‘I’ve let down ... people,’ Pugh says at sentencing

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Charles Pugh, the former Detroit City Council president, apologized in court Wednesday for “violating the trust” of a man he pleaded guilty to having sexual intercourse with when the man was 14 years old more than a decade ago.

He blamed his crime on being an immature 31-year-old.

Pugh, 45, also apologized to another man who brought a federal lawsuit against the former politician and broadcast journalist for sexual propositions he said he received from Pugh when he was a student at a Detroit high school. Lastly, Pugh also made apologies to his family, friends, the residents of Detroit and Detroit Public Schools.

“I know I’ve let down a lot of people,” he said as he stood before a Wayne County judge. Pugh said he was glad he pleaded guilty so he could avoid the embarrassment and being publicly “humiliated” during a trial. Pugh said he plans to seek counseling while he is incarcerated.

The victim, now 28 years old, attended the sentencing hearing, but did not speak. Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Danielle Bennetts read a letter from his mother, a school teacher, who said she wanted Pugh in prison for the rest of his life. The mother said Pugh violated her trust, manipulated her son and her family and that “Mr. Pugh wasn’t the decent human being I thought he would be.”

“Mr. Pugh was the monster I warned my children against,” said the mother who did not want her name used.

The mother said she discussed the parameters of Pugh’s dealings with her son when she met him and that he took advantage of her son’s questions about his own life as a gay black male.

Instead of being an ally, Pugh became an “enemy ... a fiend” who took “ungodly liberties” with children.

Bennetts said “there’s still that idea of manipulation in his head” and that Pugh “needs to come to terms with the sickness that he has.”

Pugh was sentenced to 51/2 to 15 years for the crime as part of a plea deal accepted Oct. 26 by Third Circuit Court Judge Thomas Cameron. Pugh had been scheduled to go to trial Monday on the charges.

Cameron said Pugh used his celebrity status and position of trust to convince parents to trust him and then used it to gain the trust of their children, who in some cases, he pressured and enticed to have sex with him. Cameron called Pugh’s actions “reprehensible” and “a deep violation” of the parents’ and minors’ trust.

As part of his plea deal, Pugh also must register as a sex offender for life, get counseling and agreed not to have unsupervised contact with children. A spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Corrections said Pugh would not be put into segregation in prison “based on his crime.” But, Pugh could be placed in protective custody “because this is a high-profile case,” said Holly Kramer, a spokeswoman for the MDOC.

Pugh’s sentencing 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).

Pugh pleaded guilty 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 against Pugh were dropped as part of his plea agreement. He could have been sentenced to life in prison for the first-degree criminal sexual conduct alone.

His victim spoke to reporters after the brief hearing last month, saying justice was served and that he hopes 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.

The man, who lives in Michigan added: “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. 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.

His attorney, Delphia Burton, and family members have refused comment but said during the sentencing hearing Wednesday that Pugh was extremely remorseful.

Wednesday’s sentencing closes another embarrassing chapter in Detroit’s history as another city leader takes a tumble and falls from grace.

Pugh came back to Detroit in June after being arrested in New York City where he has been living for the past three years after leaving Detroit in 2013.

Pugh abruptly left his position as president of the Detroit City Council and disappeared from public life. For three months, no one knew where Pugh was. The former politician and television anchor was spotted at a Seattle Starbucks and he also later participated in a journalism forum in New York City.

In a taped deposition for an earlier sexual harassment case, Pugh said he fled Metro Detroit 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.”

Pugh was arrested and extradited back to Detroit in June 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 victim from 2003-05. Prosecutors say Pugh enticed and groomed the boy for the illicit sexual relationship.

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. .

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

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

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