and that none of it occurred on DPS property.

School spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski wrote in an email earlier Wednesday: “The terms of the agreement will remain confidential until it is finalized by the parties involved.” The district had no further comment late Wednesday.

The teen, who wants at least $1 million, reportedly met Pugh in 2012 when Pugh volunteered for a mentoring program at Frederick Douglass Academy. The student, known as “K.S.,” was then 17.

In the first day of testimony in the trial jurors heard directly from Pugh via the videotaped deposition taken on Oct. 27 in Macomb County. Pugh is not attending the federal court trial.

In the video deposition, Pugh testified how he bought the teen a phone and some clothes for a job interview, and then began making the teen offers for money in exchange for a video of him masturbating. Pugh testified that he offered the teen $160 for a hotel room for senior prom.

Pugh’s request for the video was included in more than 450 texts between Pugh and the teen that were discussed in the deposition.

The teen texted Pugh that he didn’t want to make the video because “it feels weird” but “I really need that money,” according to the deposition.

The next day, Pugh texted back: “Just make it man. stop being scared. you’ll be fine.”

Pugh told the teen that he wanted to see his body “front and back. so the video has to show everything. #EVERYTHING”

Pugh, who said he considered the student an adult, next texts: “dude if anyone finds out about this, I’m dead. so please keep this between us.”

In the videotaped deposition, the teen’s lawyer, William Seikaly, reminded Pugh that at the time Pugh was the second most powerful man in city government.

“Some people would say that,” Pugh responds, breaking into a smile during the deposition.

The teen made the video and sent Pugh a copy, according to the deposition. Pugh sent the teen a text, telling him it was the best movie anyone has made and “you will never be broke.”

At one point, asked to explain some graphic texts, Pugh invoked the Fifth Amendment. But he continued to answer questions about others, including one in which he said he wanted to see the teen run around naked.

“The truth is I’ve had a crush on you all year. I just couldn’t say or do anything,” the text says.

Pugh later testified during the deposition that he regretted sending the texts.

“I sent the text messages. I should not have done it. It’s inexcusable and I should not have done it,” Pugh says.

Earlier, the five-man, five-woman jury heard from Madison Heights detective Brent Lemerise, who interviewed the teen. Lemerise said that in a statement to police, the young man has alleged Pugh had sexually assaulted him in a parking lot in Madison Heights.

The detective said he found receipts, video footage and other evidence that Pugh had purchased a cellphone and clothes for the teen. Lemerise said he has to obtain a search warrant for texts from the teen’s cellphone to Pugh, but was unable to obtain records from Pugh’s phone after Pugh canceled the account.

In a one-on-one interview with the teen, Lemerise said he asked him to describe the assault.

“I had him demonstrate it for me. ... He said Pugh put his right hand on (his) left thigh about one inch from his genitalia,” the detective said.


Staff Writer Robert Snell contributed.