Pugh said he fled Detroit because he was ‘embarrassed’

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Charles Pugh says he fled Detroit in June 2013 because he knew the city and the nation would soon learn what he had done with an 18-year-old high school student.

Pugh is being sued by a former Detroit Public Schools student who alleges the former Detroit City Council president sexually harassed him, pressured him to make a sex video and gave him money for it.

Pugh, who repeated said he considered the student an adult, has denied touching the teen but has admitted to spending money on him and sending him sexually explicit texts about making a video of the teen masturbating.

Answering a question by his attorney during a taped deposition played at his trial as part of a salacious sexual harassment case, Pugh, who has not been criminally charged in the case, said he was not proud of his actions.

“I was embarrassed. It was a very stressful time for me. It was difficult walking around streets having conversations about anything ... knowing the country was about to find out about this horrible thing that I’ve done ... I had to get out of here,” Pugh testified in the video.

Pugh went on to complain about a TV reporter confronting him about the allegations in New York City, saying he didn’t know how to respond to questions about texting the teen.

“I didn’t know what to say. I knew it could lead to litigation,” Pugh said.

Pugh testified the teen had first asked him for money for a medical procedure for this mother. When pressed to explain, Pugh said the teen said his mother needed an abortion. Pugh said the teen later told him he didn’t need the money anymore.

The teen’s lawyer, William Seikaly, later asked Pugh whether he knew the teen’s mother wanted desperately to get pregnant, finally was now and would never get an abortion. Pugh said no.

Seiklay also asked Pugh what he took with him to New York City when he left Detroit. When Pugh said nothing, Seiklay asked if that included the video of the teen masturbating. Pugh said he had no idea where it was.

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 17.

On Wednesday, Detroit Public Schools agreed to pay the former student $350,000 to settle a lawsuit he brought against the district and Pugh in the case.

In other testimony Thursday, a former city council staffer of Pugh’s testified that Pugh would openly talk about how if a young man was poor enough, he would do anything for money.

Kapri Jenkins-Banks who met Pugh as a producer at WJLB where Pugh had a morning show said Pugh said he convinced an intern to perform sex act on him for cash.

“He hold the intern it didn’t make him gay to allow Charlies Pugh to perform oral sex on him,” she said. “He needed the money.”

Psychiatrist Dr. Gerald Shiener testified that he evaluated K.S. twice, once in August 2013 and again Sept. 29, 2015, and read the text message exchanges between the teen and Pugh.

He described the student as a very compliant teen who was inclined to “do what he was told.” After the incident with Pugh, the teen failed to go to college as planned, lived on the streets and was homeless at times, used alcohol and drugs and neglected his hygiene.

He said the former DPS student suffers from major depression with features of PTSD.

Asked why the teen “just didn’t say no” to Pugh, Shiener said the teen was under the authority of a mentor.

“(He) was incapable of saying. The approach played on his needs: he lost his father, he needed clothes and money. That rendered him virtually incapable of saying no,” Shiener said.

Meanwhile in the video deposition, Pugh earlier testified 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 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 discussed in the deposition.

The teen texted Pugh 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.”

JChambers@detroitnews.com