Judge in Pugh sex case recuses herself

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

A judge recused herself Tuesday from the probable cause conference for former Detroit City Council president Charles Pugh, saying she once worked with him and also has a relationship with the victim’s family.

Judge Shannon A. Holmes on Tuesday, July 19, 2016 at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit. (Jose Juarez/)

Judge Shannon Holmes of 36th District Court said Tuesday said she knows the relationship “will not impede my ability to be fair and unbiased” but she was removing herself from the proceedings to avoid giving the appearance of impropriety.

The hearing was held by Judge Deborah Langston, who received the case by blind draw. She kept Pugh’s bond at $500,000 and set a new preliminary exam date for Aug. 5.

Pugh, 44, was arraigned on six counts of criminal sexual conduct last week in 36th District Court. The charges stem involved allegations of criminal sexual conduct involving a 14-year-boy nearly a decade ago.

Pugh’s defense attorney Delphia Burton asked Langston to lower Pugh’s bond, saying Pugh still has strong community and family ties and would live with his stepmother in Metro Detroit if released. Burton said Pugh waived his right to a preliminary hearing within 14 days.

Burton said Pugh is a 1989 graduate of Detroit’s Murray Wright High School and a graduate of the University of Missouri, where he received a degree in broadcast journalism. She cited his career with WJLB and Fox 2 Detroit and his election to the Detroit city council

“He’s not a flight risk,” Burton said. “Prosecutors distorted the facts at the arraignment that he was a flight risk. There was no legal obligation for him to remain in Detroit.” Burton said Pugh would be willing to wear a tether if he was released.

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Danielle Bennetts said “no facts were distorted” and while “those accolades are all good and well,” Pugh is a flight risk.

Pugh was brought back last month from New York City, where he had lived for three years, to face the charges.

“He left and nobody knew where he went,” said Bennetts, adding that his family and community was just as strong when Pugh left Metro Detroit several years ago. “He has no job here. He has no permanent residence here. He’s a permanent resident of the state of New York. There are three counts of CSC. Bond is not excessive in light of the charges and in light of the allegations. What assurances does the court have that Mr. Pugh is coming back to court?”

Langston said she will re-evaluate the bond issue at the Aug. 5 prelim date.

Pugh was charged with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and three counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and arraigned last week in 36th District Court.

Prosecutors say Pugh had sexually inappropriate behavior with a teenaged boy starting in 2003 when Pugh was a reporter and anchor for Detroit TV station WJBK. The alleged victim, now 27, was 14 and 15 years old at the time, according to authorities.

Pugh allegedly met the 14-year-old in June 2003, when the boy was at the news station performing with a local theater group. The teenager asked Pugh about an internship and they exchanged numbers, according to authorities. Though the teen never worked an internship for Fox 2 Detroit, Pugh kept in contact and allegedly began inviting the teen to his Detroit apartment that summer as they communicated via phone and text messages.

Pugh was elected to Detroit’s City Council in 2009, but resigned in 2013 and left Detroit for New York City.

Last year, a 20-year-old man won a $250,000 judgment against Pugh in a federal lawsuit in which the former politician was sued for sexual harassment.

The man said he was 17 when Pugh allegedly befriended him. Pugh was president of the Detroit City Council at the time.

The teenager — identified only as “K.S.,” met Pugh through the Charles Pugh Leadership Academy program at Detroit Public Schools four years. He accused him of offering cash for oral sex and a sex video.

The student filed a federal civil lawsuit against Pugh and Detroit Public Schools for $350,000, which included money from the district and $250,000 from Pugh. A jury found in favor of the teen. Pugh appealed the judgment but later withdrew it.


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