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Pugh gets 5 1/2 to 15 years in prison in plea deal

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — Former Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh pleaded guilty Wednesday to having sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old boy, ending a three year saga that enthralled Metro Detroiters.

In a plea deal accepted by a judge in his case the former broadcast journalist will spend 51/2 to 15 years behind bars. He also must register as a lifetime sex offender, get counseling and agree to have only supervised contact with children.

Pugh’s deal ends a cross-country saga that began in 2013 when, as council president, he dropped out of sight amid allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a teen boy he once mentored when he worked at WJBK (Channel 2).

For three months, no one knew where he was. He was spotted at a Seattle Starbucks and later participated in a journalism forum in New York City. His lawyer says he was in both cities for “employment opportunities.”

After leaving in the middle of his term as council president, the city’s emergency manager at the time, Kevyn Orr, stripped Pugh of his pay, title and duties when he didn’t return to work after Orr rejected a request for a month-long medical leave.

In June, the 44-year-old was arrested in New York City, where he worked as a waiter, and extradited to Detroit after being charged by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy with having sex with the 14-year-old from 2003-05. Prosecutors say Pugh enticed and groomed the boy for an illicit sexual relationship.

Pugh pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. His sentences on both counts will run concurrently. As part of the plea agreement, three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct were dropped. Conviction on first-degree criminal sexual conduct would have been punishable by up to life in prison.

He admitted in court he engaged in “sexual penetration” with the boy. Pugh did not make any further statement in court Wednesday.

His attorney, Delphia Burton, and family members refused comment.

Wayne Third Circuit Judge Thomas Cameron set sentencing for Nov. 9.

His victim, now 28, spoke to reporters after the brief hearing saying justice was served and Pugh will feel “the shame” the victim had felt for the rest of Pugh’s life.

He said people now know Pugh is a sexual predator, adding his illicit relationship with Pugh was a “long held secret” many people didn’t want to admit to knowing or hearing about.

“The shame that he put on myself and countless other young men who have dealt with him he now has to feel that for the rest of his life,” said the victim.

“I hope that it sends to every person who has a fetish or liking for anyone under the age of 18 that they need to not follow through,” he said. “You might have those feelings but it’s your actions. It’s your actions that you can control so don’t do it. Stop. Think. Because they might be 14, 15, 16 but one day they’ll be 28, 29, 30 and if you have sex with them it’s their right to let it be known.”

The Detroit News does not publish the names of victims of sexual assault.

The victim said he went through a “little bit” of counseling as a consequence of the relationship and it affected the way he dealt with adults.

Pugh’s is the latest case in a number of sordid and embarrassing court cases involving Detroit officials, including the jailing of a mayor, councilmember and school principals on corruption charges.

In an earlier hearing, the man said he came forward about his relationship with Pugh after hearing about a federal lawsuit against the former politician in which the accuser won a $350,000 judgment against Pugh and Detroit Public Schools. He said he also went to police because he wasn’t going to “let (Pugh) do this to any other kid.”

Burton said the man was looking for a “payday.”

She had tried during a hearing Oct. 14 to have all the charges dismissed, citing the statute of limitations. One count of third degree criminal sexual conduct had been dismissed earlier. Cameron denied the request.

In a taped deposition for an earlier sexual harassment case, Pugh said he fled the city because he was embarrassed. “It was a very stressful time for me,” he testified in the video. “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.”

In that case, Pugh agreed to pay a former Detroit Public Schools student $250,000 to settle a case where he was accused of offering cash for oral sex. DPS also agreed to pay the man $350,000.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2027